Water Supply Outlook for Alberta

January 2004

December 2002 Precipitation

Much-below-normal precipitation was recorded in the province in December (Figure 1). Precipitation totals range from 1 to 86% of normal, with the lowest totals being observed in the Slave Lake, Rocky Mountain House and Peace regions, where less than 10% of normal precipitation was recorded. Below-normal precipitation was observed in High Level, Calgary, and Pincher Creek (Figure 2). A late December snowfall raised precipitation totals for the month to below-normal levels in the southwest corner of Alberta (Figure 3).

Winter Precipitation (November 1 to December 31, 2002)

Due to El Nino conditions, much-below-normal precipitation has been recorded in Alberta this winter (November and December 2002), with precipitation totals ranging from 16 to 69% of normal (Figure 4). The Calgary-High River area has received below-normal precipitation (Figure 5). Areas north of Calgary remain especially dry following numerous dry months and very little winter precipitation to date (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 winter (January through February) and spring (March through May) periods. 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. Current indications are that 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