Weather forecasters have some idea what will happen through the end of February, but when you get to March and beyond, “our crystal ball isn’t that good,” acknowledged Jed Lafferty, managing director of life sciences for Planalytics, during a webinar on Wednesday.
Whether a full-fledged El Niño, La Niña, or something more neutral develops, “it’s too early for us to tell,” he added.
The possibility of La Niña is something to keep an eye on, since it’s usually associated with warm winters and drier-than-normal conditions in the South. No one needs dry weather, since much of the nation is already suffering severe drought.
“(La Niña) is not our forecast, but it has to be a consideration,” says Fred Gesser, senior global agricultural meteorologist at Planalytics.
A La Niña pattern was responsible for warmer-than-normal weather across much of the United States last winter. It allowed the jet stream to flow from west to east, without a “blocking” ridge, which effectively kept arctic air bottled up well north of the U.S.
By March, soil temperatures were much warmer than usual. March itself was very warm. And, the six-month period from January through June period was the warmest January-June in much of the U.S. since temperatures began being recorded in 1895.
The warmer temperatures and early planting “got us off to a rip-roaring start” last spring regarding the crops, but then chinks in the armor started to develop, pointed out Jeff Doran, senior business meteorologist at Planalytics. The hot, dry weather continued. In July, a critical month for corn pollination, that particular weather pattern became “kind of the death knell for corn crops in many areas,” Doran added.
“It was just amazing how fast (the drought) crept up on us,” Doran said. On May 1, U.S. government drought monitors showed normal conditions in much of the nation’s midsection, but by Aug. 28 that area was covered by extreme drought.
Now, there is concern that the drought pattern will continue into 2013.
In the absence of definitive prediction models, there is one consolation: Weather rarely repeats itself from one year to the next, the meteorologists from Planalytics point out. Year-over-year weather only repeats itself 20 percent of the time.