U.S. drought expected to ease

Conditions improving | Dryness expected but not at levels seen in recent years

CHICAGO, Ill. — There will be dryness in the United States next growing season, but it won’t be nearly as bad as the past couple of years, says a weather forecaster.

“I don’t think next year is going to be that bad,” Bryce Anderson, DTN’s senior agricultural meteorologist, told the 2013 DTN Ag Summit.

“I think we’re going to have a dry weather scare, but I don’t think it’s going to last very long.”

Slightly more than half of the contiguous U.S. was in some form of drought as of Dec. 17, and four percent was in the extreme to exceptional categories. 

It compares to three-quarters of the country in drought and 22 percent in the worst two categories a year ago.

“In general, there is a big difference from a year ago,” said Anderson.

“That is a notable improvement.”

However, there are still pockets of dryness in key growing areas. 

There is severe drought in central Iowa, moderate drought in portions of Missouri and southern Iowa and moderate to severe drought in central Illinois and other parts of the northern corn belt.

Conditions in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean are neutral right now, which means no La Nina or El Nino weather influence.

Forecasting models show there is a trend toward a weak El Nino developing next summer. 

An El Nino event is generally associated with good grain production prospects in the U.S., while a La Nina would contribute to a subpar crop.

Anderson doesn’t know if El Nino would develop early enough to help the 2014 crop, but he is confident La Nina won’t be around to hurt production prospects.

Two other ocean temperature measures can have more of an influence on weather conditions when the El Nino Southern Oscillation conditions are neutral.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has been negative since 2001, while the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) has been positive since the late-1990s.

A negative PDO and positive AMO usually results in a drier pattern over much of the central and eastern portions of the corn belt and south into the Mississippi Delta.

“This is where we could get some features going that I think will lead to at least some dry weather concerns,” said Anderson.

The western portion of the U.S. Midwest and the northern Plains would receive normal to above normal precipitation under that scenario.

One wild card that could cause complications is a high latitude blocking high, which is shoving the jet stream south and tends to bring stormy and cool conditions into the Midwest. 

It set up in late November and could influence weather patterns until late-May.

Anderson is forecasting a winter of extremes in Western Canada with periods of mild weather giving way to extreme cold and heavy snowfall.

“This season in Western Canada is going to wind up being pretty much normal when it comes to the final tally on temperatures and winter precipitation,” he said in an interview following his presentation.

He believes the 2014 growing season will also be normal.

“I don’t think we’re going to have any real big round of dry conditions,” said Anderson.

“We have seen some pretty good moisture in the Prairies in the last couple of seasons, and I think we will again.”

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