“It wasn’t this way before,” admitted Edna Jaques in a soul-baring article in Chatelaine magazine

Perspective is lacking.

It wasn’t this way before,” admitted Edna Jaques in a soul-baring article in Chatelaine magazine in November 1937.

Image result for dustbowl saskatchewan

After nine consecutive years of unrelenting drought, the Briercrest Saskatchewan poet found herself “whipped” and “not ashamed any more” to admit it.

Severe dry spells had always been a feature of prairie settlement, appearing on average every 20 years or so.  The 1930s, however, were memorable for both the persistence and extent of the drought.

While other provinces, in particular Ontario and Quebec, were recovering from the Great Depression, Saskatchewan experienced its most far-reaching drought in 1937. Not even Prince Albert was spared.

Jaques, who was 11 when her family homesteaded in the Moose Jaw area in 1902, had never known the land to be so desolate. Drought had reduced Briercrest to “gray ashy wastes that once were fields, white alkali flats that once were blue simmering lakes.”

The story was the same across the scorched southern prairies. Some fields were so patchy that harvesting seemed a terrible joke.

Saskatchewan’s total wheat production dropped by a third during the 1930s even though wheat acreage increased by more than a million acres during the same period. In other words, more cropped land was actually producing less wheat. The 1937 wheat harvest was a paltry 2.5 bushels per acre.

Jaques scanned the heavens daily in search of the promise of rain, but it never came — only a few scattered drops. “Today the sky was almost a black blue,” she wrote in frustration. “You would think a million tons of water would be held in its inky depths, but it was only dust and wind.”

That was Jaque’s other lament. “Drought never comes alone.”

Hot, drying winds scooped up loose topsoil into dust blizzards that made outside activity nearly impossible. An estimated quarter of a million acres of Saskatchewan land was blowing out of control by the mid-1930s.

“The air was murky and thick … that made it hard to breathe,” Jaques recalled after one dust storm struck the community. “Your heart pounded against your ribs in a sickening thud.”

Darkness at noon was not uncommon, while churning dirt piled up in drifts along buildings, fence lines or ridges. The “driven soil” was a temporary visitor, Jaques observed, “nesting for a few days until another wind comes up to move it somewhere else.”

Homemakers faced a frustrating battle trying to keep the dust out of their homes, placing wet rags on window sills and hanging wet sheets over doorways. But it still managed to seep through, depositing a thick film on everything. Tables were often set with the cups and bowls upside down, a temporary response that became a lifelong habit for some.

The ever-present dust also affected people’s health. Jaques attended a town meeting where half the women were suffering from “dust fever.”

“Their faces were swollen and red and broken out,” she reported, “but they’d blow their noses in unison, in duets and trios and choruses and laugh about it.”

They all knew, though, that their brave front was a public mask — a way of consoling each other and finding comfort in the belief that next year would be better.

Behind closed doors, it was a different story. “They cry at home,” Jaques commiserated, “cry over shabby children and poor food and dead gardens.”

Kids continued to play on the street, seemingly oblivious to how Briercrest had been staggered by depression and drought. But as Jaques noted, children, especially the younger ones, had known nothing else — not even “what rain is.”

The experience was never forgotten. The spectre of drought haunted people for years to come. “We’ll pull through,” Jaques bravely affirmed.  “But we’ll never be the same again — the price of it had been too high.”

Her poetry bore the imprint of what she lived through.

Edna Jaques published over 3,000 poems during her lifetime — many noted for their unvarnished realism. Indeed, her verse found a receptive audience in newspapers and magazines in the 1930s and 1940s.

“The Farmer’s Wife in the Drought Area” was one of her more popular Depression poems: “The garden is a dreary blighted waste/The air is gritty to my taste.”

The lines may not have been elegant, but that was Jaques’ appeal.  There was nothing elegant about a dust storm.

Fort McMurray – Jeff Masters – Hot Days Histogram

The other day I did a post point out that it did get hot in Fort McMurray in April and May.

That post (and this) is using data from Environment Canada for 1908 to 1944.

Remember what Jeff Masters said:

“Fort McMurray saw record daily highs of 91°F on Tuesday and 89°F on Wednesday. The city gets this warm on only about five days in a typical year, and those days are usually in July or August (even then, the average daily high is between 70°F and 75°F)”

I’ve done two sets of histograms using the 75F (24C) boundary suggested by Jeff Masters. One for April/May and One for July/Aug.

In April/May 1944 there were 14 days 24C  and above.

In July/Aug 1944 there were 40 days 24C  and above.

HotDay_Histogram_ - April May - Hot Day HistogramHotDay_Histogram_ - July Aug - Hot Day Histogram

Fort McMurray – April and May

The other day I did a post pointing out that most of the really hot temperature records in Canada occurred 1936 to 1941.

Then I did a post about  Jeff Masters at Wunderground  claiming it never got this hot in Fort McMurray before in May.

I had only found monthly data before 1944. Reader Fred found pre-1944 daily data under the name “Ft McMurray”.

Jeff Masters said:

“Fort McMurray saw record daily highs of 91°F on Tuesday and 89°F on Wednesday. The city gets this warm on only about five days in a typical year, and those days are usually in July or August (even then, the average daily high is between 70°F and 75°F)”

Lets look at the data! Wow!!!!! And this was before 80,000 people and all the UHI moved in.

10 Warmest April Days Before 1944

Date Max Temp C Max Temp F
1939-04-29 35 95
1939-04-28 28.3 82.9
1941-04-30 27.8 82
1941-04-26 27.2 81
1941-04-29 27.2 81
1924-04-26 26.7 80.1
1915-04-29 26.1 79
1931-04-29 26.1 79
1915-04-24 25.6 78.1
1943-04-14 25.6 78.1

10 Warmest May Days Before 1944

Date Max Temp C Max Temp F
1936-05-29 36.7 98.1
1916-05-21 33.9 93
1936-05-28 33.3 91.9
1944-05-04 33.3 91.9
1934-05-25 32.8 91
1944-05-28 32.8 91
1919-05-19 32.2 90
1936-05-26 32.2 90
1940-05-23 32.2 90
1924-05-14 31.7 89.1

For fun, lets look at the whole year.

Date Max Temp C Max Temp F
1941-07-18 38.9 102
1916-07-02 37.8 100
1916-07-31 36.7 98.1
1924-07-02 36.7 98.1
1936-05-29 36.7 98.1
1937-06-29 36.7 98.1
1944-06-29 36.7 98.1
1941-07-15 35.6 96.1
1941-07-16 35.6 96.1
1918-07-10 35 95
1924-07-01 35 95
1939-04-29 35 95
1939-08-04 35 95
1916-06-30 34.4 93.9
1917-07-16 34.4 93.9
1919-06-20 34.4 93.9
1927-07-24 34.4 93.9
1930-07-14 34.4 93.9
1910-06-11 33.9 93
1916-05-21 33.9 93
1916-08-26 33.9 93
1925-06-28 33.9 93
1925-08-02 33.9 93
1926-07-05 33.9 93
1936-06-23 33.9 93

Fort McMurray and Climate Change and “Scientists”

Yesterday I did a post pointing out that most of the really hot temperature records in Canada occurred 1936 to 1941.

Today I noticed that Jeff Masters at Wunderground  was claiming it never got this hot in Fort McMurray before in May.

I’ll just post a few quick facts.

  1. The monthly data for Fort McMurray only goes back to 1944. I doubt daily goes further back.
  2. The really hot years were the 1936 – 1941 years. So temperature records missed the 1936-1941 period.

Here are the ten warmest May’s (in terms of TX = Tmax) in For McMurray from 1944 on.

Year Month Tx Tn Tm
1986 5 34.8 -3 11.6
1944 5 32.8 -7.8 12
1961 5 32.8 -5.6 10
1971 5 32.8 -5.6 12.3
1995 5 32.8 -6.7 10.5
2003 5 31.3 -5.4 9.3
1972 5 31.1 -6.7 12
1987 5 30.8 -6.9 11.1
1948 5 30.6 -4.4 11.1
1980 5 30.6 -3.8 11.2

Fort McMurray and Climate Change

Fort McMurray Alberta, Canada is burning. 1,600 homes so far.

Some people have already started blaming “Climate Change”.

Here is wikipedia’s list of hottest temperatures ever recorded in Canada. 1937, 1936, 1941 …. You have to go to the bottom of the list to find one from 1960 and one from 1961. Look up dustbowl (but be careful … wikepedia and others blame the following temperatures on bad plowing techniques)

Date Recorded Location Temperature
July 5, 1937 Midale, Saskatchewan 45.0 °C
July 5, 1937 Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan 45.0 °C
July 11, 1936 St. Albans, Manitoba 44.4 °C
July 11, 1936 Emerson, Manitoba 44.4 °C
July 5, 1937 Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan 44.4 °C
July 16, 1941 Lillooet, British Columbia 44.4 °C
July 16, 1941 Lytton, British Columbia 44.4 °C
July 17, 1941 Lillooet, British Columbia 44.4 °C
July 17, 1941 Lytton, British Columbia 44.4 °C
July 17, 1941 Chinook Cove, British Columbia 44.4 °C
July 29, 1934 Rock Creek, British Columbia 43.9 °C
July 5, 1936 Midale, Saskatchewan 43.9 °C
July 11, 1936 Emerson, Manitoba 43.9 °C
July 11, 1936 Morden, Manitoba 43.9 °C
July 4, 1937 Rosetown, Saskatchewan 43.9 °C
July 5, 1937 Regina, Saskatchewan 43.9 °C
July 16, 1941 Oliver, British Columbia 43.9 °C
June 23, 1900 Cannington, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
June 25, 1919 Dauphin, Manitoba 43.3 °C
July 31, 1926 Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 24, 1927 Greenwood, British Columbia 43.3 °C
July 25, 1931 Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 5, 1936 Estevan, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 7, 1936 Emerson, Manitoba 43.3 °C
July 11, 1936 Waskada, Manitoba 43.3 °C
July 11, 1936 Virden, Manitoba 43.3 °C
July 11, 1936 Brandon, Manitoba 43.3 °C
July 11, 1936 Greenfell, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 5, 1937 Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 5, 1937 Grenfell, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 5, 1937 Francis, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 5, 1937 Regina, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 5, 1937 Estevan, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 5, 1937 Carlyle, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 12, 1937 Regina, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 27, 1939 Oliver, British Columbia 43.3 °C
July 17, 1941 Oliver, British Columbia 43.3 °C
July 17, 1941 Skagit River, British Columbia 43.3 °C
July 19, 1941 Elbow, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 19, 1941 Lumsden, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
August 6, 1949 Rosetown, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C
July 19, 1960 Newgate, British Columbia 43.3 °C
August 5, 1961 Maple Creek, Saskatchewan 43.3 °C