This post contains a portion of a well-worth-reading blog item written by Deke Arndt, who is Chief, Climate Monitoring Branch, of the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) in Asheville, North Carolina. The blog posting is titled "Why El Nino Is Like A Bad Bartender". His post has some very useful information on the scenario for possible winter precipitation in the western U.S. drought areas in 2015-16.
By Deke Arndt
Let’s say you have a favorite establishment, where everybody knows your name, and they bring you “your” beverage on sight. And then one night you go in, and based upon your past experience, you sorta expect the bartender to bring you your favorite beer. Instead, maybe he unexpectedly brings you a warmer-than-normal beer, or even (shudder) a wine cooler. El Nino is like that bartender. Seeing him when you walk in may tilt your odds toward getting your favorite beer, but it’s not a guarantee. In other words, sometimes El Nino is the bartender who doesn’t bring you what you ordered.
El Nino is important, so we appropriately pay attention to it when considering seasonal outcomes. However, El Nino is not the only game in town, and just like external factors may distract your bartender, each El Nino is born into a unique global situation, so its push on seasonal outcomes is unique as well. Indeed, this year, we have "the “Blob,” reduced Arctic sea ice, and a persistent North Atlantic feature that weren’t in play in the 20th-century El Ninos of yore.
Let’s look at some historical precipitation outcomes for the cold season (October through March) for each year since 1950. Why cold season? Because it’s starting now, and it is also when much of the West gets the lion’s share of its precipitation. It’s also more responsive to El Nino’s influence, compared to other months on the calendar. Why 1950? That coincides with the beginning of the Oceanic Nino Index era, which was a factor in selecting historic El Ninos.
California isn’t the only drought-stricken state, but it draws upon water resources from throughout the West. In terms of water—in some ways, at least—California goes, so goes the West; as the West goes, so goes California.
First of all, the average outcome is fairly optimistic: during strong El Nino years, precipitation is around six inches above the long-term average. However, two of those six strong El Ninos actually delivered below-average precipitation. So, a strong El Nino doesn’t guarantee a wet outcome for California statewide, even though it significantly pushes the odds towards wet conditions.
This situation is magnified in Northern California. Drilling down--in Northeastern California, there is a modestly wet average of all six strong El Ninos, but it comes as a result of one whopper episode (1982-83), three near-average episodes, and two below-average (dry) episodes.
On the flip side, southern California has had a much more consistently wet relationship with strong El Ninos. This is best shown in Southern Coastal California, where each of the six strong El Ninos have delivered at least nominally above-average precipitation, and five of them have come in notably above the norm. As such, the current winter outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) indicates the highest probabilities for increased precipitation are across southern California.
Persistent drought and wildfire have been year-long issues in the Northern Rockies. How might El Nino play out here? Unfortunately, the influence of a strong El Nino to the region is a drying one. Western Montana outcomes are almost the mirror image of Southern California: all of them at least nominally drier-than-average, and most of them seriously so.
El Nino can play a huge role in seasonal outcomes. It’s no coincidence that, for much of the country, the current seasonal outlook looks a lot like the pattern of average El Nino outcomes. However, as forecasters can tell you, those average outcomes can be pulled apart into specific examples which may sometimes stray from the averages. Some places have a pretty consistent response, and for these areas, confidence in outcomes is higher. In other places, the signal is anything but consistent. For our friends in northwest Wyoming, both the wettest and the driest cold seasons on record came during strong El Nino episodes.
One more point: the Western drought is entrenched. It took years to get into the current situation; it will take more than one wet season to get out of it. Let’s hope that we put a big dent in the drought this year, but one season, and probably even one El Nino, is not a single magic bullet.
The full article is at this link: https://goo.gl/…
© Copyright 2015 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.
Good harvest weather continues to aid farmers with harvest across western Canada as we turn the page into early October. A weather pattern that is likely helped along by El Nino has brought mild and mostly dry weather to the Prairies during the second half of September.
Cold temperatures have been hard to find and some areas even have yet to have a hard freeze. Average first frost and freeze dates have come and gone through most of western Canada. The lack of very chilly weather has to do with the continuation of a westerly jet stream flow across western Canada and the lack of any strong polar high pressure areas moving southeastward from Alaska or northwest Canada.
The lack of the big upper level ridge poking northward along the west coast of North America to date has prevented any serious cold from collecting across northwest Canada. Eventually it will turn colder across northern Canada but the cold air manufacturing machine we saw during the past couple of years may be hard to find this coming winter.
There have been some colder-than-normal temperatures recently across Alaska, but the mechanism to pull this air southward has been lacking with the jet stream acting as a dam. The flatter jet stream flow recently has also diminished the rainfall threat, all of which is good news for harvest.
With the nights growing steadily longer and the sun angle lowering in the sky, it's inevitable that colder temperatures will take hold shortly. However, the overall weather pattern may continue to be one that keeps temperatures on the milder side of normal during October and quite possibly well into the winter. An early peek at today's November forecast is showing well-above-normal temperatures for western Canada.
El Nino can play a major role in the weather of western Canada, especially during the winter and the current El Nino is one of the strongest on record. These warm waters of the tropical Pacific have a rather strong influence on the Prairies, making the down-sloping Chinook winds more dominant during the winter than the biting cold which can drop in from the north. The downside is we may come up short with precipitation making soil moisture lower than average for spring seeding.
In the near term farmers continue to be ahead of schedule with harvest for the most part and some crops are in the final harvest stage or even complete. Mostly good weather is anticipated during the next week and that should allow for harvest to begin to wrap up for more and more locations.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Even as U.S. row crop harvest gets into gear--the historic drought in the Far West shows no sign of letting up just yet. Following is the text of a recent article in Climate Watch magazine, written by Tom DiLeberto, which delves into the topic of just how large the precipitation deficit is in California. --Bryce
In January, after a series of rain events the previous month in California, I wrote an article using analysis from my Climate Prediction Center colleague Rich Tinker that described how much rain/snow was needed by the end of the California water year (the end of September) to get California out of its precipitation hole.
The answer was a lot of precipitation. It would have taken near record amounts of rain across the agriculture-dominated central California – the San Joaquin Valley – to bring the most recent four year period out of the driest 20 percent of years on record. Flash forward to September and those rains did not happen last year. In fact, California remains extremely dry.
The US Drought Monitor, released September 8, has 46 percent of the state under the most extreme drought category (D4-Exceptional Drought). Over 97 percent of the state is experiencing some degree of drought. Only areas in far southeastern California have received enough rain to simply be abnormally dry and not under drought.
So what will it take for the upcoming water year to put a big dent into California’s precipitation deficits?
The answer is a lot of rain. As of the end of August, California is running 5-year precipitation deficits (starting in October 2011) of 8 inches in the dry southeast to almost 50 inches along the north coast. In California, four year rainfall amounts (2011-2014) have been between 54-75 percent of normal during that time frame. To put the deficits into another perspective, every region in California is missing at least a year’s worth of precipitation. In fact, the south coast of California is missing almost two years’ worth of rain (1.82 years to be exact). This deficit isn’t so much a hole as a giant chasm.
One measure used by the U.S. Drought Monitor team to declare drought is whether precipitation totals are in the bottom 20 percent of the record. For five-year precipitation totals (October 2011 – September 2016) to get out of the bottom 20 percent of records dating back to 1928, precipitation totals from October 2015 through September 2016 must exceed 135-160 percent of normal in northern California, 160 percent of normal in the dry southeast to 198 percent of normal in the San Joaquin Valley. This is a ton of rain/snow.
In order for rains during the 2015-2016 water year to be 198 percent of normal in the agricultural-center of the state—the San Joaquin Valley—the upcoming water year would have to be the wettest on record. And that is just to get five year precipitation deficits out of the bottom 20 percent! The only region of California that would not have to have a top-10-wettest water year since 1928 is the north coast. They would only need the 11th wettest October-September.
For these regions to bring five year totals to the 50th percentile—the middle of the pack—every region in California would need record-breaking amounts of rain. The south coast of California would have to receive precipitation over 300 percent of normal (nearly 53 inches of rain)! But hey, that’s only a mere 14.95 inches higher than the current record for wettest water year ever.
The San Joaquin Valley would have to break its previous water year record by 18 inches! Even the region closest to average in California (the north coast) would have to see precipitation totals over 17 inches higher than the previous water year record.
This analysis is a relatively basic view on what constitutes “drought” or “drought recovery.” Drought in California is about much more than the total amount of rain falling from the sky. How long and hard it falls, whether it comes as rain or snow, and how resilient various ecosystems are to such extended stress are other factors that we have to take into account when we talk about drought recovery.
Explaining this nuance via email, California State Climatologist Mike Anderson wrote that as far as surface conditions go, “We need sufficient rainfall to replenish used storage in the surface reservoirs and to begin to restore lost groundwater systems, and we need to have a healthy snowpack to deliver runoff in the spring and summer. Looking at past years that ended multi-year droughts and comparing their characteristics, they ended up being years that had somewhere in the ballpark of 150 percent of average precipitation and about 150 percent of average snowpack.”
If there is any “good” news in this post, it would be that for many of the regions in central and southern California, the wettest water years on record were tied to El Nino events. And 2015 is in the midst of one of the strongest events since 1950. As such, the latest seasonal precipitation forecast from the Climate Prediction Center for the upcoming December-February period is what you would expect to see during an El Nino year: an elevated chance for above-average rains across the central/southern parts of the state. Rains that would help alleviate some of the deficits that have been built since 2011.
The jury is still out, though, on northern California. In the past, the connection between wet winters and El Nino has been less reliable in the northern part of the state than the southern part. But according to a new analysis by the NOAA Drought Task Force, the odds for a wet winter across the entire state improve the stronger the El Nino event is, and the 2015-16 event is currently forecast to remain strong through winter.
Regardless, it is important to remember that forecasts are about probabilities, not guarantees. While it seems like this winter could see above-average rains, the name of the game in California is still to conserve water. But maybe make sure you have that umbrella ready, too.
When the U.S. 2015 crop year is analyzed in years to come -- and it will be -- there is little doubt in my mind that one of the first phrases to identify this season will be something along the lines of "It was really an El Nino year."
That may seem like a trivial point -- after all, Pacific Ocean temperature patterns catalogued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and analyzed by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) show that El Nino warmth (above-normal equator-region temperatures) went into effect in the February-March-April period, and have stayed there since. However, I still heard comments from trade sources this past week saying that El Nino had been a "slow-developing" feature.
In response to that, may I offer the heavy, record-breaking rain in the eastern and southern Corn Belt, the southeastern Plains, and parts of the Delta last spring. May I also offer the mild and dry trend in the northwestern Corn Belt. Those two features were springboards to crop-condition topics that dominated the rest of the season -- and they are also prominent in a comprehensive look at El Nino (or La Nina) effects on North America weather patterns done by Florida State University in 1989 -- more than 25 years ago.
In terms of row crops, what dominated the weekly discussions until practically July 1 of this year? The dominant items were fears of acreage loss due to flooding along with very slow planting because of heavy rains in the southern and eastern Midwest -- and, the rapid pace of planting due to warm temperatures and drier soils in the northwestern Midwest. Those two large-scale areas are identified specifically in the Florida State study. And, on a very stressful dry side, the Pacific Northwest was bereft of meaningful precipitation -- yet another indicator of El Nino's presence and influence.
Pacific temperatures remained at El Nino-warm levels through the rest of the summer and now into the fall season as well. And, for the Midwest, temperatures were from about 1 degree Fahrenheit above normal to two degrees Fahrenheit below normal; values which that limited stress to crops, further bolstering production estimates.
In addition, southern Brazil and Argentina have had some very heavy rains through the past couple months; and now, Australia's wheat areas are turning very dry with almost no rain forecast for the next week. There are also reports of concern for dryness in the southeast Asia palm oil plantations. All these are indicators of El Nino flexing its muscle.
But, El Nino already did -- repeatedly -- in the past six months.
After a few bumps in the road earlier in September, Canadian Prairies weather conditions, possibly helped along by El Nino, have helped bring harvest progress along at a decent pace during the past week, despite some shower activity here and there. The good news is that more good harvest weather is likely during the next week or more, allowing many areas to begin to finish harvest for 2015.
El Nino is more than likely going to be in the news during the coming months since there is currently a strong one in place across the tropical Pacific. While nearly a world away from western Canada, the zone of warmer than average ocean waters extending westward from the South American coast into the central Pacific can have a significant impact on the Prairies.
During the summer El Nino probably has minimal effect on the Prairies weather pattern. But, as the fall chill begins, some of El Nino's impacts begin to become more noticeable. El Nino tends to deflect the polar jet stream north and east of western Canada during the winter season, and allows more Pacific air into the Prairies than during a non-El Nino winter. That is a major difference between El Nino and La Nina. La Nina brings cooler waters to the tropical Pacific, and tends to make western Canada quite cold on average.
During the recent week, we have seen more signs of El Nino-type weather across North America, including some heavy rain across far southern California and Arizona where cooler weather has also developed. Warmth has become widespread across a large portion of the remainder of the U.S. and Canada, and the lack of a widespread frost and freeze across the Prairies to date is a result of the polar jet being kept further north and east than average.
The recent downturn in wet weather is also probably a result of the increasing effects of El Nino across western Canada and will help farmers get crops into the bin quite easily before time runs out. A mostly dry weather pattern is on the horizon for the Prairies into next week, with only a few spotty showers expected. Temperatures will remain mild into the weekend, but some chill may invade eastern areas early next week before warming returns.
Harvest progress continues to run ahead of average, and sowing of fall crops has also been doing well for most areas. Soil moisture levels saw a rebound during the second half of summer and with the milder than average start to fall we are seeing fall crops emerge without any major issues.
El Nino is expected to build during the next couple of months and probably will peak very early in the winter before weakening later in the winter and spring. This El Nino is forecast to be one of the strongest we've seen and should bring western Canada a milder and drier than normal winter. The threat for any crops that require snow cover for protection is that diminished snow cover this winter could leave open the door for some winter kill during any cold air outbreaks that can still happen, even during an El Nino.
It's important to remember that even though El Nino may be in place, it will not completely shut down cold weather threats. El Nino will help reduce the number of cold air outbreaks from what we might see during a normal winter. As the months pass we will have to see how much precipitation falls between now and spring. El Nino usually brings drier than normal conditions and if so we could see some reduced soil moisture levels next spring, which could affect spring planting.
Doug Webster can be reached at email@example.com
With harvest getting into gear -- U.S. corn harvest now 10% complete, and soybean harvest 7% complete as of Sunday, September 20 -- a review of soil moisture supplies going into the final ten days of the month pretty well defines the end-game availability for crops.
The rundown shows ample supplies in the center of the Corn Belt. Most of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin have soil moisture supplies in the 90 to 95th percentile of the long-term average for 1916-2004. Southeastern Minnesota, northern Indiana and southern Michigan are also in this category. Missouri is a bit drier, but is still in the 70th percentile relative to the long-term average.
For drier conditions, the Delta and the Dakotas, along with western Minnesota and the western edge of the Corn Belt -- in Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado -- along with the Atlantic seaboard from the Carolinas through the Delmarva Peninsula -- have very low soil moisture readings. In some of these locales, however, irrigation is a key component of the cropping system.
Then there is the western through northwestern U.S. -- with zero to 10% of the long-term average soil moisture. The historic drought has sapped supplies completely in many areas.
Following is an update on the precipitation situation in Russia's winter wheat areas, as described by Informa Economics. There is a dry trend so far this fall and may have an adverse effect on getting the next winter wheat crop established.--Bryce
"There was little change in the overall weather pattern across much of the FSU. Conditions remained drier than normal although showers and rains fell across Belarus and far western portions of Ukraine. Crops continue to mature and dry affording good harvest conditions in most areas. Rains would be a benefit for the pre-plant season in the winter wheat areas of western Russia and Ukraine. Temperatures remained warmer than normal, but were not as hot as that of the previous week."
Here's how the Russia precipitation breaks out:
For the past week, through Sunday September 20, winter wheat area precipitation averaged out at 3.5 millimeters (mm) or about .14 inch--less than a quarter of an inch. For the month ending Sunday, September 20, total precipitation is 15.0 mm or about .60 inch. Normal month to date precipitation is 22.3 mm, or .89 inch. So, the monthly precip total is about 68 percent of normal--32 percent below normal.
Since July 1, the difference is sharper. Total Russian wheat region precip is 75.6 mm or just over 3 inches. That is only 62 percent of normal 121.9 mm or 4.88 inches. So, there is indeed some dryness in the winter wheat country of Russia.
Following are highlights from the NOAA August world climate report. A new record for world--or, global--warmth was recorded. The link to the full report, including graphics, is at the conclusion of this summary.--Bryce
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for August 2015 was 0.88 degrees Celsius (1.58 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average of 15.6 deg C (60.1 deg F) and the highest August in the 136-year record. This value surpassed the previous record set in 2014 by 0.09 deg C (0.16 deg F). Most of the world's surface was substantially warmer than average and, in some locations, record warm during August 2015, contributing to the monthly global record warmth. This was the sixth month in 2015 that has broken its monthly temperature record (February, March, May, June, July, and August). August 2015 tied with January 2007 as the third warmest monthly departure from average for any of the 1,628 months since records began in January 1880, behind February 2015 and March 2015 (+0.89 deg C / +1.60 deg F). Five of the ten largest monthly temperature departures from average occurred in 2015.
The average global land surface temperature for August 2015 was 1.14 deg C (2.05 deg F) above the 20th century average—the highest August value in the 1880–2015 record, exceeding the previous record set in 1998 by +0.13 deg C (+0.23 deg F). According to the Land and Ocean Temperature Percentiles map, much-warmer-than-average conditions were present across much of the western contiguous U.S., Mexico, South America, Africa, Europe, and parts of eastern Asia. According to the Land & Ocean Temperature Percentiles map, record warmth was observed across South America and parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. South America, Europe, and Africa experienced their warmest August average temperature since 1910. Near- to much-cooler-than-average conditions were present across Alaska, western Canada, the central contiguous U.S., and western and southeastern Asia.
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 August 2015 temperature departure for Germany was 2.8 deg C (5.0 deg F) above the 1981–2010 average—resulting in the second warmest August since 1901, according to Germany's Met Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst).
Much warmer-than-average conditions dominated across much of Argentina during August 2015, with many locations experiencing record temperatures—according to Argentina's Met Service (Servicio Meteorológico Nacional de Argentina). Some locations recorded temperatures as high as 40 deg C (104 deg F).
According to the UK Met Office, the United Kingdom experienced cooler-than-average conditions during August 2015, resulting in a national mean temperature of 14.7 deg C (58.5 deg F), which is 0.2 deg C (0.36 deg F) below the 1981–2010 average.
Spain experienced a warmer-than-average August, with an average temperature of 24.5 deg C (76.1 deg F)—which is 0.5 deg C (0.9 deg F) above the 1981–2010 average.
The average temperature for Denmark for August 2015 was 17.4 deg C (63.3 deg F), which is 1.7 deg C (3.1 deg F) above the 1961–1990 average and the warmest August since 2009, according to Denmark's Met Service (DMI).
Australia, as a whole, had a warmer-than-average August at 0.61 deg C (1.10 deg F) above the 1961–1990 average. However, Tasmania had below-average conditions, resulting in the third lowest temperature departure (-1.27 deg C / -2.29 deg F) since national records began in 1910, according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology.
Across the oceans, the August 2015 globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 0.78 deg C (1.40 deg F) above the 20th century average—the highest temperature for any month in the 1880–2015 record and surpassing the previous record set in July 2015 by 0.04 deg C (0.07 deg F). According to the Land & Ocean Percentiles map, large portions of the seven seas (where temperature records are available) recorded much-warmer-than-average temperatures, with much of the eastern and equatorial Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and parts of the Atlantic experiencing record warmth.
El Nino conditions were present across the equatorial Pacific Ocean during August 2015. According to analysis by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, sea surface temperatures during August were near or greater than 2 deg C (3.6 deg F) above the 1981–2010 average in the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. There is a greater than 90 percent chance that El Nino will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015/16.
Full report: https://goo.gl/…
Periods of wet weather have slowed or stopped harvest activities across many areas of Western Canada during early and mid-September, as a series of low pressure areas have brought rain and showers. The recent rainy weather has likely slowed harvest progress back to a little closer to normal, although the overall harvest still remains a bit ahead of the five-year average.
The good news is that good harvest weather appears to be on our doorstep once again.
A jet stream flowing from the Pacific Ocean across southwest Canada and the Prairies since late August has brought beneficial rains to the once very dry Prairies, but has also delayed harvest at times. Harvest got off to a good start and through the first third of September was ahead of schedule for nearly all areas, but recent rains have slowed or stopped combining and swathing operations in many areas.
The late-summer and early fall rains have improved soil moisture conditions substantially across Western Canada; soils that were once parched are now in good shape for fall seeding operations that are moving along quite nicely, weather permitting. The accompanying chart for the growing season rainfall is quite remarkable in that the majority of the region now has accumulated near or above normal rains since April 1. This same chart from late July was showing most of the region covered with brown and reds indicating drought conditions.
The good news for remaining fall seeding and harvest operations is that it appears we are going into a fairly lengthy stretch of mostly dry weather without serious cold conditions. While frost has visited some areas, we have yet to see the widespread frost and freeze that can occur this time of year across the Prairies.
A good deal of sun and increasing temperatures during the weekend will help get the combines out into the fields again and the modest cool down early to middle of next week should not have any major effect on combining and swathing operations. Some rain could push across the northwest and northern Prairies Monday, but only a brief disruption in the dry weather is expected.
With the expected return of good harvest weather, we would expect to see harvest progress, which has surpassed 50% across Saskatchewan, move forward nicely with some crops possibly reaching harvest completion in the not-too-distant future.
El Nino is expected to remain a major player for the remainder of the fall and early winter; many signs point to mild weather for most of that time. As we know, there are always some brief periods when colder weather will take hold, but in general mild weather should help get fall seedlings well-established before dormancy eventually comes along.
The latest crop reports from the USDA indicates corn and soybean development continues to move along. At the current rates of development most crops in the northern Plains and northwest Midwest will be safe from freezing temperatures in about another week or two. Current forecast models show no signs of any significant cold weather for at least the next 10 days.
The corn harvest has moved into the Midwest states. With a weather pattern of near to above normal temperatures and near to below normal rainfall expected during the next 10 days harvest activity should continue to increase.
The double cropped soybeans in the eastern Midwest and northern Delta benefitted from some rainfall last week although farmers in Indiana continue to express concerns over pod development. Harvesting remains mostly confined to the southern states at this time.
Winter wheat planting is slowing picking up in the southern Plains. Topsoil moisture levels are quite variable ranging from 16 percent short to very short in south-central Kansas to 64 percent in northwest Kansas. Rainfall is expected to be limited along with episodes of hot weather during the next 7-10 days. Overall soil moisture will be depleted under this pattern. This situation bears watching.
Rainfall at below- or well-below-normal levels during both July and August has reduced available soil moisture in key winter grains areas of Ukraine through the West and South Russia crop districts.
July featured rainfall at less than 50% of normal over widespread areas of western Ukraine, including some with less than 25% of normal. The east Ukraine region and South Russia had rainfall less than 75% of normal for many areas. Some local rains were the exception rather than the rule.
Temperatures were also well-above normal. Most of this region averaged from 2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the month of July, and some areas of western Ukraine had temperatures averaging more than 5 degrees F above normal.
During August, rain averaged less than 25% of normal through vast stretches of west, central and northeast Ukraine, as well as in West Russia and much of South Russia. Rainfall averaging near to above normal was confined to local areas in southeast Ukraine and in the southwest portion of South Russia.
August weather was also very warm to hot. Values were from 5 to 9 degrees F above normal in western Ukraine, while eastern Ukraine through South Russia had temperatures averaging 2 to 5 degrees F above normal during August.
As we moved into September, a brief hot spell took high temperatures to the range of 95 to 100 F in southeastern Ukraine through South Russia. Normal high temperatures for this time of year would be 70 to 75 F. This extreme heat was followed by a more recent cooling trend. This cooler weather came with some rain for the west, but little for the east.
The combination of July and August dry spells, along with the episodes of heat, leaves many winter grains areas short on moisture. Reports suggest that planting has made rapid progress due to the dryness, but most areas will need rain to ensure favorable soil moisture for germination and early development. Without a good rain, crops will likely go into winter dormancy in poor shape, which would leave many areas more vulnerable to winterkill in the event of even normally cold winter weather.
The forecast covering the next 10 days indicates little significant change in the overall dry weather pattern for the region. We note some chance for scattered showers during this period, but no widespread rains are indicated. Temperatures during the period should vary somewhat, but with some tendency for above-normal temperatures at times. In short, we see little chance for improvement in the situation during the next 10 days.
Joel Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Harvest progress is ahead of normal through most of Western Canada as we move through the second week of September, thanks to some pretty good harvest weather during the past few weeks. There have been a few slowdowns and halts to harvest, but the periods of good weather have been longer than the periods of delay.
More good news is seen for harvest during the next several days with a period of warm weather and dry conditions expected to last through most of the weekend. The subtropical ridge across the western U.S. is again expected to bubble northward into the southern Prairies and allow for a westerly flow of warm, dry weather.
We may see changes by late in the weekend and early next week as an upper level trough swings in from the Gulf of Alaska pushing a cold front through the region. What remains unclear at this time is whether we see just lower temperatures or see the cooling accompanied by some rain. Not all models are on board with the rainy scenario, but most of them are tuned into the idea of colder weather during the early to mid-week period of next week.
Farmers should be able to make good progress through most of the weekend before we see some slowdowns early next week. If rains do not materialize, then harvest may be able to continue next week, despite lower temperatures.
Frost has visited many areas of the western Prairies, which is pretty close to normal for early September. Areas from southern and central Saskatchewan to southern Manitoba have either escaped the first frost or have seen just a touch of light frost thus far. Normal first frost dates are fast approaching for southern and southeast areas and have already passed for some of the western and northern portions of Alberta to northern Saskatchewan.
Most of the longer-range model products continue to show a pattern of warm subtropical ridge across the central and eastern U.S. as we move into mid and late September with a greater threat of a trough at times through Western Canada into the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. This pattern can throw some periods of wet weather across the Prairies at times which will hamper or halt harvest, but we should also see some sizable periods of good harvest weather.
The upswing in rains during the past several weeks will aid in raising soil moisture levels to adequate levels for winter wheat planting which is underway in some areas, weather permitting. So far we do not see any serious cold or snow on the horizon which may allow harvest and fall planting to move along at near or ahead of normal pace and hopefully to completion before winter really sets in.
With El Nino quite strongly in place across the Pacific Ocean, we would tend to favor the start of the new winter season to be milder and drier than average and if El Nino persists well into the winter we would favor the milder, drier scenario to continue.
The latest crop reports from the USDA indicate corn and soybean development continues to move along. At the current rate of development, most crops in the northern Plains and northwest Midwest will be safe from freezing temperatures in about another 2 weeks. Current forecast models show no signs of any significant cold weather for at least the next 10 days.
The corn harvest is beginning to move northward out of the Delta states, with many producers in Illinois expected to get the harvest underway this week. Harvest weather during the next 7-10 days looks pretty good in the Midwest with overall near to above normal temperatures and near to below normal rainfall expected.
The double-cropped soybeans in the eastern Midwest and northern Delta have suffered from a turn to hot and dry weather during the past few weeks. Short to very short topsoil moisture in Illinois now stands at 40 percent. This is the driest it has been in about 2 years. This has been compounded by the fact that many later-planted crops in the eastern Midwest are shallow-rooted due to very wet conditions during planting.
Winter wheat planting is just getting underway in the southern Plains. Topsoil moisture levels are quite variable ranging from 22 percent short to very short in south-central Kansas to 64 percent short to very short in northwest Kansas. Rainfall is expected to be limited along with episodes of hot weather during the next 7-10 days. Overall soil moisture is expected to be depleted under this pattern. This situation bears watching.
When Pacific Ocean temperatures in the equator region hit a plus-3 degrees Celsius above-average figure in early August, and the ocean barometer reading known as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) came in at a minus 40 for a couple days, there was a strong feeling in the weather community that El Nino was truly flexing its muscle and was getting ready to indeed match the intensity of 1997-98.
However, there has not been a whole lot of follow-through from that point. Since that time, the ocean temperatures have basically flat-lined, and the SOI has shown trends away from rip-roaring El Nino conditions; in fact, the index had very weak (but still in the category) positive readings during a couple days in early September -- plus 2.35 on Sept. 2, and plus 7.55 on Sept 4.
Regarding the sea surface temperatures, their trends are not matching up well with the Hall-Of-Fame El Nino of 1997-98 either. My colleague DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino keeps a detailed log of the eastern Pacific SSTs -- a file that dates now almost 60 years back, to the early 1960s. At this point in the year, 2015 is not matching up that well with 1997.
Palmerino's numbers show these values for 1997 sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific for the late summer: July, plus 3.3; August, plus 3.8; September, plus 4.0; October, plus 4.5; November, plus 4.7; December, plus 4.8. (The preceding numbers are all departures from normal in degrees Celsius.)
Those are well-above-normal differences. And, they are warmer than we saw the Pacific this year so far. In July 2015, the eastern Pacific readings were plus 2.7 degrees Celsius above normal, and that departure stayed the same in August at plus 2.7 C. But back in 1997, July temperatures at plus 3.8 C were warmer than were noted this year, but also they were then followed by another increase by a half-degree Celsius in August to plus 3.8 C above normal, with further warming throughout the northern hemisphere fall into winter.
In contrast, the eastern Pacific Ocean readings appear to be leveling out, with August 2015 at plus 2.7 C staying the same as July 2015. That's still well above normal, but it's not suggestive of an ocean temperature pattern that continues to intensify on the warm side.
What this means for the Pacific as a whole is that the ocean temperature trend appears to be matching the forecast for El Nino as indicated by the Australia Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) -- with Pacific Ocean temperatures staying about where they area through the next several months, and then slowly retreating during spring 2016. That's a much different forecast than the U.S. forecast model, which has the water temperatures, and El Nino, continuing to get warmer until December, and then putting in a sharp cooling all the way to neutral values by late April 2016.
For U.S. agricultural weather, this more-sedate tone to the Pacific Ocean temperatures, SOI tendency, and the forecast also imply that weather patterns this fall may have more variability than indicated a few weeks ago.
That variability includes a higher chance for rain and harvest delays in the Midwest, and a more questionable prospect for the western U.S. to get much help from generous Pacific Ocean moisture.
There is a more indefinite tone to the 2015 El Nino prospect now than there was just one week ago.
Bryce can be reached at email@example.com
Follow Bryce on Twitter @BAndersonDTN
The pattern of very warm, mostly dry weather that the Western Canadian region has been under during this week appears to be coming to an end. Showers have begun to develop, while western regions have already begun to turn cooler. These showers have so far been on the light side and mainly confined to the northwest and north areas. So far the lower temperatures have been limited to the west and to only slightly-below-normal on the maximum readings.
However, we already see signs that heavier rain and thunderstorms will move into the region during this coming weekend. These rains are set to hit the central and the east growing areas harder than the west, but most will see at least some rain from this system. Temperatures continue a cooling trend in the west while the east also turns cooler with time. This will likely delay seasonal fieldwork, including harvesting summer crops.
The cooler weather that moves in behind this system is expected to bring a chance of frost to some locations; however, this is not that unusual for the first week of September and should not be a big concern. The chance for a season-ending hard freeze does not appear to be very high, but because of the date and the strength of the surface storm moving across, this will need to be watched for signs that it may become colder.
The global forecast models have been trying to suggest that a ridge may return to the Gulf of Alaska and to the west coast of Canada sometime in the near future. Should this occur the most likely impact of this would be to shut off the influence of the Pacific Ocean on weather systems as they concern the Canadian Prairies. This would mean a greater risk for lower temperatures to occur, but also a higher promise of drier conditions as well. The models are not in good agreement today and there have also been significant changes from yesterday as well so this solution is by no means a given. It is just one aspect of the weather picture that will need to be watched during the coming days.
A colder, drier weather pattern would likely favor mature crops and harvests, but it may be unfavorable for crops not yet mature. This would be especially a concern for any immature canola.