Extreme Weather Events


This section of SaskAdapt deals with those extreme weather and weather related events that are experienced within Saskatchewan. It includes the following information:

  • What is "normal" and what are "extreme events"?
  • Data sources on extreme events and natural disasters.
  • Common adaptations to extreme events.

Also included are separate webpages for different extreme events. For each extreme event information is provided on the Saskatchewan experience and on how to adapt to the event in the future.

Climate Norms

One of the best kept secrets about Saskatchewan is its dry climate that may be considered comfortable or even desirable by some – particularly when the normal climate is experienced. Summers can be idyllic with warm, but not too hot temperatures, low humidity and long hours of sunshine.

Saskatoon's climate is representative of other areas in southern Saskatchewan. On average Saskatoon experiences moderately cold, dry winters and warm summers with sufficient rainfall and long hours of sunshine (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1
Figure 1: Saskatoon Average Temperature 1971-2000
Figure 2
Figure 2: Saskatoon Average Precipitation 1971-2000

Under normal climate conditions the province thrives. Agriculture production can be impressive, optimism in the private and public sector is high, tourism and in-province travel for recreation and visiting friends and relatives is healthy. However, Saskatchewan's weather does not often follow the norm. Extreme weather events are common. It's probably the reason why Saskatchewan people love to talk about the weather – it's so variable and has such extremes of hot and cold, wet and dry. Adapting to these extremes will be important to success in the future.

Hay bale
Saskatchewan after harvest | Hay Bale (Photo courtesy W. Gosselin)


A Climate of Extremes

Figure 3
Figure 3: Precipitation Departure from Normal – 2010 (For Saskatchewan it ranged from 70% above average in the south to 20% below average in the north)

Continental climates are prone to extremes: temperatures can vary greatly over a short period and storms in both winter and summer can be violent and even deadly.   Precipitation, particularly on the prairies, is highly variable.  There can be drought one year followed by flooding in the next; or as in 2010, severe drought and high rainfall can happen in the same year (Figure 3).  Under climate change, extreme events are expected to be more frequent and more severe.  Planning for these events to minimize the risk to life and property is a priority for adaptation.  

Figure 4
Figure 4: Natural Disasters in Saskatchewan (n=94)

According to the Canadian Disaster Database, of the documented 94 events in total since 1990 for Saskatchewan, flood and drought are the two most frequent extreme events (Figures 4 and 5).  Flooding can happen quickly, while drought can develop over a season and can last for several years.  Wildfire, thunderstorms and associated hailstorms, extremes of heat and cold, winter storms and tornadoes are also classified as natural disasters.   Other extreme events of interest are early or late frost, high winds, including plough winds and Chinooks.

Note: The Canadian Disaster Database documents 94 events since 1990 in Saskatchewan.  The database includes major events where there were deaths, significant injury or damage.
(See:  http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/em/cdd/srch-eng.aspx )


  1. AccuWeather (2010):  Local Forecast – Hourly. http://www.accuweather.com/en-us/mx/quintana-roo/cancun/hourly.aspx  [accessed December 6, 2010]
  2. Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat (2011): Press Release – Meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for Emergency Management. http://www.scics.gc.ca/english/conferences.asp?a=viewdocument&id=164  [Accessed February 11, 2011]
  3. Dimple, R., Venema, H., Swanson D., Pearce, K. (2008): Understanding Adaptive Policy Mechanisms through Farm‐level Studies of Adaptation to Weather Events in Saskatchewan, Canada.  Prepared for the Adaptive Policies Project:
    http://www.iisd.org/climate/change/adaptive_policy .asp  Research Partners: TERI – the Energy and Resources Institute, IISD – the International Institute for Sustainable Development
  4. Environment Canada (2010): Climate Trends and Variations Bulletin – Annual 2010.  National Precipitation.  http://ec.gc.ca/adsc-cmda/default.asp?lang=En&n=77842065-1#a4 [accessed March 8, 2011]
  5. Environment Canada (2008): FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE 2008 UPDATE.  http://www.ec.gc.ca/scitech/default.asp?lang=En&n=2A953C90-1&offset=5&toc=show#E.5 [accessed December 3, 2010]
  6. Environment Canada (n.d.): Hazardous Weather http://www.ec.gc.ca/meteo-weather/default.asp?lang=En&n=15E59C08-1 [accessed December 4, 2010]
  7. Environment Canada (n.d.): Atmospheric Hazards Northern and Prairie Region http://pnr.hazards.ca/welcome_english.html [accessed December 4, 2010]
  8. Government of Canada (n.d.): Is Your Family Prepared? Severe Storms in Canada http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/knw/ris/str-eng.aspx#b1 [accessed December 4, 2010]
  9. Government of Saskatchewan (n.d.):  SaskEMO. http://www.cpsp.gov.sk.ca/saskemo
    [Accessed February 11, 2001]
  10. Health Canada (n.d.) Climate Change and Health Adapting to the Health Effects of Climate Change http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/climat/adapt/index-eng.php [accessed December 4, 2010]
  11. Hestra, D. and McBean, G. (2009): Summary Report, Climate Change Adaptation and Extreme Weather, Making Canada’s Communities More Resilient to the Impacts of Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Summary Recommendations. http://www.sfu.ca/act/documents/05_09-EWE_Summary_Recommendations_WEB.pdf [accessed February 18, 2010]
  12. Hong Kong Observatory (n.d.): Climate Change Educational Resources Climate Change FAQs. http://www.weather.gov.hk/climate_change/faq/faq_e.htm#first [accessed December 6, 2010]
  13. Ministers Responsible for Emergency Management (2011):  An Emergency Management Framework for Canada, Second Edition
    http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/em/emfrmwrk-2011-eng.aspx [accessed February 18, 2010]
  14. Public Safety Canada (n.d.): Canadian Disaster Database  http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/em/cdd/srch-eng.aspx  [accessed December 4, 2010]
  15. Public Safety Canada (n.d.): Natural Hazards of Canada http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/res/em/nh/index-eng.aspx)  [accessed March 8, 2011]
  16. Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (2011): Precipitation, Stream flow and Lake Level Conditions for Saskatchewan.  River Forecast Centre, Operations Division
    http://www.swa.ca/WhatsNew/pdfs/ProvincialForecast.pdf  [accessed February 14, 2011]