Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst

Friday 03/27/15

When Wheat Dies; Winterkill Notable In Plains Wheat

In the almost 40 years of my career, there are only two occurrences that stand out when winter wheat--portrayed as the toughest-son-of-a-gun crop we know of--died. Yes, it can happen.

An 80-degree Fahrenheit swing from mild to bitter cold back in November was enough to kill off many acres of winter wheat in the western Plains. (Photo courtesy Leon Kriesel)

In my experience, the first such occasion that I witnessed was in early February, 1989. That incident was the result of temperatures changing from a very mild late January (mid-60s Fahrenheit) to bitter cold during the first few days of February (air temperature minus-20 F with a wind chill value of -70 F). On that occasion, winter wheat had been enticed out of its dormant phase by the very mild trend, and was very vulnerable to the ravages of the harsh cold wave. When I did a TV story near Beatrice, Nebraska (in southeastern Nebraska), the farmer whose forlorn wheat field we were looking at said, "That's the first time I've seen wheat die."

Twenty-five years later, it happened again. The circumstances are described by wheat grower Leon Kriesel, who had some of his wheat on his farm near Gurley, Nebraska (western Nebraska) die because of similar conditions to that of 1989.

"The damage ranges from two percent to 100 percent," Leon said in an e-mail to DTN. "You can find damage in all fields. Drier areas are probably worse. Loose seed beds also did not fare as well. Second week in November temperatures went from 70 to minus 14 in six days. That was the start of it. Moisture was adequate at the time but the plants were not hardened off. Varietal differences are hard to see, but we know of a pivot of SY Wolf that is totally dead...Southwest Nebraska is probably worse as they were (or) are drier."

The last month has also been anything but friendly on the precipitation scene. Western and southwestern Nebraska, northwestern Kansas and northeastern Colorado have had no more than three-tenths of an inch precipitation. That has kept the pressure on for wheat as it moves out of dormancy.

Writing in a Nebraska extension service crop update this week, University of Nebraska-Lincoln agronomist Dr. P. Stephen Baenziger confirmed the issue of winterkill. "It was a tough winter for wheat with severe winterkill evident in areas of Nebraska, with southwest Nebraska reporting the highest levels, according to the March 20 Nebraska Wheat Crop Report published by the Nebraska Wheat Board," Baeziger wrote. "The most severe fields had 60 percent to 80 percent damage with less severe fields showing 40 percent to 50 percent damage. Soil moisture is short due to warm temperatures in November that led to rapid growth depleting the soil profile." Baenziger also noted that the extent of winterkill also varied depending on the variety, with some varieties showing 100 percent winterkill.

Winterkill also affected plants no matter when the fields were seeded--early or late seedings were both hit in Baenziger's analysis. "Early-seeded winter wheat used soil water last fall, leaving little moisture in the soil profile in some areas. Dry soil heats up and cools down six times faster than moist soil, increasing winter injury and winterkill. Late-seeded winter wheat also sustained damage in some areas as it was not well enough established to tolerate the harsh winter conditions."

So, there is definitely some damage and possibly extensive to the hard red winter wheat crop in the western Plains. Winter wheat is tough, but even tough has its limits.

The full round of comments from Dr. P. Stephen Baenziger is at this link:…


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Posted at 2:23PM CDT 03/27/15 by Bryce Anderson

Thursday 03/26/15

Spring Forecast Concerns for W. Canada

As the days continue to lengthen and the start of the seeding season grows closer, we see a weather pattern across Canada and the northern U.S. that shows many of the same features that have been in place for the past three months.

The extreme nature of the winter weather has obviously eased, but a continuation of a similar weather pattern well into the spring could lead to some problems for some farmers, while others see pretty good planting conditions.

We continue to see the idea of a cold pool of air centered through northern Quebec and at times across the northern portion of Hudson Bay for the next few weeks based on many of the global forecast models that meteorologists use. This position is a little farther east than it was during the past two spring seasons. Where the cold air will want to hang out during the next two months may have a pretty big impact on when farmers will be able to get going in the fields.

A standard of the weather pattern for the winter and early spring has been for colder weather and a little more precipitation to cover Manitoba and at times eastern or northeastern Saskatchewan; meanwhile, areas farther west have seen the weather milder -- and sometimes much milder -- along with less precipitation. To date in March most of the Prairies have seen only a little more than 50% of the normal precipitation we would typically see.

The warm ridge of high pressure than has been across the western U.S. and far southwest Canada has kept the main storm track too far north and east to bring the heavy amounts of snow we saw during the past two seasons but Manitoba did fare a little better. The good news is that snow cover is already diminishing across the southwest half of the Prairies, while the downside is that soil moisture will continue to decrease with the warm and many times sunny weather expected during the next week or two.

An early take on spring seeding would be that dryness could become more of a concern across the western or southwestern half of the Prairies despite a much earlier start to the seeding season than last year. The northeastern portion of the Prairies will see a later departure of snow cover and somewhat more chilly conditions, so seeding may begin near or possibly even later than normal for Manitoba.

The key remains with the position of the polar vortex during the next four to six weeks. If the center wobbles about where it has been, then the idea given above may work out, but if the vortex repositions itself farther west, then we may see some cooling and an increase in wet weather, which is not so good for eastern areas and probably mostly good for the west.

Many of the global model forecasts are giving us the idea that things may not change much for a few weeks, but forecasting outward several weeks at this time of year can be an adventure. When the seasons change, the forecast models tend to have less consistency and sometimes do not pick up on general pattern shifts as they occur.

In any case, we should see a better start to the seeding season this year that we saw during the past two years. We will just have to keep an eye on the potential for dryness across central and western areas as the season progresses.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:37AM CDT 03/26/15 by Doug Webster

Wednesday 03/25/15

Early Spring Pattern Implications

The latest crop reports continue to indicate corn planting is falling further behind normal in the southern U.S. This is most evident in Louisiana where only 1 percent of the crop has been planted versus 48 percent normal. Planting is only 14 percent complete in Texas versus 37 percent normal. Planting has yet to get underway in Arkansas and Mississippi.

The current cold and wet pattern is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. It is unlikely that much additional progress will be made through the first week of April.

At some point, producers in the South will have to decide whether to shift acreage out of corn and into soybeans, cotton or sorghum. The general rule is that you don’t want to plant corn late in the South because of the likelihood that if you do, the crop will pollinate during the hottest time of the year, which would impact yields. However, with the past couple of summers being on the cool side, that has not been as much of a factor with southern corn yields being quite good.

The southern and eastern Midwest are also on the wet side, which will slow planting and fieldwork. However, if this summer is like the last couple of years, once the crop does get planted it will likely experience little stress and yields could be quite good.

Another thing we are keeping our eyes on is the persistent drought in the western U.S. We have seen glimpses of hot and dry weather extending eastward out of the western U.S. into the Plains and northwest Midwest recently. Due to the lack of snow in the northern Plains this winter, and the dryness in the central Plains, this situation will be watched closely for any signs that it could become a more persistent feature this spring.



Posted at 1:54PM CDT 03/25/15 by Mike Palmerino
February NOAA State of the Climate Report

Following are highlights from the February NOAA State of the Climate report. To sum things up quickly--except for eastern North America and the northern Atlantic Ocean, there was a whole lot of warmth going on.

cutline: (Map courtesy NOAA)


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The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for February 2015 was the second highest for February in the 136-year period of record, at 0.82 degrees Celsius (1.48 degrees Fahrenheit), above the 20th century average of 12.1 degrees Celsius (53.9 Fahrenheit). The warmest February occurred in 1998, which was 0.86 degrees Celsius (1.55 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. Nine of the past 12 months have been either warmest or second warmest on record for their respective months (March and July 2014 were each fourth warmest, while November was seventh warmest).

The average global temperature across land surfaces was 1.68 deg C (3.02 deg F) above the 20th century average of 3.2 deg C (37.8 deg F), the second highest February temperature on record, behind only 2002. This February (2015) was much warmer than last February (2014), when the average global land surface temperature was just 0.31 deg C (0.56 deg F) above average and the 44th warmest on record. However, there were some similarities between this February and last, most notably colder-than-average temperatures across the central to eastern United States and much warmer-than-average temperatures over Scandinavia, a result of the subpolar jet stream position during each of those months. In February 2015, cooler to much-cooler-than average conditions overtook the entire eastern half of the United States and the eastern third of Canada, with some record cold pockets seen around the Great Lakes region and part of northeastern Canada near Hudson Bay. The majority of the world's land surfaces, however, were warmer than average, with much-warmer-than average temperatures widespread across Central America, northern and central South America, Australia, most of Africa, and much of Eurasia, including a broad swath that covered most of Russia. In stark contrast to the eastern United States, the western United States was encompassed by record warmth. The warm-cold pattern over the country has been observed over much of the past two years.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

With its second highest maximum February temperature on record and fifth highest minimum, Australia reported its second warmest average February temperature, behind 1983, since national records began in 1910, at 1.93 deg C (3.01 deg F) above the 1961--1990 average. Western Australia had the highest departure from average among all states and the Northern Territory, at +2.30 deg C (+4.14 deg F), its second warmest February on record. Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia each observed a February among their eight warmest.

Norway was 4.2 deg C (7.6 deg F) warmer than its 1961--1990 average during February, with some regions as much as 6--9 deg C (11--16 deg F) warmer than their monthly averages. This marks one of the five warmest Februarys for the country since national records began in 1900.

Spain was among the few countries in the world with a below-average temperature for February, at 1.1 deg C (2.0 deg F) below its 1981--2010 average, marking the fourth coldest February of the 21st century (2005, 2006, and 2012 were cooler).

For the oceans, the February global sea surface temperature was 0.51 degC (0.92 deg F) above the 20th century average of 15.9 deg C (60.6 deg F), the third highest for February on record, behind 2010 (warmest) and 1998 (second warmest). After nearly two years of ENSO-neutral conditions, a weak El Nino officially emerged across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean during February 2015. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, there is about a 50--60 percent chance that El Nino conditions will continue through the Northern Hemisphere summer 2015. This forecast focuses on the ocean surface temperatures between 5 deg North and 5 deg S latitude and 170 deg W to 120 deg W longitude, called the Nino 3.4 region. However, much of the global ocean temperature warmth this month was driven by record warmth across much of the eastern North Pacific and part of the western equatorial Pacific. An area of record warmth was also observed in the central North Atlantic Ocean, while farther north, much cooler-than-average temperatures and even an area of record cold was observed in the waters between northern Canada and the United Kingdom.

Land and Sea Surface

Temperature Percentiles

Together, the record warm December, second warmest January, and second warmest February made the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for the December--February period (austral summer-boreal winter) the highest on record for this period, at 0.79 deg C (1.42 deg F) above the 20th century average of 12.1 deg C (53.8 deg F), surpassing the previous record warmth of December--February 2006/07 by 0.04 deg C (0.07 deg F). The Northern Hemisphere had its warmest winter on record and the Southern Hemisphere had its fourth warmest summer.

The globally-averaged temperature across land surfaces tied with 2007 as the highest on record for December--February, at 1.46 deg C (2.63 deg F) above the 20th century average of 8.1 deg C (46.4 deg F). Even with cooler-than-average temperatures observed across eastern North America, the Northern Hemisphere land was also record warm for the period, largely due to much warmer-than-average temperatures across southern Mexico, Central America into northern South America, Alaska, and much of Eurasia extending into Africa, with record warmth in the western United States and part of central Siberia and eastern Mongolia. Part of central Siberia had temperatures more than 5 deg C (9 deg F) above average, the highest departure from average anywhere in the world during the season. The Southern Hemisphere land overall was ninth warmest on record, with only far southern South America cooler than average during austral summer. Northern South America, eastern Africa, southeastern Asia, and large parts of Australia were much warmer than average.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

The second warmest February on record contributed to Australia's fifth warmest summer (December--February 2014/15) in its 105-year period of record, at 0.86 deg C (1.55 deg F) above the 1960--1990 average. The average maximum temperature for this period was fourth highest on record, at 0.94 deg C (1.69 deg F) above average. The highest maximum summer temperature was observed in 2013. Western Australia had the greatest departures from average among all states and the Northern Territory, observing its fourth highest maximum temperature, third highest minimum temperature, and overall third highest average daily temperature on record for the season.

Winter was 1.6 deg C (2.9 deg F) warmer than the 1961--1990 average for Germany. According to DWD (Germany's weather service), Atlantic low pressure systems brought mild weather in December and January. On January 10th, several stations, including Piding in Upper Bavaria, recorded temperatures above 20 deg C (68 deg F) for the first time ever in January.

Across the world's oceans, the December--February sea surface temperature was 0.54 deg C (0.97 deg F) above the 20th century average of 16.0 deg C (60.7 deg F), the third highest for December--February on record behind 1998 and 2010 (tied for record highest). Parts of the western North and western South Atlantic, a large swath of the eastern North Pacific, parts of the tropical central Pacific and western South Pacific, the Indian Ocean off the eastern Madagascar coast, and scattered regions in the Arctic were record warm. An area of the eastern South Pacific, the Southern Ocean south of South America, and part of the central North Atlantic were much cooler than average, with a section of the central North Atlantic between northeastern Canada and the United Kingdom record cold. Additionally, a weak El Nino officially formed during February, ending a nearly two-year streak of ENSO-neutral conditions in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Nino conditions are generally associated with enhanced global temperatures, although the weaker the event the smaller the impact is likely to be.

January--February 2015 Blended Land and Sea Surface

Temperature Percentiles

The first two months of 2015 were the warmest such period on record across the world's land and ocean surfaces, at 0.79 deg C (1.42 deg F) above the 20th century average. The average global sea surface temperature was the third highest for January--February in the 136-year period of record, behind 1998 and 2010 (tied for highest on record), while the average land surface temperature was second highest, behind only 2002. Most areas around the world were warmer or much warmer than average. Record warmth was scattered across various areas and was particularly notable across parts of the western United States, a large swath of the eastern North Pacific Ocean, regions of the western South Pacific, and parts of the western North Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Great Lakes region, an area of northeastern Canada, and a broad section of the North Atlantic between northern Canada and the United Kingdom were record cold.

February Precipitation

As is typical, precipitation anomalies during February 2015 varied significantly around the world.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

The end of summer was a dry one for Australia, with February receiving just 49 percent of its average monthly precipitation, the country's 11th driest February on record. The dryness encompassed most of the country, with every state and the Northern Territory reporting below-average rainfall.

Guam International Airport observed just 7.8 mm (less than one-half inch) of precipitation during February. This was the lowest monthly rainfall for any month at this location in the 1957--2015 record.

Summer was dry overall in New Zealand, with almost all of the country receiving below-normal (50--79 percent) or much below-normal (less than 50 percent) rainfall for the season. This translated to below-normal soil moistures across extensive areas of New Zealand, according to NIWA.

Denmark recorded its seventh wettest winter since national records began in 1874, with about 150 percent of the 1961--1990 average rainfall.


Posted at 6:04AM CDT 03/25/15 by Bryce Anderson

Monday 03/23/15

NW Corn Belt Drought to Continue

OMAHA (DTN) -- Similarities in dry conditions over the northern Midwest to the drought year 2012 are significant enough to have forecasters in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Central Climate Region keeping a very close watch over temperature and precipitation patterns this spring.

Only the northwest Plains and the southeast Midwest have normal or greater soil moisture going into spring. (NOAA graphic)

"The seasonal drought forecast calls for drought to intensify over the north Corn Belt," said Wendy Ryan, Colorado assistant state climatologist, during a conference call this week. "We had very little snow over the winter in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan."

As a result, the entire state of Minnesota, along with portions of North and South Dakota, is now in moderate drought, according to the latest rendition of the U.S. Drought Monitor. That's not as harsh as the mid-March situation three years ago, when in 2012 at the same time, the Upper Midwest had large sectors in the next-worst drought level, severe drought. Nonetheless, the scenario places a premium on springtime precipitation.

The situation is not quite as dire as three years ago, however. "We had some good rains in fall 2014 that helped with soil moisture supplies," said climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center. "Also, our temperatures have been mostly below normal during the winter; in 2012, we saw above-normal temperatures all through the winter, which led to earlier plant green-up and earlier use of available soil moisture."

As to this spring, the NOAA scientists do not look for extensive dryness; however, they are counting on general climate trends for rain to develop. So far, that has not been the case from northern Missouri north; DTN 30-day rainfall estimates show generally one-half inch or less, with only a tenth of an inch in most of Nebraska and western Iowa.

"We'll have to follow this going forward. If we continue to go into April with dryness, then it wouldn't be any question that we'd see moderate drought develop," Fuchs said.

Should conditions turn into drought mode, irrigation water may not be able to pick up the slack. That's because of notable snow melt in Colorado during a very warm period so far in March. "The South Platte and Arkansas (river) basins are OK (on water), but the majority of the central U.S. is below average," Ryan said.

Colorado's Wendy Ryan also notes that El Nino -- the occasion of warmer than normal ocean water in the Pacific equator region -- developed at the end of winter and has a very uncertain outlook.

"This El Nino had abnormal development," Ryan said. "And, the forecast models do not agree on its evolution."

One benefit from the mostly dry trend is that spring flooding has a limited forecast. "We'll see some convective-based (thunderstorm-related) flooding in the lower Missouri Valley, which we generally do, and some melting-snow flood in Kentucky, southern Illinois and southwest Indiana," Ryan said.

DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom is not surprised by the forecast details. He sees this update as confirmation for at least a temporary bullish trend in grain prices.

"I think it is what helps spark the expected spring rally," Newsom said.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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Posted at 9:26AM CDT 03/23/15 by Bryce Anderson

Thursday 03/19/15

Warm Eastern Pacific Ocean May Influence W. Canada

The winter weather pattern across North America has been persistent after the mild El Nino-like December pattern faded. One might wonder if the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) helped bring about the El Nino-type warmth during December, as well as possibly influencing the first half of March with some partial breakup of the upper air pattern for most of January and February.

As we head into the second half of March and the MJO has returned into the sectors that favor colder weather for eastern North America, we see the same upper air pattern of February resume across the Pacific, North America and the North Atlantic.

The MJO is an eastward propagating area of convection in the tropics that tends to disrupt and push northward the polar jet stream position if the MJO is strong enough. It is possible that during December the MJO helped push the jet stream northward and allowed Pacific air to flood southern Canada and the U.S. A weaker MJO passed by our longitude earlier in March and may have done so again, but with fewer results, due to the weaker nature of the most recent MJO.

Another piece of the puzzle appears to be warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures (SST) across the eastern Pacific Ocean from the central coast of Mexico to the Gulf of Alaska. Kind of like the chicken-or-the-egg story of which came first, does this warmth help induce the upper level ridge across western North America or is the ridge what helped bring about the warmer SSTs?

Looking back three years, we find that a large pool of warm SSTs has moved slowly eastward each year from the west-central Pacific in 2013 to the east-central Pacific last winter and now has made its way to the eastern Pacific for this winter. Last winter's cold pattern and snow was centered more in the central U.S. and south-central Canada, while this winter we saw the same conditions develop across the eastern U.S. and southeast Canada. The eastward shift in the core of the cold and snow mimics the eastward shift of the warm pool of the Pacific SST warmth.

The Prairies have had some cold weather this winter, but not nearly as harsh as the past two winters and it appears the spring is already making inroads on some areas. Snow cover has all but disappeared from the southwest third of the Prairies in places that saw snow cover last into early May last year. It is early and snow can still fly for a few more weeks, but the weather pattern may be stuck in the same pattern we have seen for much of the winter.

This weather pattern of a western North America ridge is not the best pattern to get precipitation for Western Canada even though some occasional periods of precipitation can fall as cold air backs in from the northeast. With the snow cover less than last year and already gone for some areas, one wonders if drier-than-normal conditions could develop and expand as we move through spring into the seeding season.

The eastern Pacific warm SST pool could be a player in this and could produce a spring and growing season quite different from what we saw during the past two seasons. Could the ridging pattern that seems so persistent across western North America bring us dry conditions along with above-normal temperatures as we move deeper into spring, or will the western ridge deflate at some point and allow some Pacific storminess to cross the Rockies?

Despite having a fairly poor and late start to seeding during the past two years, a very favorable crop was harvested across the Prairies. The questions this year are will a much earlier start to spring and drier conditions have some impact on this year's crop, and how much impact will it be? Some of the answers to these questions could be floating in the warm waters of the eastern Pacific.

Some of the climate models that produce forecasts for the next few months indicate that above-normal temperatures may continue for western North America, including the Prairies, into summer. Do these models see the effects of the eastern Pacific warm SST values or do they key in on weather pattern persistence? Answers to many of these questions will begin to show up as we move through the next few weeks in what is shaping up to be a very interesting weather pattern for North America.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 11:00AM CDT 03/19/15 by Doug Webster

Friday 03/13/15

Brazil Indeed Has Been Dry

The lion's share of analysis and forecast information presented by the DTN/The Progressive Farmer ag weather team are focused in behalf of the grain and livestock markets. And, thus far, that coverage has reflected prospects for record soybean production in Brazil in 2014-15.

(Graphic courtesy NOAA)

However, while things are looking promising for the soybean crop as a whole, the nation of Brazil is dealing with a second consecutive year of drought. Following is a rundown of the situation as noted in this week's posting by NOAA's division. The article is titled "It's Supposed To Be The Rainy Season, So Where Has All The Water Gone?"


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It’s amazing to think, but in Brazil, a country that boasts both the Amazon Rain Forest and River, parts of the country are in danger of seeing their water supplies dry up after back-to-back rainy seasons failed to live up to their name. Southeastern Brazil—the country’s most economically important region and home to São Paulo, its largest city—is struggling through what the media is calling the worst drought in nearly a century. The reservoirs that service the metro area of Sao Paulo and its 20 million residents were only at 8.9 percent of capacity during the middle of February, a shockingly low level. As a bit of good news, rains during the end of month bumped reservoir levels up to 11 percent according to Bloomberg Business, although, that is still a critically low number.

In 2013-2014, September through April rainfall was the driest rainy season since at least 1979 over a large area covering Sao Paulo and the state of Minas Gerais, where much of the country’s reservoirs are located. The extent of the dryness during the 2013-2014 rainy season would normally be hard to top. However, only one year later, the atmosphere had other ideas.

The rainy season to date in Brazil is already well on its way to supplanting last year’s record dryness. From September 1, 2014–February 28, 2015, rainfall totals over a larger area of southeast Brazil were one of the top three driest on record, with some areas even topping the record dryness of the previous year. The season is not yet over, and recent rains have been beneficial, but the bone-dry conditions felt in back-to-back rainy seasons have caused drastic negative consequences for Brazil.

In addition to the low water levels around the Sao Paulo metro area, reservoirs statewide were at only 20.4 percent of their total as of the February 18 according to Reuters, and have increased only slightly since then. The low water levels have also impacted electricity outputs, as hydroelectric dams simply cannot produce as much energy with reduced water flows. In the city itself, The Guardian reports that water may last only another four to six months. Government officials have already announced a potential water rationing program as well as expected blackouts to conserve electricity in case rains do not pick up. If they don’t, Brazil is almost certainly facing its driest back-to-back rainy seasons in at least 35 years.

Note: The full NOAA report, with graphics, is at this link:…


Posted at 9:53AM CDT 03/13/15 by Bryce Anderson

Thursday 03/12/15

Earlier Start to Spring This Year on Canadian Prairies

Spring in 2013 and 2014 saw cold, snowy conditions and got off to a very late start both years. Spring fieldwork and the seeding season started much later than average, but for both years the summer weather made up for the slow start and crops ended up producing good, if not great, yields for many varieties.

An early take on where we may go for spring 2015 is for an earlier start for farmers to get out in the fields to work, as well as start seeding. Whether or not fieldwork and seeding gets going earlier than normal is debatable, but from current expectations of what kind of weather pattern we foresee going into April, we should certainly see an earlier spring as compared to the past two years.

Snow cover and snow depths are considerably less than we saw during the past two seasons. The southern third of Alberta, far southern Saskatchewan and areas near the U.S. border of Manitoba already have scarce amounts of snow if any at all. Snow depths further north across northern Alberta, central and northern Saskatchewan, and most of southern and central Manitoba show amounts to be about one half of what they were last year at this time. Snow depths of 10 to 45 centimeters (4 to 18 inches) are being reported by most reporting sites.

We have seen mostly average or a just a little above-normal amounts of snow this winter and there also have been periods of milder weather which helped melt down some of the snow pack. During the past two years, persistent very cold weather prevented the start of the meltdown until well into April and May.

Current forecasts for the remainder of March into April tend to keep a similar weather pattern in place that we have seen during the past couple of weeks. While there may be a few periods of colder weather, it should not be extreme or long lasting. We should also see periods of much milder weather as Chinook winds shift into gear and send temperatures to above-normal levels for a few days at a time.

So far during March, most of the Prairies have seen temperatures average a few degrees above normal even with the chilly start many areas had to begin the month. Snowfall during February was above normal for most areas, but since March has started precipitation in general has been light and spotty.

There will be a return of some parts of the February weather pattern during the last 10 days of March as it appears now but without the ferocity. This should prevent Western Canada from seeing a return of persistent cold and snow like we saw during 2013 and 2014 as we moved into spring. This is not to say that period of snow and cold will not happen once in a while, just not all of the time.

One item we will need to watch will be how much precipitation we receive as we move through April and into the May seeding season. If precipitation amounts turn out to be low and the weather milder than normal, we could start to encounter soils that are a little too dry when seeding operations commence. There is plenty of time to go before seeds are planted and one or two decent snow or rain events four to six weeks from now could negate any dry soil potential, but it is something to watch for.

For now we can enjoy the off and on periods of spring warmth and watch the snow slowly melt away and hope that the cold, snowy springs of the past two years don't rekindle themselves anytime soon.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:09AM CDT 03/12/15 by Doug Webster

Wednesday 03/11/15

Variable Western Water Forecast

Following are highlights of the March USDA Western Snowpack and Water Supply Conditions report. There is some improvement on snow pack and water supplies in the Rocky Mountains, but the Far West--Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada Mountains--remain well below normal, along with the southwestern U.S. The full report with graphics is at this link:…


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Precipitation during February was near to somewhat below normal in northern areas and central Alaska, whereas it was generally quite dry in southern areas and coastal Alaska. Thus far in the water year (beginning October 1, 2014), precipitation has been near or somewhat above normal in the northern and eastern parts of the West and coastal Alaska, with southwestern areas and interior Alaska being fairly dry. Snowpack shows sharp contrasts between the low levels in southwestern and far western areas and near to above normal levels along the Rocky Mountains and in interior Alaska. Streamflow forecasts are generally below normal, except along the Rocky Mountains and in northern Alaska, where the outlook is near normal. Reservoir storage is currently below normal in the Southwest and near to above normal elsewhere.

Streamflow forecasts are moderately to extremely below normal for most of the West. The only areas of near normal forecasts are the Rocky Mountains, extending from central Colorado northwest into British Columbia, and in central and northern Alaska. In western Washington and Oregon, despite snowpack being at record lows, most forecasts are only moderately below normal in terms of percent, but these are actually at the very low end of the historical range of streamflow.

State-By-State Summaries:

Arizona: Recent storms have mostly benefitted the Verde River Basin, which is now forecast at near normal streamflow for the spring. The storms produced a total of about four inches of precipitation over this basin, saturating the soils, and resulting in significant early runoff in the Verde and its tributaries.

California: Some precipitation was received during the month of February, mostly in the form of rainfall, while the existing snowpack continued to dwindle due to warm temperatures. Fortunately though, water levels in the major storage reservoirs showed a slight increase due to runoff from the storms and the low water demand during this time of the year.

Colorado: Two weeks of wet weather through the end of February and beginning of March have provided a significant increase in snowpack throughout Colorado and an even greater boost to those southern Colorado basins that are still ailing after several consecutive years of below normal snowpack. Despite substantial accumulations statewide, snowpack has not quite returned to normal at 87 percent on March 1.

Idaho: Warm February temperatures and rain combined to take its toll on Idaho’s snowpack. Snowpacks across southern Idaho increased from west to east ranging from only 28 percent in the west to 115 percent in the east. The snowpack also increases going north but drops to half of normal in the Panhandle Region.

Montana: Snowpack percentages dropped for the second month in a row due to above average temperatures, lack of significant snowfall, and rain-on-snow events.

Nevada: Snowpack is at record low levels at 32 stations. Summarizing over basins, five -- Lake Tahoe, Lower Humboldt, Upper Humboldt, Eastern Nevada, and Owyhee -- have record low snow. Unless Nevada has a “miracle March” as in 1991, the drought’s effect will continue to worsen.

New Mexico: Snowpack is well below average as the end of the main snow accumulation season in the mountains approaches. The prospects for a decent spring snowmelt runoff across New Mexico continue to hinge on the future storm track.

Oregon: Oregon’s mountains have received near normal precipitation since the water year began on October 1, but the snowpack is well below normal as of March 1. Warm temperatures during the majority of this year’s storms resulted in more rain than snow in the mountains. As of March 1, 45 percent of Oregon’s long-term snow monitoring sites are at the lowest levels on record, and 68 out of 153 snow monitoring sites across the state are snow-free, which is highly unusual for March 1. There is a high likelihood that Oregon’s streams and rivers will have below normal flows this summer given the current state of the snowpack.

Utah: February was long, hot, and dry. Water supply conditions have declined, and with only one month left in the snow accumulation season, Utah is not likely to see substantive improvement.

Washington: Essentially no measureable snow accumulated throughout the month of February until the very last days of the month when areas above 4000 feet elevation received a light dusting. More than 27 percent of the SNOTEL and snow course network sites set new all-time record low or near record low snow water equivalent for March 1. Total precipitation was near normal for the month; however, temperatures were 4-10 degrees above normal.

Wyoming: Snowmelt runoff projections indicate that statewide, approximately 90 percent of average spring and summer streamflow is expected.


Posted at 2:04PM CDT 03/11/15 by Bryce Anderson

Monday 03/09/15

Eastern Corn Belt Field Work May Be One Month Late

OMAHA (DTN) -- Hodgenville, Ky., farmer Ryan Bivens experienced a unique weather event for his area during the end of February into early March -- not one, but two snowstorms, which produced more than a foot of the white stuff at his place. Two weeks ago, the total was 15 inches. This week, the total was 12 to 15 inches -- after rain and ice.

Heavy snow and ice in Kentucky during early March has set back spring field work by at least two weeks. (NOAA graphic)

"Our place is about 12 miles from where the national news showed Interstate 65 shut down," Bivens said. "I've never had snows like that."

To make an obvious point, the late-winter and early-spring snowstorms have put Bivens's spring field work and corn planting on hold for much of the remainder of March. And the snow is not the worst of it when it comes to wet soils. His area had almost 3-plus inches of rain before the snow, Bivens said. "Fields were soggy to begin with."

Bivens figures he is two weeks behind in his field work and needs that length of time for the ground to dry. "The snow will go off quick ... but two weeks without anything (precipitation) is the bare minimum" to dry soils, he said.

Kentucky, of course, is not alone in having to dig out from under record snow and ice. A large swath of the southern and eastern U.S. -- from Texas to New England -- was hit with this over-the-top precipitation. The large-scale pattern has DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino's full attention.

"This pattern is inverted," Palmerino said. "You have the cold air and the heavy snow and ice where you would normally not expect it to happen, in the south. And then, in the north, it's drier and warmer, with more of that set to move in during the weekend."

Whatever the description, Bivens has seen this spring delay before. "This will be the third year in a row that I haven't planted anything in April," he said. "It gets so cold and wet, I've just waited."

Grain market reaction to this slowdown in field work is difficult to gauge. Still, DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom thinks there could be some attention to this wet southeastern Corn Belt pattern reflected in the December 2015 corn futures contract. "It might support the new-crop market a little," Newsom said. DTN Analyst Todd Hultman also thinks trade reaction will be lukewarm regarding the harsh conditions. "The heavy snow could have a minor bullish effect on new-crop prices," Hultman said.

For Bivens, the main thing is to be patient, with the results of the past two seasons -- when planting was late -- fresh in his memory. "I had my best corn ever in 2013, and beat that by five bushels (an acre) in '14," he said.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

Follow Bryce Anderson on Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Posted at 10:28AM CDT 03/09/15 by Bryce Anderson

Friday 03/06/15

Let's Keep Perspective On El Nino

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) caused quite a storm of discussion (pun intended) Thursday March 5 with the issuance of an El Nino Advisory. The advisory was issued because a combination of central Pacific Ocean water temperatures, subsurface temperature trends, and the Southern Oscillation Index value over the past couple months led to the assessment that "...these features are consistent with borderline, weak El Nino conditions." (bolded print is mine)

Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures are indeed above normal in the central ocean, but show a slight cooling trend in the eastern half. (NOAA graphic)

This announcement led to a "What is up with that?" type of question in our DTN ag weather group. We -- and several state climatologists who I discussed things with -- are wondering about what led NOAA to this conclusion at this time. This particular pronouncement, frankly, does not make much sense. Here's why:

In the first place, the Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures do not show a "classic" El Nino trend. There is indeed warm water in the central and west-central Pacific areas, but the eastern Pacific -- from South America to the International Date Line -- is actually showing some cooling. Eastern Pacific temperatures logged by my colleague Mike Palmerino show that December, 2014 had the sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific at 1.4 degrees Celsius (just under three degrees Fahrenheit) above normal (warmer temperatures are part of El Nino), with that trend declining in both January and February to just a plus zero-point-four (0.4) degree Celsius (.8 degree Fahrenheit). That cooling is certainly not in keeping with El Nino descriptions.

Another measurement of the El Nino feature -- the barometer relationship between the island of Tahiti and Darwin, Australia (far northern Australia) that is expressed in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) and tracked by the Australia Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) -- is also showing a non-El Nino type reading. As of Friday, March 6, the SOI daily reading was -2.8; the 30-day running average was +0.8; and the 90-day average was -5.2. For the previous three months, the SOI actually moved from borderline El Nino values of -7.6 for December and -8.7 in January, to a -0.5 in February. That is "neutral" territory.

To complete a three-point rejoinder to the pronouncement -- the CPC is flying solo a bit in this assessment. The Australians have noted an El Nino "watch" -- but that is still two levels away from saying that El Nino is in effect. And the latest Japanese weather bureau Pacific assessment -- dated February 10 -- stated that "El Nino conditions are decaying in the equatorial Pacific." Its forecast for the Pacific last month noted a 50-50 chance for redevelopment of El Nino during the spring 2015 season. The Japan agency's forecast will be updated this coming Tuesday, March 10.

So, where does that leave us regarding the Pacific's weather influence on crop weather for this spring? While we have seen some El Nino flavor to the pattern in the last week or so with the heavy precipitation from the southwestern U.S. through the Northeast -- including record snows in the Delta and the Ohio Valley -- along with the outrageous extreme cold in the southern and eastern U.S. along with the eastern Canadian Prairies through eastern Canada. The drier and warmer conditions over the Northwest, the northern Plains, northern Midwest and the western Canadian Prairies are also characteristics of an El Nino. But, whether those features continue is questionable. After all, a weak El Nino is different than a moderate to strong event.

As to a forecast -- the analogs for this season, with a weak El Nino, still look warm in almost all crop areas. The Midwest is drier, which would be favorable for field work. In the Delta and Southeast, the pattern is wetter. Southern Plains areas have additional chances at moisture, and the Far West drought continues. Northern Plains locales have generally above normal temperatures with a big disparity in precipitation -- near normal east of the Missouri River, but below normal west.

It will also be interesting to see further updates from the Climate Prediction Center regarding this latest El Nino pronouncement.


Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Posted at 3:39PM CST 03/06/15 by Bryce Anderson

Thursday 03/05/15

Strong Atlantic High Caused Colder Feb. in W. Canada

A review of February's weather across North America, particularly Western Canada, shows some fairly extreme conditions prevailed with little change for much of the month.

Monthly average temperatures across the Prairies stood at about 0.5 degree Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) above normal across Alberta, 4 degrees C (8 F) below normal for Saskatchewan, and 6 degrees C (10 F) below normal for Manitoba.

Even colder weather departures were noted across southern Ontario to southern Quebec and exceeded 8 degrees C (14 F) in some places. The upper air pattern was stuck in place all month long with the central and eastern portion of Canada covered by arctic air. Far Western Canada saw some cycling back and forth between cold and milder readings, which is why Alberta was much more moderate than locations farther east.

A look back at the Northern Hemisphere upper air charts shows one big reason why eastern North America saw record cold and snow for many areas. A very strong upper level ridge remained planted in the vicinity of and just to the west of the Azores all month long. This ridge acted like a road block to the normal east-to-west progression of the long wave troughs that we normally see.

An analogy to best describe what happened would be white water rafting. When one is white water rafting, the raft typically goes over a series of waves and troughs within the river that rise above a rock formation then fall into a trough, then rise again over a wave atop the next rock formation. These waves are created by the rock formations under the water and remain in place as standing waves.

We did not have rock formations that created the February weather pattern, but we did have a standing wave situation from the Atlantic Ocean west across North America into the Pacific with respect to the upper air jet stream flow pattern. An anomalous upper level ridge stayed stuck near the Azores for nearly five weeks representing the wave going over the rock formation. A trough stayed in place across the eastern half of North America while another ridge was placed near the west coast of North America. Another trough was in place through the central Pacific during this time as well.

These long wave features acted as standing waves for nearly a five-week period with the short wave energy passing along this jet stream flow. Instead of high latitude blocking like we saw last winter, we saw mid-latitude blocking this winter. It just so happened that the position of the trough across North America was also a big cold air maker. Arctic air was continuously being made across most of central and eastern Canada and being delivered southward across the eastern half of the U.S. Most of the Prairies were stuck in the cold, while Alberta saw brief periods when the Pacific air brought some relief. The western half of the U.S. saw near record warmth as it was stuck under a ridge.

This boundary through the western Prairies also helped bring increased snowfall for the region last month. All three Prairie provinces observed above-normal precipitation and snowfall by as much as 150% and more in some areas. Early winter snow depths were depleted by very warm weather during December so some added snow for some early spring soil moisture when the snow melts was probably a good thing for most areas.

During the past week we have seen the roadblock standing wave weather pattern break down and a resumption of the west-to-east motion of large scale weather systems has resumed. This means that an end to persistent cold is likely for all of Western Canada during the next several days and a more typical changeable temperature pattern is likely for the next few weeks. Some additional snows are likely as the weather fluctuates from cold to mild. It is still a little early to decide when spring really breaks out to allow for early fieldwork to begin, but it is encouraging to see the stalled weather pattern of February break down into a more normal weather regime for Western Canada for this time of year.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 11:54AM CST 03/05/15 by Doug Webster

Tuesday 03/03/15

Back-To-Back Record Yields Unlikely

The unspoken-but-strongly-implied question at the 2014-15 winter farm meetings I was part of was "Will we see another record corn yield number this next season?". It's a natural thought--especially considering that the 171 bushels per acre final U.S. yield seemed to so easily waltz past 2009's mark of around 165 bushels per acre. And, as you know, the National Corn Yield Contest also logged the first 500 bushel per acre figure.

But, while it is certainly understandable to think that a back-to-back string of record yields might be in the cards, a look back at some 30 years of corn production, using USDA statistics, shows that repeat performances usually don't happen--and in fact, as a rule don't even come close to the benchmark year. Let's review these bushels-per-acre record years and the following season results:

1987-- 120 1988-- 82 (big La Nina year and drought)

1992-- 132 1993-- 101 (big flood year)

1994-- 138 1995-- 112 (blistering July heat wave)

*2003-- 141 *2004-- 160 (only time since 1987 that a record was logged two years straight)

BUT-- 2004-- 160 2005-- 148 (hot and dry midsummer)

2009-- 165 2010-- 151 (strongest La Nina in 60 years set in)

2014-- 171 2015-- ???

These details are interesting and certainly give rise to the view that we have no guarantee on how yields will perform this season. They also hint that there is still some weather adventure ahead as the season unfolds.


Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Posted at 6:38PM CST 03/03/15 by Bryce Anderson

Friday 02/27/15

Spring Weather Comments

As we head into meteorological spring in the US which begins on March 1 we thought it would be a good time to offer some comments on spring fieldwork and planting conditions.

The current weather pattern we have been in has basically been wiith us since the beginning of the year. After a weather pattern last December that had some El Nino characteristics to it we have reverted back to a very familiar and dominant weather pattern since the 2012 drought. That pattern features more of the phenomenon known as blocking which we have discussed at lengh during the past few years. This blocking feature (high pressure) in the high latitudes and this year more into the middle lattitudes forces the jet stream southward into the US from the polar regions. The result of this is colder than normal weather for much of the central US and in some cases a stormy weather pattern. This year we have been able to avoid much of the storminess with the east coast getting most of the action.

As we go forward into the spring we expect some version of this overall pattern to continue with no major features on the horizon to dislodge it. This would mean more in the way of below normal temperatures for the central US. However due to some relaxation in the southward penetration of the jet stream as we move into spring we would expect to see an increase in precipitation across the central US from south to north. We have already seen some stormy periods across the southern states recently and it looks like more of this precipitation will begin to expand further to the north with time. This would imply spring planting and fieldwork delays for much of the south-central US as well as the southern and eastern Midwest. It may not be all that active for awhile in the northwest Midwest and northern plains and with the lack of major snow in this region this winter major spring flooding may be avoided. This region may actually fare better from a fieldwork perspective once temperatures wam up enough to thaw the ground. than areas further to the south and east.

If this pattern were to continue into the summer you would have to assume rather favorable weather for corn and soybeans in the Midwest with no major heat or drought stress,



Posted at 1:41PM CST 02/27/15 by Mike Palmerino
Comments (1)
Looks alot like 2012 up here in ND. Any way you could review what your March 1 2012 spring-summer outlook was?
Posted by Robert Pyle at 9:19AM CST 03/02/15

Thursday 02/26/15

Arctic Chill Covers Prairies

If you are looking for signs of spring across Western Canada you will be hard pressed to find much during the first half of March as it appears now. The weather pattern is likely to undergo some changes across North America that will bring some changes to some areas but Western Canada is not one of those places.

For about a month we have seen a strong ridge near the West Coast of Canada extend southward into the western U.S. along with a very deep eastern Canada and U.S. trough. During the next week, most all indications point to a westward shift of the pattern along with de-amplification of the ridge/trough pattern.

The western North America ridge is likely to shift into the eastern Pacific while a weakened trough shifts to the west-central part of Canada and down into the interior West of the U.S. This new pattern brings changes to the western U.S. in the form of much colder weather and increased winter weather. The eastern U.S. will see temperatures moderate from well-below normal to near-to-below normal, but still with more winter weather threats ahead.

For Western Canada, the only change appears to be an end to the occasional spike of warming Chinook winds across Alberta. Instead of the big see-saw temperature patterns of the past few weeks, a more sustained cold pattern should be seen across Alberta while Saskatchewan and Manitoba go on with business as usual with below-normal temperatures much of the time well into March.

Earlier this week, we saw record low temperatures visit parts of Saskatchewan where readings at Prince Albert fell to minus 41.1C (minus 42 Fahrenheit). Just a day later, afternoon temperatures rocketed to 1.7 Celsius (35 Fahrenheit), a 42.9 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) degree rise in just 36 hours! Similar roller coaster temperature traces were observed across Alberta. With the westward shift to the mean upper trough position during the next week we should see the cold weather become better entrenched across far Western Canada with even British Columbia turning quite cold.

Snow prospects continue to look limited with only a few flurries here and there once in a while. A brief period of light snow may visit the region Monday as a new surge of arctic cold slides southward out of northwest Canada.

The March outlook continues to show a greater likelihood of colder-than-normal weather across Western Canada than milder-than-normal readings. Precipitation is expected to average a little above normal, but March is still not a big precipitation producer compared to the summer months. There is potential that we see a slight nudge back to the east with the mean upper level trough back to the eastern half of Canada in a couple of weeks. This would bring a return of the roller coaster temperature pattern to the west while cold would stay more locked in across the east.

During the fall there was talk of El Nino having some impact on our winter weather pattern which would have favored mild, dry weather. As we now know, the El Nino conditions have never materialized for Western Canada this winter, other than maybe having some input with respect to the mild weather of December. Since then, the El Nino has been a no show.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 9:37AM CST 02/26/15 by Doug Webster
Comments (1)
What is the extended forcast for the Dakotas and Minnesota. Much of the same temperatures like February?
Posted by SEAN GROOS at 9:42AM CST 02/27/15
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Recent Blog Posts
  • When Wheat Dies; Winterkill Notable In Plains Wheat
  • Spring Forecast Concerns for W. Canada
  • Early Spring Pattern Implications
  • February NOAA State of the Climate Report
  • NW Corn Belt Drought to Continue
  • Warm Eastern Pacific Ocean May Influence W. Canada
  • Brazil Indeed Has Been Dry
  • Earlier Start to Spring This Year on Canadian Prairies
  • Variable Western Water Forecast
  • Eastern Corn Belt Field Work May Be One Month Late
  • Let's Keep Perspective On El Nino
  • Strong Atlantic High Caused Colder Feb. in W. Canada
  • Back-To-Back Record Yields Unlikely
  • Spring Weather Comments
  • Arctic Chill Covers Prairies
  • NOAA Comment On Tepid El Nino
  • Arctic Air Covers All but the Far West in Canada
  • Colorado Snowpack Forecast
  • Cold Takes the Upper Hand for the Prairies
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