Will April Winds Bring May Drought?

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Did you know the relative humidity in the Sahara Desert is approximately 25 per cent?

That’s 12 per cent damper than it was in Saskatoon several days last week — Saskatoon, where unlike the Sahara, there are trees, grass and a wide flowing river running through it.

Today, it is 17 degrees (four warmer than usual) and sunny, with a relative humidity of 13 per cent and a wind toppling things in my backyard at 60 kilometres per hour during gusts. By the time you see this, gentle reader, we may have had a sprinkling of rain or a flurry of snow, and I am presently praying Mother Nature brings it on, spring or no spring.

Whether she does or not, this is weird. It is true that April is often windy and dusty — Environment Canada has said that this is traditionally our windiest month — and I suppose I am accustomed to seeing enormous clouds of dust whip down my street. I’ve smelled smoke on the breeze from nearby grassfires. Declaring a state of emergency in Biggar because of a grassfire, though? Maybe I’m over-reacting, but that’s insane.

Dry plus wind equals nasty, and they often go together. One recent morning, my husband arrived at work to find a massive business sign lying in the street, right next door to his building. The Bank of Montreal lost its logo in a gust, apparently. The thing must have measured 25 by five feet, and judging by the efforts of two men attempting to drag it out of the way of pedestrians, it was heavy, too. I had to take a sharp breath of relief that hubs wasn’t under it when it came down.

Most of southern Saskatchewan experienced the driest March in 133 years, when record-keeping of such things began. Regina received an almost unbelievable 0.8 millimetres of moisture that month, and things aren’t looking up in April. 

If you add that to the scary news that Canada is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet — twice as fast, in fact — it’s hard not to connect the facts and arrive at the conclusion that this sucks.

One of the Environment Canada people I’ve heard speaking on this subject said our windy dryness is not necessarily due to climate change, but this is the kind of weather we could expect if it was.

Ugh. 

Well, we’ve heard about or experienced frighteningly dry weather before. We’ve had droughts, and some were not all that long ago. The main problem facing us now, on a wider economic basis, is farming, of course. This is striking fear in every farmer’s heart. (A possible drought, too, comes on top of the canola spat with China, which we really did not need.)

Is this weird spring any different from the other scary starts to seeding season? I don’t know, nor, I suspect, does anyone. The way things are going makes one wonder if we’ll be flooded by May. Climate change makes little sense. Remember February? Even as we experience rapid warming, it was one of the coldest Februarys ever. 

That’s the freakiest part of all this. You could have drought conditions one day, and torrential rain the next. You could have a toasty December (relatively speaking) and a crazy-cold January. It’s so unreliable; how do we plan for these changes? You can get out the sandbags, I suppose, but you can’t just start irrigating millions of acres of dry cropland out of the blue . . . especially if there’s no water in the rivers or lying around underground. 

Meanwhile, big signs are falling from the sky; my eyes feel like they’ve been sandblasted from days of dust and wind, with no humidity to relieve them; my lawn (which I begin to think shouldn’t exist in the first place) crunches under my feet like wheat stubble. 

I don’t like where this is going. I fear the carbon tax is much too little, too late, not to mention many other things. We’re still waiting for pipelines to be built, while we watch endless trains of oil traversing the prairies. Sure, maybe we shouldn’t be using fossil fuels at all; but until we kick the habit, we should at least be using the least-carbon intensive methods of transport possible. 

We have terrible transit, locally and regionally and nationally. We demand to park right outside the doors of our destinations. We insist on flying around the globe (I’m looking at you, David Suzuki). We’re still terrified of nuclear power, for God’s sake, the most reliable low-carbon energy source on Earth.

And this isn’t terrifying?