Canadian Forest Service Publications

Characterization and summary of the 1999-2005 Canadian prairie drought. 2011. Hanesiak, J.M.; Stewart, R.E.; Bonsal, B.R.; Harder, P.; Lawford, R.; Aider, R.; Amiro, B.D.; Atallah, E.; Barr, A.G.; Black, T.A.; Bullock, P.; Brimelow, J.C.; Brown, R.; Carmichael, H.; Derksen, C.; Flanagan, L.B.; Gachon, P.; Green, H.; Gyakum, J.; Henson, W.; Hogg, E.H.; Kochtubajda, B.; Leighton, H.; Lin, C.; Luo, Y.; McCaughey, J.H.; Meinert, A.; Shabbar, A.; Snelgrove, K.; Szeto, K.; Trishchenko, A.; van der Kamp, G.; Wang, S.; Wen, L.; Wheaton, E.; Wielki, C.; Yang, Y.; Yirdaw, S.; Zha, T. Atmosphere-Ocean 49(4):421-452.

Year: 2011

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 33430

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1080/07055900.2011.626757

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


Droughts are among the world's most costly natural disasters and collectively affect more people than any other form of natural disaster. The Canadian Prairies are very susceptible to drought and have experienced this phenomenon many times. However, the recent 1999–2005 Prairie drought was one of the worst meteorological, agricultural and hydrologic droughts over the instrumental record. It also had major socio-economic consequences, adding up to losses in the billions of dollars. This recent drought was the focus of the Drought Research Initiative (DRI), the first integrated network focusing on drought in Canada. This article addresses some of the key objectives of DRI by providing a collective summary, understanding and synthesis of the 1999–2005 drought. Bringing together the many datasets used in this study was in itself a major accomplishment. This drought exhibited many important, and sometimes surprising, features. This includes, for example, (1) a non-steady large-scale atmospheric circulation (and sea surface temperature) pattern that mainly resulted in subsidence over the region but also cold and warm periods in its evolution; such features have typically not occurred in previous droughts; (2) large spatial gradients between wet and dry areas that, in some instances, were linked with major precipitation events; and (3) many impacts at and below the earth's surface that occurred with varying temporal lags from the meteorological conditions and, in response, these impacts would have fed back onto the character of the drought (e.g., the surface-convection feedback). The drought's complexity poses enormous challenges for its simulation and prediction at all temporal scales. High-resolution models coupled with the surface are needed to address these and many other issues identified in this article.