Reluctant El Niño develops as drought lingers

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There’s bad news on the horizon for farmers ready for this year’s drought to release its grip. 

Forecasters still expect a weak El Niño to develop by the end of October, but the continuation of neutral conditions can’t be ruled out. Not having an El Niño would make it difficult for drought-ridden regions to make a comeback in 2013.

For now, the drought is staying put, with little change made to the nation’s drought ratings this week in the National Drought Mitation Center's Drought Monitor report. More than half of the contiguous United States – 65.45 percent –  is in severe to exceptional drought, compared to 64.82 percent last week. 

Here’s how two key corn-growing regions compare to the national ratings:


None

D0-D4

D1-D4

D2-D4

D3-D4

D4

Continental U.S.

23.41

76.59

65.45

42.12

21.48

6.12

High Plains

0

100

98.91

83.8

61.28

24.35

Midwest

8.75

92.25

67.48

41.58

14.88

0.28

Click here to see how your region is doing.

While the Midwest was able to receive some relief from post-Hurricane Isaac’s rain earlier this month, the High Plains continues to miss out on multiple moisture opportunities. As a result, areas in the region in exceptional drought – the most severe level reported by the Drought Monitor – has increased by five-fold since the end of July. 

With 61.28 percent of the High Plains in extreme or worse drought, this week’s report marks the region's second-highest percentage of drought at this level in the Drought Monitor’s 12-year history, coming in just barely behind the Aug. 6, 2002, report (61.45 percent).

Kansas and Nebraska continue to sink deeper into drought, with 100 percent of both states in severe to exceptional drought for the 12th consecutive week.

What about El Niño?
The World Meteorological Organization released its latest update on El Niño today, indicating that a weak El Niño is likely to develop by the end of October and will last until the northern hemisphere winter. While this could bring welcomed relief to many areas plagued by the drought, its development is not a guarantee. Read more here.

Yet, it’s unlikely that the U.S. will experience the same weather pattern for two consecutive years, according to a report by The Messenger, available here.

"This has been a very extreme weather year," said Jeff Doran, a senior business meteorologist with Planalytics, said. "We're now undergoing a transition from La Niña to El Niño, which means more moderate weather patterns."

Predictions for the 2012-2013 winter are starting to be released, and for Doran the weather pattern appears that it may bring cooler and wetter conditions than last winter.

"It appears that 2013 is going to be a much different year than 2012," he said. "The question becomes, how much moisture can we get back in the months ahead?"

A recent CNN report looked at the possibilities of the drought persisting for another year, fueling more rumors of the return of the next dust bowl.

“Mother Nature holds all the cards,” Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, told CNN. “You roll the dice...every year. Nothing will make you quote-unquote drought-proof.”

The aftermath of this year’s drought may linger for many years, especially for livestock producers. Even so, things could always be worse.

 “If we had a third consecutive La Niña, there are some statistics that would be scary. But the odds of La Niña continuing are very small right now. ,” Svoboda said.  

Read more about the possibility of the next Dust Bowl here.



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Cy Byrd    
Iowa  |  September, 28, 2012 at 08:35 AM

Andela, At the beginning of your article you should explain the difference between El Nino and La Nina. Most of your readers do not know the difference. Do you?


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