Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst

Friday 02/05/16

More On El Nino-La Nina Transition

Following are excerpts from an article by Anthony Barnston, who is Chief Forecaster for Climate and ENSO Forecasting at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Prior to joining IRI, Mr. Barnston was a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) forecaster for 17 years. He has authored atlases, reports and journal papers on weather and climate, many of which were about statistical diagnosis of large-scale circulation patterns and on empirical climate prediction. This item contains his views of the current El Nino situation and is not an official NOAA commentary.--Bryce

Satellite imagery shows that El Nino remains intense in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. There is uncertainty over whether the Pacific will switch to La Nina later this year. (JPL image by Nick Scalise)

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

As the strong El Nino begins weakening later this winter and spring 2016, some clever folks may wonder whether La Nina conditions might develop in the second half of the year.

...sometimes La Nina does occur the year after a significant El Nino, like after the El Nino events of 1997-98, 1972-73 and 2009-10. But it doesn't always happen, such as after the events of 1991-92 and 2002-03.

Can we estimate how likely a switchover is from an El Nino to a La Nina for the following year? And does it depend on how strong the El Nino is? I'll try to answer this question using relationships based on past data from 1950 to present.

I start by rating each year's ENSO state--that is, if it's El Nino, La Nina, or neither, and how strong. Then I classify each year's average anomalies of at least 0.5 degree but less than 1.0 degree Celsius as being a weak El Nino, at least 1.0 deg C but less than 1.5 deg C a moderate El Nino, and 1.5 deg C or greater a strong El Nino.

Given that El Nino only occurs every few years, we have a fairly short historical record from which to draw inferences, which is why the analysis...needs to be put in context alongside other forecast tools, including computer models and the official ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) forecasts.

(BA--following is a discussion on the outcome of seven moderate and three strong El Nino events since 1950.)

In six out of the ten cases, the sea surface temperature was -0.5 deg C or cooler than average, satisfying a definition for La Nina. For the three strongest events, all resulted in La Nina based on this method of classification. But how convincing is this? Would we want to put money on a La Nina prediction?

When looking at the results for weak, moderate, and strong El Nino separately, I find an average sea surface temperature anomaly of -0.15 deg C the year after the 11 weak El Ninos, -0.40 deg C after the 7 moderate El Ninos, and -1.17 deg C for the 3 strong El Ninos.

These averages do suggest that stronger El Nino events have a higher likelihood for a La Nina the following year. But not so fast! It's always possible that the pattern I found is simply a coincidence. To test the likelihood that these mean differences reflect true underlying differences, I threw all 21 cases together (11, 7, and 3 cases for weak, moderate and strong El Nino, respectively), and computed the correlation between the strength of El Nino during the first year and the sea surface temperature state the following year.

The resulting correlation is -0.31, which translates to a very weak tendency for the sea surface temperature the following year to be colder when the El Nino the first year is stronger. We can use this relationship to make a rough statistical prediction of the ENSO state next year.

It's a safe bet that the sea surface temperature departure this year will be greater than 1.5 deg C even though we don't yet have 3-month data through January-March 2016. According to this analysis, the best guess for the 2016-17 ENSO state would be within the weak La Nina category.

But the fly in the ointment in this "forecast" is...large uncertainty... the probability of getting La Nina for 2016-17 is 66 percent, leaving a 34 percent chance for falling short of the La Nina threshold.

The large uncertainty of this method is why forecasters don't just look at the past to predict the future, but also take into account other prediction tools, including state-of-the-art computer models that consider a more comprehensive set of features relevant to ENSO prediction.

Aside from doing this number crunching on the historical observations, there are accepted physical reasons for expecting a tendency toward La Nina the year after a significant El Nino. One of these is the delayed oscillator theory, introduced in 1988 by Suarez and Schopf.

The theory says that the low-level westerly wind anomalies, a hallmark of El Nino, not only trigger eastward-moving oceanic Kelvin waves at the equator, but also westward-moving waves just north and south of the equator (called Rossby waves). While Kelvin waves are pushing warm water east, these Rossby waves move cooler subsurface water toward the west. They then bounce off the western side of the tropical Pacific (around Indonesia) and have a return trip, traveling eastward near the equator.

On their eastward trip, these waves also promote cooler water, and can neutralize or reverse El Nino around 6 months after the westerly wind bursts. This cool pulse interrupts the positive feedback mechanism responsible for the growth of an El Nino, ending El Nino and promoting La Nina development.

Since stronger El Nino events often involve stronger westerly wind anomalies, these events tend to trigger stronger Rossby waves and stronger tendencies for El Nino to decay and possibly reverse after peaking at the end of a calendar year.

Based on the statistics derived from the historical data and on the more physical basis as described by delayed oscillator theory, the CPC/IRI team is expecting some cooling coming up in 2016-17.

The NOAA forecast does hint toward La Nina, but we will need to wait another couple of months to see what it says about seasons closer to the usual peak in late autumn 2016.

The full article with graphics and footnotes is here: https://goo.gl/…

(CZ)

Posted at 10:25AM CST 02/05/16 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (1)
Great article, it has some real historical observations rather some other shallow articles that have been written in some other agriculture news media. Keep us posted with information that has actual data then some of the modern headline info that does little to help one make informative observations. Too much rehashed info floating around with no real background for a reader to make informative choices or understanding of what is actually transpiring. These events have a direct impact on the choices we as producers must make or prepare us to come to terms that are understanding of the situation is wrong and we need to make changes and go in a different direction
Posted by Unknown at 12:59PM CST 02/05/16
 

Thursday 02/04/16

Temperature Gyrations Ahead for W. Canada

So far this winter we have seen El Nino's effects more dominant than the more normal arctic cold. During the next week to 10 days, some of both may come to the Prairies and set up temperature extremes from east to west and allowing some to see large gyrations in temperature.

The accompanying snow depth chart from Environment Canada illustrates today's snow depth measurements. (Chart courtesy of Environment Canada)

A quick recap of January's climate across Western Canada from tabulations of key weather stations shows that El Nino type weather prevailed even though a couple of short periods of cold conditions did occur. Provincial temperature departures west to east from Alberta to Saskatchewan and Manitoba respectively were plus 1.2, plus 3.2, and plus 2.0 degrees Celsius above normal.

Precipitation totals in the same order from west to east were 89%, 74%, and 63% of normal, while observed snowfall was 83%, 65%, and 58% of normal. Mild, dry conditions are what we expect during a strong El Nino event and that's what the weather dished out.

Snow cover remains lack-luster across most of the Prairies as we pass the mid-winter mark with some parts of southeast Alberta and southern Saskatchewan seeing scarce amounts of snow. Snow depths are less than average for nearly all areas. The accompanying snow depth chart from Environment Canada illustrates today's snow depth measurements.

El Nino is beginning to weaken across the equatorial Pacific but normally it takes several weeks before the weakening shows up in the atmosphere so we are looking for El Nino type weather to last for the remainder of the winter on average. During the next week or so we are likely to see some change for parts of the region as the upper level jet stream flow pattern amplifies.

A strong upper level trough is likely to develop across central and east-central Canada by the time we get to early and mid-next week, while a strong ridge builds along North America's West Coast. You might think a period of severe cold is about to encompass Canada, but it appears that cold weather will take hold for central and eastern Canada for a time and will not be as severe as we have seen in recent years.

The western ridge is far enough east to allow Pacific air to spread into the western Prairies, sending temperatures upward at the same time Manitoba sees readings tumble. During early and middle of next week, temperatures may be below normal across Manitoba and well-above-normal across Alberta. This leaves Saskatchewan in a zone where temperatures may gyrate back and forth for a few days as cold and mild air play tag.

Near the boundary of cold and warm air there is likely to be some light snow at times as milder air overruns the cold air to the east. No heavy snows are expected, but some moderate totals are possible for the eastern Prairies as a couple clipper-type low pressure areas move along the thermal boundary. Low pressure moving along such a strong thermal boundary can be likened to whipping a hose up and down and letting the waves propagate along it.

Eventually it appears that the milder western pattern will begin to take over for all areas as we move into mid-month and the highly amplified upper pattern returns to a flow moving in a west-to-east fashion again. Precipitation amounts may continue to be light with these patterns and how much available moisture is present for spring seeding is something we will have to watch during the next few months.

Doug Webster can be reached at doug.webster@dtn.com

(ES)

Posted at 10:13AM CST 02/04/16 by Doug Webster
 

Wednesday 02/03/16

El Nino Remains Strong

Our latest calculation of the sea surface temperature departure in the equatorial eastern Pacific for the month of January stands at 2.9 degrees Celsius above normal. This is down from the peak for this event in December of 3.6 degrees C above normal. However, this El Nino remains a strong event.

In looking at the last 2 strong El Ninos in 1997-98 and 1982-83, the 1997-1998 event peaked at 4.8 degrees C above normal in December 1997, but was still at 4.1 degrees C above normal in January 1998. That El Nino event continued into June of 1998. The Pacific temperatures then returned to more normal levels between July and November, reaching weak La Nina conditions by December 1998.

The 1982-1983 El Nino peaked at 3.9 degrees C above normal in November 1982. It had dropped to 2.7 degrees C above normal in January 1983. However, the '82-83 El Nino persisted through August of 1983 before the Pacific temperatures returned to normal levels between September and December 1983. It is interesting to note that, in 1983, there was a rapid change in the Midwest weather pattern during July, from wet weather in the spring and early summer to hot and dry weather during mid to late summer, which had a significant adverse impact on crops. This change in the weather pattern occurred under El Nino conditions.

It does appear that the current El Nino will likely persist for at least the next few months. And, based on similiar El Nino events, it seems unlikely that we would transition into a La Nina during the upcoming growing season. However, the lack of a shift to a La Nina does not rule out the possibility of some drought conditions in the Midwest this year based on the 1982-1983 El Nino event. We are not forecasting a drought. This is just an observation based on an analog El Nino.

It can be said at this point in time that most of the Midwest will come into spring planting with adequate soil moisture. Only in the northern Plains could there be some short soil moisture.

Mike Palmerino

Mike

(ES/)

Posted at 1:56PM CST 02/03/16 by Mike Palmerino
Comments (1)
I remember those two previous weather events quite well The 83 event along with the PIK program and a flash drought while the 98 event with high carryovers, LDP's and some Asian flu (Japan?) two very different outcomes that set the tone in Ag for several years. My opinion that this year will have influences for the next few years as well. At present we high stocks to use , a debacle in the oil/ethanol arena and where RFS will be at in 5 years. If the grind in ethanol slows down 5 to 6% because of profitability we had better do the math, USDA has penciled in a 5.2 billion bushels use of corn for ethanol thus adding those bushels to our carry out. Here is the problem we have weak profitability in ethanol with lots of new bins, and bags full of corn waiting for some kind of price spike yes we need at least a threat of a heat streak but not too long otherwise our favorite new customer will have indigestion on corn that is too expensive to the price of oil. I will anxiously be looking forward to your comments on any clues that may have been learned from watching the last 2 El Nino's to help in decision making out here in the corn belt, there is a lot riding on weather between now and the end of August
Posted by Unknown at 7:28PM CST 02/03/16
 

Friday 01/29/16

Major Change In Western U.S. Snow Cover

The latest summary of western U.S. water supply by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has almost a happy tone to it regarding snow cover and resulting implications for water supply in spring and summer 2016.--Bryce

Areas circled in the Far West and Southwest have near to above normal snowpack. These areas last year had zero--nothing. (NRCS Graphic)

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

We are currently about halfway through the snow accumulation season in the West. A comparison of snowpack conditions now versus those of a year ago reveals some significant contrasts. The areas circled in red are particularly notable.

In the Cascades and Sierra, there was virtually little to no snow in 2015, whereas this year, snowpacks are near to above normal.

Similarly, snowpacks were well below normal in the Southwest (including the circled area of Arizona but also parts of Utah and Colorado to the north) in 2015, whereas now they are above normal.

In Wyoming, we see the opposite contrast. Near to above normal snowpacks in 2015 are well below normal this year.

The current snow water equivalent percent of median map shows similar spatial patterns as last week, but the percentages have all decreased because the past week's precipitation was low. Nevertheless, snowpack remains at or above median over most areas of the West, except in Wyoming, northwestern Montana, and northern Idaho, which are below median.

The NOAA National Water Center's current snow depth map shows a large accumulation of snow in the Mid-Atlantic states and Washington, D.C. There was a significant retreat of snow-covered area since last week throughout the continental U.S., especially in the Great Plains and the Midwest.

The 7-day precipitation percent of average map shows that last week was predominantly dry over the West. The main exceptions to this pattern were wet conditions in northern Washington and central Utah.

The national month-to-date precipitation percent of average map shows large areas of below normal precipitation in much of the country. The main exceptions, with above normal precipitation, are a patchy distribution of areas including parts of the East Coast, southern Florida, the southern tip of Texas, Arizona, and northern California.

The 2016 water year-to-date precipitation percent of average map retains the same general pattern as last week, with most of the West having average or above average precipitation. Wyoming, northern Utah, and a small zone in northwestern Montana remain the only dry areas.

The October through December national daily mean temperature anomaly map shows most of the country being warmer than normal, with the southwestern part of the country being near normal. There was almost no area cooler than normal for the 3-month period.

Drought conditions remain essentially the same as last week. Over the past 6-12 months, conditions have improved in much of the country, especially in the south-central U.S. and the Pacific Northwest. The remainder of the West has shown improvement, but long-term drought persists in California.

The modeled soil moisture percentiles as of January 23, 2016 show primarily above average conditions throughout the country. There are only a few scattered areas of dryness, primarily in parts of the West, the northern Great Plains, and in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

The full report is at this link: http://goo.gl/…

(CZ)

Posted at 2:27PM CST 01/29/16 by Bryce Anderson
 

Thursday 01/28/16

Roller Coaster Temperatures for W. Canada

Temperatures across Western Canada have been for the most part following the path we would expect to see during an El Nino event so far this winter. Milder-than-normal weather was noted during December with Manitoba in the well-above normal category. January should follow a similar path with the eastern Prairies a good deal above normal while Alberta tallies readings just a little surplus from what is average.

The latest February temperature forecast from the U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction shows above-normal temperatures are forecast for nearly all of Canada, including the Prairies. (Graphic courtesy of U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction)

The weather has not been consistently mild, however, and December was split with warmth to start and chill to finish. January has been mild to start, cold during the middle, and is ending on a mild note. We have even seen some record high temperatures across Manitoba during the past day or so.

As we approach the start of February, we see signs that roller coaster temperature patterns may continue. Pacific Ocean air has taken hold across the Prairies during recent days and sent temperatures up in a big way and we expect the mild weather to last through the weekend.

Changes are looking likely as we start next week, as a blocking upper level high pressure ridge develops along the West Coast of Canada and stops the flow of Pacific air into Western Canada. Developing surface high pressure across northwest Canada will allow for the development of arctic air and some of this colder-than-normal air will push southward into the Prairies by the middle and end of next week.

The main polar vortex will be located across northeastern Canada for most of the next 10 days helping to build the supply of arctic air across central Canada. But as we move toward 10 days from now, the core of the cold air may again retreat to northeastern Canada.

As we have seen before, this winter the colder weather pattern is likely to be only temporary in nature. As time moves to the second week of February, most of the computer model guidance shows the blocking ridge decaying and allow a return of Pacific-origin air once again. This tells us that while it may turn rather cold again during next week, most of us may not have to wait too long before above-normal temperatures return.

Attached is the latest February temperature forecast from the U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction. Above normal-temperatures are forecast for nearly all of Canada, including the Prairies. Even though it may turn quite cold for a time to start February, it is probable that a much longer period of mild weather will follow and tilt February's average temperature to the plus side of normal.

Precipitation will continue to be less than average for most areas. To date in January, precipitation is running about 1/2 to 3/4 of normal across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, while Alberta has done a little better with amounts varying from a little below to a little above normal.

Given that our large-scale weather patterns are still being governed by El Nino, we would expect most of Western Canada to see less-than-average precipitation totals for February. Snow depths continue to lag behind normal levels for most areas and we do not see this changing much anytime soon.

Doug Webster can be reached at doug.webster@dtn.com

(ES)

Posted at 10:43AM CST 01/28/16 by Doug Webster
 

Monday 01/25/16

Greater Chance For La Nina

Mid-January forecast model updates done by the International Research Institute on Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University have both increased the odds for La Nina development in the Pacific Ocean AND moved the timeline for that to happen well into the late-summer time frame. That's the big highlight in the IRI report posted Thursday, January 21, 2015.

Forecast model updates put La Nina formation at close to 50 percent chance during the last half of the summer--during fill stages for crops. (IRI graphic by Nick Scalise)

The mid-January forecast has El Nino (warm Pacific Ocean waters) continuing through late spring-early summer, with a near 70 percent chance for El Nino to still be around in the April/May/June period. Then, there's a big switch indicated--with a Neutral phase having the highest chance in May/June/July and June/July/August. Then, Pacific waters are indicated to cool enough to possibly reach La Nina levels in the July/August/September period. Odds for La Nina continue to climb in the August/September/October and September/October/November periods.

La Nina forming during, say, late July into August, could be significant for the fill stages of corn and soybeans. Central U.S. conditions tend to be drier and hotter when La Nina is in effect. Such a pattern is not helpful for crops. It would be a big contrast to the past two growing seasons of 2014 and 2015, when mild summer temperatures allowed crops to get the most out of the filling time frame.

This latest view on the forecast comes with a couple reminders.

First--the forecast view is strictly "black box". The IRI describes the mid-January presentation as "...purely objective, based on regression, using equally weighted model predictions...". In other words, there is no input from forecasters in this presentation. It's strictly what the models are showing--with equal weight given to each forecast model. IRI will have a full forecast update in early February, which will feature both model input along with forecaster discussion and weighting of the models.

Second--a Pacific switch from El Nino to La Nina during mid to late summer does not automatically mean lower production. In the 1998 crop year, Pacific conditions changed from a very strong El Nino in winter and spring to La Nina by midsummer--the June/July/August period. La Nina remained in effect the rest of the crop year. But when it was all done, production did very well. U.S. corn production in 1998 was six percent more than 1997 at 9.76 billion bushels, and soybean production set a record for the time at 2.76 billion bushels.

Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

(CZ)

Posted at 9:28AM CST 01/25/16 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (1)
Bullish news has to be proven but bearish news is speculated to bad ag commodities are not traded fairly a lot of bearish news is used multiple times.
Posted by andrew mohlman at 5:39PM CST 01/25/16
 

Friday 01/22/16

Midsummer Crop Weather Projection

There are lots of questions about how the 2016 U.S. growing season will shape up. It seems like those inquiries are more numerous this year. Maybe it's just my perception or a memory glitch--but my impression is that the interest in what will happen for U.S. crop weather in 2016 has more urgency to it than in the past. It also seems like there is an increased number of these inquiries that begin with "With this El Nino fading..." and then there's more that is said. The weather and climate community and media have done a good job in raising awareness of this El Nino!

Analog years when a strong El Nino was in decaying mode show a notably warmer trend for the Midwest. Precipitation is quite variable. (NOAA graphic by Nick Scalise)

We are still a long ways out from the heart of the growing season. However, that does not forestall the questions about what's ahead. It also does not mean that we don't have any indication of what will happen. We do, and those trends are highlighted here.

During an El Nino update webinar on Thursday, January 21, 2016, my colleague Jeff Johnson, chief science officer for our parent company Schneider Electric, showed a couple maps indicating the temperature and precipitation trends in years when El Nino had a similar trend to what appears to be going on right now. Jeff looked at the years of 1995 and 1998--two other years when a moderate to strong El Nino showed steady weakening during the spring and summer after the El Nino event reached its peak. And, in those two years, the temperature trend for June through August was generally above normal for the entire Midwest, southeastern Plains, Delta, and Southeast. The remainder of the Plains had widely varying temperatures. Precipitation was highly segmented: Midwest amounts were wet in the south, southeast and northwest, and near to below normal elsewhere. Plains conditions were actually above normal in the north and west, and below to much below normal in the south. The Deep South and most of the Southeast were well below normal as well.

In terms of crop production, those two years of 1995 and 1998 were almost complete opposites. 1995 production was notably lower than 1994, which featured U.S. corn production hitting the 10-Billion bushel mark for the first time. 1995 was well below that at 7.37-Billion bushels--a 27 percent drop from 1994. Soybean output in '95 was also about 15 percent lower than '94 at 2.15 Billion bushels. On the other hand, 1998's corn production was actually six percent HIGHER than 1997 at 9.76 Billion bushels, and the 1998 soybean crop was a record for the time at 2.76 Billion bushels.

What does that say about how this year might fare? After all, production in 2015 was very good considering the wet-weather challenges that much of the southern and eastern Corn Belt had to deal with. At this point, my view is that the long-term trendline yields of around 165 bushels per acre for corn, and around 45-46 bushels an acre for soybeans, are decent numbers to think about in terms of 2016 crop weather impact on yields. In other words, a new record is stretching things a bit with the prospect of summer heat, especially during the fill periods for crops. But, on the other hand, with no sign of large-scale drought in the central part of the country, it's hard to put a scenario together at this point in the year which features a big drawdown in yields.

165 bu/A corn and 45 bu/A soybean national yields--that's the way things look at this point.

Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

(CZ)

Posted at 11:59AM CST 01/22/16 by Bryce Anderson
 

Thursday 01/21/16

El Nino's Impact Returns to Western Canada

Very cold weather had its way with western and central Canada during the middle of January and in most cases completely negated the very mild first 10 days of the month. In some areas, the monthly temperature departures to date are even a little lower than normal, which defies what we normally see during a strong El Nino climate cycle.

Mostly light and sporadic snow totals have been noted during the winter thus far and this can be illustrated in this snow depth chart. Snow depths are mostly in the 10-to-30-centimeter category across the Prairies with a few western areas less than 10 cm. (Chart courtesy of Environment Canada)

High latitude blocking across northeastern Canada in the past 10 days is now history with the polar vortex reforming through northern Nunavut. Arctic air is retreating back north to northern and northeastern Canada as the main polar jet shifts back north. A return of the westerly flow of air from the Pacific Ocean into Western Canada is just beginning to take place and we will see a pretty big warm-up from west to east during the next few days.

Near- to above-normal temperatures are likely to make a return to most of Western Canada during the coming days with a western bias. Alberta may see a day or two with well-above normal readings, while Manitoba struggles a little more to warm up too fast. In any case, we will see an end to the arctic cold air that mid-January brought us. Snow cover helped make the nights cold with light winds and clear skies recently, but we might see some snow melt during the next week for some western locations.

While cold weather was in place recently, we did not see a whole lot of snowfall as we sometimes can get when cold air backs up against the Rockies. Mostly light and sporadic snow totals have been noted during the winter thus far and this can be illustrated from the attached snow depth chart from Environment Canada. Snow depths are mostly in the 10-to-30-centimeter category across the Prairies with a few western areas less than 10 cm.

Snow is present throughout all areas of the Prairies, but snow depths are less than we would normally see for this time of year for most areas. During January, the majority of the stations through the three prairie provinces have received from 50 to 70% of the snow we would typically see during this period.

Many of our forecast tools continue to push the idea of a weather pattern largely influenced by the still strong El Nino across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This will mean mostly milder-than-normal weather and less-than-normal snowfall for the remainder of January into February as it appears now. Snow cover may continue to be less than we might normally expect for many areas and some of the upcoming temperatures might even melt down some of the snow.

In the near term we have confidence of milder weather and continued lack of significant snow, while later this winter we will have to watch for any disruption to the El Nino-induced weather pattern. Such a disruption can bring another period of much colder weather if high latitude blocking returns and displaces the polar vortex and brings the arctic cold air southward.

Doug Webster can be reached at doug.webster@dtn.com

(ES)

Posted at 11:01AM CST 01/21/16 by Doug Webster
 

Friday 01/15/16

Possible Stress for South Brazil Soy

We have written and spoken a lot about how the top soybean-producing state in Brazil, Mato Grosso (located in the northern half of the Brazil soybean belt) has seen its rainfall fortunes take a dramatic turn for the better over the past month. Mato Grosso produces close to a third (30%) of the Brazil soybean crop, so it stands to reason that weather events in Mato Grosso would merit a lot of attention.

This view of rain in southern Brazil since Jan. 1 shows many brown-colored areas -- indicating less than 50% of average rainfall -- right in the middle of soybean pod-filling. (USDA graphic)

However, all is not completely fine and dandy in Brazil in mid-January. And, as with any crop, rainfall is the reason for such a cautious assessment. For, as Mato Grosso in the northern part of Brazil farm country has turned wetter, southern Brazil -- particularly Rio Grande do Sul, the No.3 Brazil soybean producer -- has turned much drier.

Almost half of RGDS has had less than half the normal rainfall during the first two weeks of January. It must be pointed out that the southern part of Brazil was very wet during the first half of the growing season, so there has been some ample soil moisture. However, the soils in this part of Brazil are pretty sandy, so they don't hold excess moisture very well. In fact, there is some "slightly dry" type soil moisture assessment showing up in RGDS this week.

This change in southern Brazil rainfall fortunes will get close attention during the rest of January at least. Rio Grande do Sul is a very distant No. 3 in Brazil soybean production, with Mato Grosso by far the No. 1 producer, and the state of Parana in south-central Brazil at No. 2. But, the early-season dryness problems in Mato Grosso have already raised doubts about Brazil's soybean production being able to reach the 100-million-metric-ton level. Further dryness in RGDS could possibly shave that total even more.

Farther south, in Argentina, some midseason heat and dryness problems could also be forming. Daytime highs of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher are on the way for a large part of the major central farm belt during at least part of this weekend. Extended forecasts for Jan. 22 through Jan. 24 weekend call for temperatures to be near normal with mostly above-normal precipitation. This will be important for crops, with forecast updates looked at very closely before traders get back into action the evening of Jan. 18.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at bryce.anderson@dtn.com

Follow Bryce Anderson on Twitter @BAndersonDTN

(ES/)

Posted at 3:39PM CST 01/15/16 by Bryce Anderson
 

Thursday 01/14/16

Arctic Cold to Ease for W. Canada Next Week

As has been depicted by many of our weather forecasting tools, we are seeing a strong period of high latitude blocking across Canada. This blocking pattern will peak later this weekend into early next week before weakening and by 10 days from now should be a distant memory.

The forecast for February shows an impressively mild pattern once again for Canada. (Photo courtesy of U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction)

When we speak of high latitude blocking, we are talking about an area of high pressure in the upper levels that builds northward into Greenland or northeast Canada and breaks up the polar vortex, forcing it southward from its normal home across northern Canada. When this happens, we normally see arctic cold displaced southward from when it normally would bring the big chill to southern Canada and the U.S.

This scenario is underway as we speak and during the next several days a piece of the polar vortex will move from eastern portions of the Northwest Territories southward through Manitoba and then on eastward across the northern Great Lakes and finally across southeastern Canada early to middle of next week. At the same time, a ridge through the western portion of the continent will allow for a large arctic high to develop across northwestern Canada which will slowly push southeastward across the Prairies by early next week and into the northern and northeastern U.S. by the middle of next week.

The coldest weather of the season will accompany this arctic surge for most of interior Canada and the northern U.S. with below- to well-below-normal temperatures likely to visit the Prairies from this weekend into early next week. Thereafter, we are likely to see a moderation trend as the blocking pattern breaks down and arctic air loses its grip on Western Canada.

During the final week of January we expect to see the western North America ridge weaken allowing more of a westerly flow of Pacific-influenced air sending temperatures upward to normal and most likely to above-normal levels at times before the month is complete. Many of the same prediction tools that gave us notice of the cold wave now arriving are also showing the return of a much milder weather pattern later this month into February.

The accompanying forecast chart from the U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction for February shows an impressively mild pattern once again for Canada as westerly winds aloft transport Pacific air eastward. This temperature pattern is quite consistent with an El Nino pattern which is still strongly in place.

Our fairly brief period of high latitude blocking has disrupted El Nino for Canada for the early and mid-part of January, but signs are pretty strong that mild conditions are going to make a return during the last week of January and for a good portion of February. As we have said all along, the potential fly in the ointment is whether we see a return of any high latitude blocking next month.

Most of our prediction tools show minimal threat of blocking at this time. We had about a two-week warning of our current cold outbreak so we should get some reasonable warning if another period of cold weather decides to invade western or central Canada during the second half of the winter.

Both the cold pattern of the next week and the milder one to follow are expected to feature less-than-average precipitation for the Prairies. This is also a consistent outcome for a strong El Nino weather pattern.

Doug Webster can be reached at doug.webster@dtn.com

(ES)

Posted at 12:55PM CST 01/14/16 by Doug Webster
 

Monday 01/11/16

Brazil Rainfall Improves

As the Brazil crop season moves into the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of July, rainfall is occurring more often for the northern part of Brazil's soybean belt. That means that Mato Grosso (the top soybean-producing state) and Goias (number-4 in Brazil soybean production) -- are finally soaking in some moisture after a very-dry start to the season back in September. Mato Grosso, especially, had minimal rainfall to begin the 2015-16 crop year. However, things are definitely looking up; rainfall for the month is at least close to normal in this part of Brazil. Farther south, the moisture totals show a generally-consistent trend of above normal. The far south (Rio Grande do Sul) is a bit drier in January, but is still running more than double its average amount for the growing season.

Estimated rainfall totals in central and southern Brazil for January are mostly four inches (200 millimeters) or greater. (INMET graphic)

Here's a look at the January and November 1 to date rainfall totals, as compiled by my colleague Joel Burgio. Totals are in inches.

LOCATION Jan '16 PCT NORMAL SINCE NOV 1 PCT NORMAL
GOIAS
Goiania 3.64 107 25.27 108
Catalao 4.85 111 19.56 72
State Avg 4.25 109 22.42 90
MATO GROSSO
Diamantino 3.98 112 22.87 130
Cuiaba 3.06 86 11.69 67
State Avg 3.52 99 17.28 98
MG DO SUL
C. Grande 5.47 174 17.42 133
Ivinheima 2.85 91 24.75 188
State Avg 4.16 132 21.09 160
PARANA
Londrina 6.84 228 36.75 205
C. Moura 4.36 171 34.17 222
FozdoIgu 2.12 101 20.82 162
Irati 3.62 144 24.37 169
Curitiba 4.03 165 22.54 171
State Avg 3.53 145 25.48 181
SANTA CATERINA
Irai 1.43 71 28 263
Campos N. 4 169 26.36 221
State Avg 2.72 120 27.18 242
RG DO SUL
Sao Luis G. 1.93 111 46.48 434
Passo Fundo 2.05 101 23.87 229
Bom Jesus 2.08 112 17.68 170
Santa Maria 0.67 37 20.49 205
Encruzilha 0.6 43 18.5 237
State Avg 1.47 81 25.4 255

Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

(CZ)

Posted at 1:38PM CST 01/11/16 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (5)
I must be getting bogus reports down there that say it hasn't rained in two weeks or more that map don't March your numbers main crop areas look dryer than you stated
Posted by andrew mohlman at 12:58PM CST 01/12/16
Things certainly remain drier in northeastern Brazil. That is a typical response to El Nino. However, northeastern Brazil is a minor contributor to the Brazil soybean crop total.
Posted by Bryce Anderson at 5:21AM CST 01/13/16
A map showing crop area would be nice with your rain map.
Posted by andrew mohlman at 12:29PM CST 01/13/16
Here is a reference map. Mato Grosso produces 30 percent of the Brazil soybean crop. http://goo.gl/1hsFGY
Posted by Bryce Anderson at 5:05AM CST 01/14/16
Also, a promotion note for the Market Weather videos that I produce every day--that video features a daily look at Brazil satellite imagery and forecast rainfall, along with reports of what's happened on rain recently. Mato Grosso is highlighted every day. Check those out and they should help in getting acquainted with the geography of the Brazil soybean belt as well.
Posted by Bryce Anderson at 7:58AM CST 01/14/16
 

Thursday 01/07/16

High Latitude Blocking Brings the Big Chill to W. Canada

During last week's post we eluded to the possibility that some high latitude blocking could return to Canada and Greenland during the middle of January, but that this was not set in stone. El Nino has been mostly the ruling party across North America during the early winter giving Western Canada mostly above-normal temperatures on average; it was colder than normal later in December.

The extended range forecast for the next two weeks provided by the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction show a very cold scenario for central and Western Canada during the next week before the chill shifts to eastern Canada and allows the west to moderate during the second week. (Graphics courtesy of U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction)

As the days have progressed we have seen more computer generated forecasts jump onto the pile suggesting that we are likely to see a disruption with the El Nino induced weather patterns across Canada and the northern U.S. during the mid-January period.

Even before the true blocking pattern takes place we will see a generous supply of arctic air push southward into the Prairies during the coming days reversing the currently milder-than-normal readings to below- and well-below normal by this weekend into early next week. This comes about due to a ridging pattern through the eastern Gulf of Alaska that is blocking the advance of modifying Pacific air and allowing arctic air to collect across northwest Canada.

As we move deeper into next week the true block will begin to develop as an upper level ridge across the North Atlantic builds northward to Greenland and grows quite strong eight-to-10 days from today. This pattern will force the polar vortex to be displaced from northern Canada to eastern Ontario and Quebec which is a pattern that pulls arctic air southward to cover a large chunk of Canada. Below- to well-below-normal temperatures are a typical result for western and central Canada with such a pattern.

This evolving pattern could have enough legs to negate the warm weather forecast that has been consistently forecast for much of Canada for January. The answer as to whether January turns out to be at least a normal month temperature-wise for the Prairies will lie in how fast or possibly even whether the blocking pattern breaks down or weakens late in the month.

Most of the computer-generated forecasts show the cold pattern weakening after about a week of severe cold, but experience says that these patterns sometimes linger a little longer. Past experience also tells me that when it turns cold in such a pattern that sometimes it can be colder than some of the initial forecasts show, so be prepared to see future temperature forecasts drop to colder levels.

The accompanying forecast charts for the next two weeks are provided by the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction. They show a very cold scenario for central and Western Canada during the next week before the chill shifts to eastern Canada and allows the west to moderate during the second week. If this forecast is wrong, it may be more be that it does not make it cold enough during the first week forecast and it removes the cold air too fast for week two.

Eventually the blocking pattern will probably weaken or dissipate late this month or during February, but high latitude blocking can have a life of its own and can even disrupt the current strong El Nino that has been on display so far this winter for the U.S. and Canada.

Doug Webster can be reached at doug.webster@dtn.com

(ES)

Posted at 10:39AM CST 01/07/16 by Doug Webster
 

Monday 01/04/16

El Nino Looms Over 2016 Crop Season

OMAHA (DTN) -- The strongest Pacific Ocean El Nino since 1997 continues to be the primary weather driver as we think about the 2016 growing season.

Late December Pacific Ocean temperatures are at least as high as in the big El Nino of 1997-98. (NASA/JPL-Caltech graphic)

With that overall influence, prospects heading into the first quarter of 2016 look promising for at least trendline yields. If such a production scenario verifies, U.S. farmers will bring in a bountiful harvest for the fourth-straight season after the hot and dry year of 2012.

El Nino is the term used when equatorial-region Pacific Ocean temperatures reach a level of 0.5 degrees Celsius above normal for a sustained period of at least several months.

According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the current El Nino "bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997." Both the 1997 and 2015 El Nino events featured what the JPL describes as a "thick layer of warm water" in the equatorial Pacific. An energized subtropical jet stream from this vast, warm pool has brought a series of powerful storms into the mainland U.S., including the record-breaking rainfall system in the Midwest during the weekend after Christmas.

The robust nature of the 2015 El Nino makes it likely to continue dominating the U.S. crop weather pattern at least through the first half of 2016. Michigan state climatologist Jeff Andresen is anticipating a favorable start to the spring season in the Corn Belt thanks to El Nino's influence. The framework includes a likely continuation of above-normal temperatures through the winter and into the spring. Coinciding with the mild weather, forecasts for the central region of the country also point to a drier-than-normal trend through much of the rest of the winter and into spring.

"I've already had some growers asking about the potential for switching corn hybrids to longer-season maturities," Andresen said.

The El Nino-influenced forecast also points to a reduced threat of cold-weather injury to overwintering crops in 2016. "This would be a big benefit to fruits and grapes after the last two very cold winters," Andresen said.

Long-range forecast models suggest that the Pacific Ocean could begin moving away from El Nino by the April/May/June time frame, and potentially feature a cold-weather phase -- La Nina -- by the very end of summer into the fall season.

However, South Dakota state climatologist Dennis Todey is skeptical that such a development will take place.

"Remember you need to go below minus 0.5 degree Celsius (below normal) to get to La Nina," Todey said. "By ASO (August/September/October) only four of the available models go below minus 0.5. The other 10 don't make it. At best (there is) a 33% chance (of La Nina) by ASO."

Direct correlations are hazardous. However, if the Pacific Ocean follows the 1997-98 El Nino in its evolution and pattern, it should be pointed out that U.S. corn and soybean production in 1998 was bountiful. Corn production in 1998 outpaced 1997 by a few percentage points, and the 1998 soybean crop set a record for the time.

**

Editor's Note:

Each year, DTN presents an outlook series on what is expected for the year ahead in various areas of agriculture. This is the first story in a series DTN is running that looks at what farmers can expect as the hot topics for 2016 in areas such as farm finance, land prices, ag and the environment, agricultural policy, crop inputs, livestock, transportation and others. We welcome your feedback on what you think the year will be like at talk@dtn.com.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at bryce.anderson@dtn.com

Follow Bryce Anderson on Twitter @BAndersonDTN

(ES/SK)

Posted at 7:33AM CST 01/04/16 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (3)
It's stands to reason that warmer water means more evaporation. It has to come down somewhere. The earths climate always has been changing. The mid east once was a lush garden. It turned into a desert long before we started to make electricity out of coal. The US has greatly cleaned up our pollution, give us some credit. Our coal fired power plants scrub everything but CO2 and water out of what they emit. Our farms and forests take more CO2 out of the air than we put into it.
Posted by FRANK FULWIDER at 1:51PM CST 01/05/16
The "climate is always changing" phrase deserves some context in view of what is happening with the atmosphere. The American Meteorological Society's opening paragraph on the topic of "climate change" summarizes the science very well. Here it is: "As a public and policy issue, climate change boils down to four overarching issues: 1) climate is changing; 2) people are causing climate to change; 3) the societal consequences of climate change are highly uncertain but include the potential for serious impacts; and 4) there are numerous policy options for climate change risk management, most of which are well characterized (i.e., have known strengths and weaknesses). These four conclusions are based on comprehensive assessment of scientific understanding and each is the result of multiple independent lines of evidence."
Posted by Bryce Anderson at 7:56AM CST 01/06/16
The full AMS statement on climate change is at this link: https://goo.gl/tTfyAb
Posted by Bryce Anderson at 8:05AM CST 01/06/16
 

Thursday 12/31/15

El Nino Makes a Difference in West

It's a common thought in business that if you throw enough money at a project, it will get done. The same principle can be applied to ending a drought -- only in the case of drought, you substitute precipitation for currency.

A comparison of western U.S. Drought Monitor conditions from December 1 (left) to Dec. 29 (right) shows that Washington and Oregon have some notable benefit due to heavy rain and snow. (National Drought Mitigation Center graphic)

The Pacific Northwest is the latest example of how things can change for the better when the weather pattern turns stormier. In Washington and Oregon, most of these two states had level 3 drought -- Extreme Drought -- in effect on the weekly Drought Monitor as recently as Dec. 1.

Well, December was a very wet month. The northwestern U.S. generally took in at least double the normal amount of precipitation. The result is that at the end of December, Extreme Drought is gone from Washington, and now covers only half of Oregon. That's not solving the drought problem, but it's certainly improving the situation.

Here's how the Drought Monitor summary describes what occurred in the western U.S. during the week ending Tuesday, Dec 29 2015:

"The relentless flow of moisture has benefited the drought stricken areas of the Northwest and West Coast. In Washington the past seven days has seen precipitation 150-400% above normal. Out to 14 days, the above normal precipitation is more widespread covering the entire western half of the state.

"Further out, precipitation totals are at least 150% of normal at 30, 60, and 90 days. The temperatures are cold enough to support snow at the higher elevations. Snow water equivalents (SWE's) are ranging from near normal to greater than 200% of normal. The reservoirs in Yakima River Basin are at or above average for this time of year. The better-than-average conditions for the start of the water year allowed for a 1-category drought improvement across the entire state.

"In Oregon, abundant precipitation has relieved drought conditions across much of the state and SWE's are near-to-much above normal. Eastern Oregon remained status quo.

"For December, precipitation in northwest California was 150-300% of normal. Further south, the recent storms have dried out as they moved south into the Monterey area. It was noted that ground water and reservoir levels remain unchanged and ground water in Santa Clara Valley is not recovering.

"In Los Angeles, much like Monterey, all precipitation locations are below normal for the current water year as nearly all of the storm systems have weakened as they approach the area. Reservoirs in San Diego remained unchanged as most of the recent rains soaked into the ground. In Sacramento, recent storms have helped with local precipitation totals, and are finally beginning to generate runoff, but not enough to warrant changes in the drought status. The storms have been fairly orographic in nature.

"After a week of no rain, the Northern Sierra has fallen to 98% of normal and the Central Sierra is at 127% of normal. The Sacramento Valley precipitation amounts are still behind normal for the water year. Only limited spots in the Central Sierra are above average. Snow pack looks great this water year so far but is only 110% and 121% of normal for the Northern and Central Sierra respectively. No changes to the drought status were made in this region."

Bryce Anderson can be reached at bryce.anderson@dtn.com

Follow Bryce Anderson on Twitter @BAndersonDTN

(ES)

Posted at 2:38PM CST 12/31/15 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (1)
Meanwhile back East, Jan 1, 2016, took a picture of a cherry tree in near full bloom.
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 6:25PM CST 01/01/16
 

Wednesday 12/30/15

El Nino Regains Control of W. Canada Weather

Wintry weather made itself at home across Western Canada during the past two weeks as enough of an upper level ridge developed near the British Columbia coast to block the flow of Pacific air that had moderated our temperatures during the first half of December. Despite temperatures averaging below normal for many areas during the second half of the month, December will still be an above-normal month for most of the Prairies due to the unseasonably mild first half.

Today's forecast from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center shows mild weather forecast for the Prairies. (Graphic courtesy of U.S. Climate Prediction Center)

Changes with the upper air jet stream flow will end the rather cold weather of recent days as some Pacific air returns to Western Canada during the next several days. The anomalously strong upper level ridge across the western Atlantic and trough through the interior U.S. West of the recent 10 days are now weakening and this will allow the ridge near the British Columbia coast to weaken and allow a flow of westerly winds to return.

The flow of Pacific air across the Canadian Rockies and onto the Prairies will bring a return of much milder weather during the coming days and probably well into next week. Very cold air will retreat back to northern and northeastern Canada for a time and bring back a temperature pattern quite typical for an El Nino.

Many of our longer range models continue to point to a milder-than-average January for the Prairies, as well as most of Canada, with El Nino conditions prevailing. The accompanying chart is today's forecast from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center. As you can see, a mild picture is being forecast for the Prairies.

If you're looking for signs that another spell of wintry weather might be in the cards, then we do see a couple of our forecast models that indicate that during the middle of January some high latitude blocking could develop. If so, this could disrupt the El Nino flow and allow arctic high pressure to develop across northwestern Canada as a polar vortex becomes displaced southward into central or eastern Canada.

If this forecast were to verify, then we might see a turn to colder or much colder weather around the second or third week of January, especially through eastern areas. Confidence remains low on this possible change and we can only monitor future forecasts. With such a strong El Nino in place, we tend to favor the patterns produced by this powerful event rather than patterns that have been nearly non-existent so far this fall and winter.

Doug Webster can be reached at doug.webster@dtn.com

(ES)

Posted at 10:09AM CST 12/30/15 by Doug Webster
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