La Nina, the counterpart to the current El Nino, might make an appearance this fall.
If it does, it could stress next year’s American hard red winter wheat crop.
El Nino, caused by unusually warm waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, is not over yet, but it is winding down, and a La Nina is increasingly expected to emerge for the first time in four years.
The return of La Nina, which is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures, is possible this fall, the U.S. National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said in its monthly forecast.
It joined other forecasters in projecting that La Nina could follow on the heels of one of the strongest El Ninos on record.
La Nina can cause drier, warmer than normal weather in the U.S. southern Plains, where hard red winter wheat is grown.
The CPC is not on official watch for La Nina, but the probability is trending toward one, said Michelle L’Heureux, a CPC climate scientist and El Nino-La Nina expert.
When La Nina last appeared from August 2011 to March 2012, it brought the worst drought in a century to Texas and hurt corn and soybean crops in Argentina and Brazil.
There were back to back La Ninas in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and the dryness in the central and southern Plains devastated pastures, leading to a severe contraction in the U.S. cattle herd.
The La Nina contributed to a poor hard red winter wheat crop in 2011 with yields well below normal in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Total production fell to 21.2 million tonnes, down from the average of the preceding five years of 25.1 million tonnes.
Although the La Nina revived for a rare second year, spring rain allowed the 2012 crop to climb back to 27.2 million tonnes.
The La Nina of 2005-06 also hit hard red winter wheat yields hard. The crop harvested in 2006 was only 18.7 million tonnes.