No drought-ending rain in sight
Driest July since 1931 and hot, dry weather to continue into August
By Brandy Harrison
TORONTO ó If the forecast is any indication, farmers should keep praying for rain.
"Itís not as if you change the calendar and you change the weather," says David Phillips, an Environment Canada climatologist who sees more hot temperatures and maybe ó just maybe ó near normal precipitation ahead. "Itís great for drinking beer on patios but not for growing food."
While Phillips says predicting rainfall is a bit of a crap shoot, the outlook for August is near normal. But that one good rain might still elude farmersí fields and thunderstorms, with water running off the concrete-like ground, arenít the answer.
"A light rain isnít going to cut it. Itíll just keep dust down and it raises expectations," he says. "With a thunderstorm it rains in the front yard and not the backyard. Itís not a drought-ending kind of rainfall. The drought-ending rain is three or four days, morning, noon and night, a slow, drenching sort of rain."
Phillips was right on the money predicating a dry summer, although he didnít expect it to be this parched. Rain is in the short-term forecast but in some areas itís only a 30 per cent chance.
"I donít carry an umbrella when itís 30 per cent," Phillips says.
The seeds of drought were sown over a dry winter and spring, a boon for farmers during planting but a bane in torrid July temperatures that have climbed beyond 30 degrees more often than usual. Hot and dry is a double whammy as more moisture evaporates, sending crops into survival mode.
"When we entered June, we were already behind the eight ball," says Phillips.
With a few exceptions, notably the near-normal rainfall in Essex and Kent Counties and a little bit of spillover of Montreal-region rain into the Cornwall area, the bone dry conditions havenít discriminated. Phillipsí map is a harsh red, indicating precipitation is less than 40 per cent of what it should be. Some areas are as low as 20 per cent and the Ottawa region broke records: In July, Ottawa only had 15.1 millimetres of rain, the driest since 1931. Petawawa, in drought-ridden Renfrew County, had 20 millimetres of rain in July, far short of the usual 77 millimetres.
Phillips says itís at the point where farmers might even delight to see a tornado for the rain itíll bring with it. The "wimpy," patchy rainfall so far hasnít been enough.
"The occasional rainfall has been almost cruel."