Skip to main content Skip to footer

Moisture Update - February 14, 2024


Since January 1, 2024, much of southern Alberta has received appreciable moisture for this time of year. While January and February are historically the driest months of the year (Map 1), this is at the very least a favourable trend that will hopefully continue as the winter abates and we head into spring.

So far in 2024, most of Alberta south of the Yellowhead Highway has received near normal moisture levels, at the very least, while many lands along the foothills from Nordberg to the US border have received above normal moisture levels. This trend extends across much of the Southern Region and even into the Special Areas. Since January 1, 11 high elevation stations located in a line from west of Chain Lakes Reservoir down to the US border have recorded over 100 mm of precipitation (Map 3). The largest amount, at 170.6 mm, was measured at the Spionkop Creek Station, located approximately 25 km north west of Watertown. For perspective, averages from 1991-2020 for this group of stations range from approximately 60 to 130 mm. Many parts of the Special Areas have received at least 20 mm of moisture, up to over 60 mm across the foothills west of Calgary and Lethbridge. 

In sharp contract, most of the lands north of the Yellowhead Highway have received below normal moisture levels this year (Map 2), with a few areas estimated to be close to once in every 50 year lows. Precipitation levels across much of this area is below 10 mm (Map 3), well below the average of 25 to 45 mm that is expected for this period. Very few of the areas north of the Yellowhead Highway have received more than 20 mm of moisture this year. This trend has continued for several months to date and warm winter weather and frequent melts has resulted in very anemic snowpacks. 

Snowpack Accumulations as of February 14, 2023

This winter has been generally warm, with the exception of the January cold snap. For most lands north of the Trans Canada Highway, snow pack development is well below normal for this time of year (Map 4), with the situation deteriorating as you proceed north. Most of the province north of Red Deer, has snowpacks this low less than once every 12 to 25 years, with large parts of the Peace Region not having seen snowpacks this low in approximately 50 years. For the Peace Region, average winter precipitation, from November 1 to March 31, accounts for nearly 35% of the annual precipitation accumulations in the region, and is an important source of spring moisture. This could even be said to be true to a lesser extent as far south as Red Deer, although in this part of the province approximately 20% of annual moisture falls during the winter period.

Few agricultural areas in the province currently have more than 20 mm of moisture residing in snowpacks (Map 5). For land north of Red Deer, this is far below the 30 year average for this time of year (Map 6), normally ranging from 60 to 70 mm in the Red Deer area to nearly 125 mm throughout much of the Peace Region.


The El Niño synopsis from the National Weather Service states, “A transition from El Niño to ENSO-neutral is likely by April-June 2024 (79% chance), with increasing odds of La Niña developing in June-August 2024 (55% chance).” 

It is difficult to predict what this will mean for Alberta, but hopefully it bodes well for the development of widespread wet weather as we transition into spring.

Province-wide, many areas have experienced serious multi-year moisture deficits that, along with the absence of any wet years, has resulted in a 'deep dry' across the landscape. Above normal moisture levels will be needed now and throughout the summer months to help mitigate the long standing moisture deficits that have been developing in many areas for several years. From a cropping perspective, most rain fed crops can still hope to do relatively well, even with the below average moisture levels, provided that it is well timed during the growing season. 

Sign up to our Newsletter

Stay up to date on the Saddle Hills activities, events, programs and operations by subscribing to our eNewsletters.

This website uses cookies to enhance usability and provide you with a more personal experience. By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies as explained in our Privacy Policy.