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Digger’s Corner: Drought 2015: We’re still shaking off El Nino

Posted on February 4, 2016 by Maple Creek

The drought of 2015 has some Saskatchewan farmers and brewers looking around the corner for what the weather holds in store for the 2016 grow season.
National weather experts and The Weather Network indicate the strong onset of El Nino last year contributing to warmer than average temperatures baking entire fields of wheat, canola and barley in the sun.
So, what can we expect in 2016?
Recent history shows a strong El Nino can raise temperatures for three seasons after the initial onset of El Nino.
“We don’t see the effects el Nino until late fall, winter and early spring,” Environment Canada senior climatologist, David Phillips told the media in 2015.
Phillips continued to say; “It’s not looking good,” as to what the effects of El Nino could mean for Western Canada’s farmers down the road, in 2016 and beyond.
So, we could be riding the tail-end of a vicious, freak weather phenomenon in El Nino or we could be heading into the beginning of the end.
This year, an area of high atmospheric pressure kept the cold front, which usually comes through a northern, arctic front, out of Canada’s southern provinces.
The resulting unnaturally warm winter could be a precursor to another dry spring and summer.
This is the last thing farmers and cattle producers in Canada want to hear.
Maybe David Suzuki was right.
Maybe global warming and rising global temperatures were the threat worthy of the world’s attention for 2015-16 and on.
Move over Syrian refugee crisis and El Chapo.
Last year, the drought brought-up the price of beef and feed and contributed to low-to-average crop yields for western Canada’s agricultural industry.
In California, a drought for the past four years has raised a call for water restrictions, Vancouver and The Fraser Valley in British Columbia also made similar moves to conserve water in the hot, summer months.
In extreme cases, drought is causing famine and crisis in countries like Honduras and across The Horn of Africa (Somaliland, Ethiopia and Kenya) according to oxfam.org.
A devastating drought in Ethiopia is causing the worst food crises in 30 years according to Oxfam, who added a ‘super’ El Nino was to blame for the devastating droughts of 2015.
Even though drought hit western Canadian cattle and grain producer’s hard, the 2015 year for cattle prices will still remain above what is forecasted for Canada’s beef prices, according to one Saskatchewan economist.
2016 is still waiting for the economy to rebound before it can announce economic prospects that are a little too bright.
But, perhaps it goes to show the real, economic ramifications connected with the threat of climate change can be far more damaging to an industry than the effects of climate change.
It just goes to show people aren’t quite ready to act for climate change until the problem hits home in their pockets.
I don’t want to wade into the pro-green vs. pro-industry debate. It always winds down to a discussion no more relevant or insightful then; “what came first, the chicken or the egg?”
That seems to be my final thought on the big “what’s more important- the Earth or industry?” debate.
You can’t have one without the other and you can’t safely get rid of one, and keep the other.
So, we can count our blessings we won’t see the kind of food shortage crises like in Honduras or west Africa.
But, on the other side of the argument, the future may hold a far more dry and unyielding future for Canadian grain crops, feed and beef production.
I suppose for the moment all anyone can do – especially Canada’s farmers and ranchers – is ride out the drags of last years’ El Nino and wait for a better year and, some better weather.

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