Water Supply Outlook for Alberta

February 2003

January 2003 Precipitation

Much-above-normal precipitation was recorded in January between the Peace River and Edmonton areas, while the eastern and northern edges of the province received much-below-normal precipitation (Figure 1). Areas south of Red Deer received much-below-normal precipitation except for Red Deer and Drumheller, where near normal precipitation was recorded (Figure 2). Although the mountain regions received precipitation amounts of up to 120 mm, these amounts are still below the normals for January (Figure 3).

Winter Precipitation (November 1, 2002 to January 31, 2003)

Winter precipitation totals are generally much-below-normal, but normal in the Peace River and Grande Prairie areas and below-normal in the Edmonton, Edson, and Slave Lake areas (Figure 4). Winter precipitation has been much-below-normal in southern Alberta, and particularly low in the Milk River basin (Figure 5). Significant January precipitation between the Peace River and Edmonton areas raised winter precipitation totals to the below-normal to normal range (Figure 6).

Fall Precipitation (September 1 to October 31, 2002)

Below-normal to much-below-normal precipitation was recorded north of Red Deer in the September and October 2002 period, except for the Fort Chipewyan and Peace regions where precipitation was much-above-normal (Figure 7). Areas south of Red Deer recorded above-normal to much-above-normal precipitation (Figure 8). The least precipitation recorded was in east-central Alberta (Figure 9).

Soil moisture going into winter is below-normal to much-below-normal north of Calgary. South of Calgary, soil moisture is generally normal to above-normal, especially west of Lethbridge and east of Medicine Hat. A map of fall soil moisture is available from Alberta Agriculture at:


Long-Lead Precipitation Outlook

Environment Canada's long-lead precipitation forecast on December 1 for the winter period (December through February) is for below-normal precipitation in the southern two-thirds of the province and normal in the northern portion of Alberta. The long-lead forecast for spring (March through May) is above-normal precipitation in the northeastern quarter of Alberta, and normal precipitation elsewhere. Environment Canada's long-lead precipitation outlook is available from their website located at: http://weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/saisons/index_e.html.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting below-normal precipitation for the southern portion of the province during February and through spring (March through May). NOAA's long-lead precipitation outlook is available from their website located at: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/90day/.

NOAA indicates that a moderate El Nino has developed in the tropical Pacific. The strength of this El Nino event is lesser in magnitude than the last major El Nino event, which occurred in the winter of 1997-98. The significance of an El Nino event to the province of Alberta is that winter precipitation is typically below-normal during such events.

For technical enquires about this web page please contact Alberta Environment - Environmental Management Water Management Operations Branch at AENV-WebWS@gov.ab.ca