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Alberta is already preparing for a possible drought this spring


Your snow shovel and booster cables may be collecting dust, but while many people are glad to avoid the hassles of winter, the warm and dry conditions are also potentially concerning.

Calgary set a record for temperatures in December. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the daily mean average (daytime and nighttime temperatures averaged) for December 2023 was 0.1 for Calgary when the normal is minus 6.8.

“(It was a) huge variance from normal, definitely noteworthy,” said Natalie Hasell with ECCC.

“(It was) the warmest December we have on record, and that would be over 141 years of data.”


That’s good news for the City of Calgary’s snow clearing budget.

The year-end financials aren’t in yet but the city expects a surplus, potentially up to $12 million leftover from 2023.

But it could be bad news in a few months.

It’s not just Calgary with low snowpack, much of Alberta and the mountains face a similar situation.

“It will require a lot of precipitation this winter for the situation to improve for the spring and the summer with respect to wildfire. There are agricultural concerns also,” said Hasell.


Alberta’s government issued a request for proposal to enhance drought modelling and help the province prepare for 2024 and already has a drought command team and first draft of an emergency plan for 2024.

“There is a high risk that conditions could worsen this year, and in order to be fully prepared, Alberta is taking action,” said Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas in a statement to CTV Calgary.

“In the coming weeks, we will be awarding a contract for drought modelling work to help inform efforts to maximize the province’s water supply. Alberta is also striking a drought advisory committee that will be announced shortly,”

Droughts are becoming longer and more severe in western North America, including the prairies, according to a recent University of Calgary study of global climate models, published in Nature Climate Change.

Tricia Stadnyk, professor of civil engineering in the Schulich School of Engineering and geography, is one of the authors of the study.

“The prairies, specifically Canada and down through the continental U.S. are one of only a few hotspots in the world, where drought is actually projected to decrease mean annual runoff,” she explained that could lead to water restrictions.


In 2023 Calgary limited outdoor watering but with two extremely dry years in a row, the situation could warrant tougher measures.

“In certain areas of Canada, there's already restrictions on when you can do your laundry, and when you can wash your dishes because of water supply. I think it's completely within our future when we're in drought scenarios to see those kinds of restrictions,” she said.

Stadnyk added that Alberta will need to increase its irrigation efficiency just to keep up with current agricultural demand.

The amount of snow and cold we get in the next few months will set the path for the spring and summer.

“Our own forecast for the next three months doesn't have a dominant trend for precipitation in most of the prairies, but forecasts can change," said Hasell.


Some Calgary outdoor rinks have opened late due to warm temperatures this winter.

Albertans are taking the good with the bad.

Pond skaters may not have to worry about frostbite whilethey lace up, but many outdoor rinks opened late after a very mild fall and start to winter

“We like it,” said Bethany Himmelreich, who was skating at Prince’s Island Park with her husband Kristof on Thursday.

“I was a little bit sad. We couldn't go sledding at Christmas time but there's ice now. It's good,”

“This winter has been stellar. Yeah, we've been out for a lot of walks,” said Tracy Seibert out on a stroll.

“I did grow up on a farm so I know it will probably really affect the farmers,” said Dwayne Seibert.

 “There are still three months or four months left so we could still get lots of cold and lots of snow you just never know,” he added.

“Take it while we can,” added Tracy. Top Stories

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