Canadian crops roast under heat dome

Written by Peter McMeekin for Grain Brokers Australia on July 5, 2021.

Canadian temperature records tumbled last week, wildfires raged, and large parts of the Prairies were scorched as a weather phenomenon known as a heat dome parked itself over an area stretching from California to Canada’s northern territories.

A heat dome occurs when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid or a cap. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the phenomenon starts when there is a strong change (or gradient) in the ocean temperatures.

In the convection process, the gradient causes more warm air, heated by the ocean surface, to rise over the ocean surface. As the prevailing winds move the hot air east, the northern shifts of the jet stream trap the air and move it toward the land, where it sinks and results in heat waves.

The heat dome is forecast to weaken as it moves east this week, but it is expected to maintain sufficient intensity to set temperature records across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This is a potential disaster for the wheat, barley, canola and pulse crops that are already suffering from extreme moisture stress this season.

The British Columbia town of Lytton broke Canada’s all-time temperature record for three consecutive days last week. The record now stands at 49.6°C, smashing the previous mark of 45.0°C, set in Saskatchewan way back in 1937. The extremely sad epitaph to that story is 90 per cent of the mountain hamlet was then destroyed by wildfires that swept through the district on Wednesday evening.

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