North America farmers might have to get used to the dry conditions many experienced in 2020, says a meteorologist.
“We are overdue for a multi-year drought,” said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc.
“I am totally convinced of that.”
Multi-year droughts occurred in the late 1800s, the 1930s, 1950s and to some degree in the 1980s.
He believes the dryness in 2020 could be the harbinger of the next big drought. However, that is more of a gut feeling than a bankable forecast.
“I don’t have enough evidence to sit here and beat my chest and say, ‘this is it,’ ” said Lerner.
But many factors are lining up to create the possibility of a multi-year drought.
There has already been a full year of dryness in the western United States, portions of the Canadian Prairies and parts of Mexico following two years of record precipitation in the U.S.
“We have without question come out of the persistent wet pattern,” said Lerner.
North America is in a full blown La Nina weather cycle, which typically results in a dry winter.
But what is particularly worrisome is the La Nina is occurring after the solar minimum and when that happens, there is a tendency for the La Nina to have more staying power, lasting for a couple of years.
That would remove large volumes of moisture from the mid-latitudes leading to a drier bias, particularly in the U.S. Plains.
Even if there is no prolonged La Nina, the 18-year weather cycle indicates there will be areas of dryness in the U.S. in 2021.
And then there is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which is showing signs of switching to a negative phase, which also promotes dryness in portions of North America.
Put all those factors together and it is starting to weigh on Lerner’s mind.
“It just strikes me as being very dangerous right now,” he said.
The two biggest regions of concern are the U.S. Plains and the Volga Valley and Ural Mountain area of Russia, which tends to mirror what’s happening in the U.S. when there is a prolonged La Nina event.
Those are both huge grain growing regions.
The good news is the Canadian Prairies tend to do well when the U.S. is gripped by drought because the jet stream is pushed further north, squeezing storms from the U.S. Pacific Northwest into the Canadian prairie region.
The latest U.S. drought map shows extreme or exceptional drought throughout much of the lower half of the western portion of the country.
Some of that drought is spilling over into the extreme western portions of hard red winter wheat growing states such as Texas, Kansas and Nebraska.
Lerner isn’t overly concerned about the winter wheat crop because it got a good drink of water in October.
He is a little surprised by the poor crop ratings showing 43 percent of the winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition as of Nov. 22 compared to 52 percent a year ago.
“You always have to be careful when you’re talking about wheat because as long as the crop is alive it has a chance to do well,” he said.
However, if La Nina persists and the crop does not receive a much-needed dose of spring precipitation, then there could be a big problem with the U.S. crop.