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Large snowpacks thanks to lack of winter chinook winds

Posted on May 10, 2018 by Taber Times

By Collin Gallant
Alta Newspaper Group – Medicine Hat

Runoff and standing water across southern Alberta this spring are not the result of heavier than normal snowfall, but rather a lack of drying chinook winds over the winter and early spring, according to Agriculture Alberta.

A statement issued recently notes that snow packs on prairie land are larger than usual at this time year despite near-normal levels of winter precipitation.

A lack of breaks from colder weather “significantly delayed spring melt,” said Ralph Wright, the ministry’s agro-meteorological manager.

In southern Alberta, where some counties are dealing with localized flooding, lingering snow was estimated to be at one-in-50-year highs.

Separately, Alberta Environment estimates the snow pack was about 45 per cent larger than usual for mid-April.

“Interestingly enough, these unusual snow packs were not the result of extremely excessive over-winter precipitation accumulations, but rather more so, due to the absence of brief warming trends brought on by chinook winds that typically lay the land bare.”

That includes southern portions of the county of Newell, the Municipal District of Taber and western Wheatland County.

The areas surrounding Medicine Hat in northern Cypress County range from mostly normal to moderately high. The southern reaches range from high to very high (considered a 25-year high). The extreme southeast corner of the province is also considered in the 50-year wettest range.

Forty Mile has seen the coldest spring in 50 years, while Medicine Hat is considered to see a spring as cold as this one every 12 years or so.

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