Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst

Monday 04/20/15

U.S. Corn Yields Projected Above Trend Line With El Nino Onset

OMAHA (DTN) -- U.S. corn growers could see a bumper crop this year thanks to warm waters in the Pacific Ocean.

Warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean indicate El Nino conditions, which could be in effect until November. (NOAA Graphic)

Pacific Ocean forecasts from almost every international weather agency, including the U.S. Climate Prediction Center and the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, call for a weak-to-moderate El Nino to be in effect either from now, or by June at the latest, through November. This timespan covers the entire Northern Hemisphere summer.

El Nino describes the state of affairs when equator-region Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures reach sustained levels of 1 degree or more Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) above average, and are accompanied by a barometer feature called the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) posting a consistent value of -8.0 or lower.

El Nino typically develops during the November-December timeframe. But recent Pacific Ocean trends suggest El Nino-related atmospheric patterns are in effect.

"The sea surface temperatures are warming on the equator; also, there are very warm temperatures below the surface," said South Dakota state climatologist Dennis Todey. "These features lead to an enhanced probability of El Nino continuing."

El Nino prospects are being closely watched because there is a strong likelihood of bountiful corn production during seasons when El Nino is in effect. A DTN review of summer seasons with El Nino in effect shows that, going back to 1950, corn yields exceeded trend line more than half the time, and included such record-yielding seasons as 1969, 1972, 1982 and 2004, when final corn yields were more than 10% above trend line.

"Those are big numbers," said DTN Contributing Analyst Joel Karlin. "If you succeed like that in baseball, you're in the Hall of Fame."

While Todey isn't predicting double-digit-percentage-above-trend-line yields, he is confident about how El Nino will treat corn production this year. "We tend to have better cropping years for corn and beans during summertime El Nino events. They tend to not be hot and tend to not be dry," he said. "I am leaning toward above trend-line yields."

DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino has also seen indicators of El Nino conditions form. "(Pacific) sea surface temperatures that I track have warmed up to almost one-and-a-half degrees Celsius above normal from March through mid-April," he said. As to whether El Nino will be around the entire growing season, however, Palmerino is cautious but still optimistic about the general growing season. "We are seeing some of the same features this season that we did a year ago," he said.

As far as the grain market's reaction to a favorable yield prospect, DTN Analyst Todd Hultman looks for a generally bearish slant. "It is fair to say that another year of beneficial weather will be bearish for corn prices, because it will allow potential buyers to sit back with no worries about supply concerns," Hultman said.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Posted at 11:00AM CDT 04/20/15 by Bryce Anderson

Friday 04/17/15

El Nino And Above-Trend Yields

Earlier this week, I posted a blog item on the growing seasons going back to 1951 that featured El Nino conditions, and highlighted the years when corn yields were below trend line. The purpose of that blog item was to counter a notion that has been mentioned several times in the ag world during the past few weeks that "El Nino years NEVER have below-trend line corn yields."

That statement is incorrect. But, let's take another look at those El Nino seasons, and look at the other side of the coin--years with ABOVE-trend line corn yields. Not only are about half of the 15 seasons going back to 1951 years with above-trend line yields, but they are all in the MUCH-above-trend line yield territory.

That's right. If you set the threshold for much-above-trend line yields at 5 percent or more, every one of the above-trend line years going back to 1951 were MUCH above trend line.

Here is the entire rundown of El Nino years. I have highlighted the years with ABOVE trend line yields. (Note--thanks to DTN contributing analyst Joel Karlin of Western Milling in Goshen, California for the yield percentage departure from trend line information.)

-0.11358 1951

-0.10459 1953

-0.0905 1957

-0.04033 1958

0.051344 1963

0.083175 1965

0.129342 1969

0.185805 1972

0.121558 1982

0.084202 1987

-0.08081 1991

-0.02257 1997

-0.07106 2002

0.120846 2004

0.07942 2009

Again--look at those numbers closely on the above-trend line years, and note some of the huge gains compared to trend line--1969's 13 percent above trend; 1972, close to 19 percent above trend; 1982, 12 percent above trend; and 2004, 12 percent above trend.

That's the other message of a growing season with El Nino around; it can hit big on a corn yield increase relative to trend line.


Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Posted at 2:01PM CDT 04/17/15 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (1)
average all the years and thats only a 3% yield increase in ElNino years
Posted by Donald Olsen at 6:27AM CDT 04/18/15

Thursday 04/16/15

Rainfall Continues to be Light for the Prairies

Rain and snow have not been a major weather feature across Western Canada during recent weeks and as we move deeper into spring we continue to have some concern as to how much soil moisture will be available for spring seeding. Despite a somewhat different weather pattern during the past week, we still have seen only spotty and light amounts of precipitation.

The west-to-east motion across southern Canada of recent days has not brought much precipitation because of the storm track's location. Most of the overrunning precipitation has occurred across the far northern Prairies and northward and left southern areas with just a few showers or snow showers.

We see another opportunity for some rain and snow this weekend, but again it appears that northern and eastern areas may receive more precipitation than the central and west areas. However, the latter areas have the greatest need of moisture at this time. The eastern Prairies have seen snow cover only recently depart and have also received more precipitation so far this early spring.

During the upcoming period, we will again see some changes to the upper level wind patterns across North America and again it will not bring much precipitation to Western Canada. Signs indicate that a return of some of the features we saw during February and March may be in store with a developing trough for south-central Canada and a ridge near Canada's West Coast.

This pattern is one that should continue to keep precipitation minimal for most of the Prairies and we should also see a downward trend in temperature, especially across the central and eastern Prairies. Some high latitude blocking may come into play, possibly locking the new pattern in place for a time.

Model forecasts for May have shifted a bit in recent days and now indicate drier- and milder-than-normal conditions for most of the Prairies. While the mild weather may be good, the less-than-normal precipitation aspect is one that could become more of a factor over time.

The evolving weather pattern during the rest of April will favor higher-than-average sunny weather along with less-than-average precipitation which will lead to a continuation of drying soil moisture levels. This situation is one we will have to monitor during the upcoming weeks. Eastern areas are in better shape than the west to date, but all areas could turn drier over time.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:07AM CDT 04/16/15 by Doug Webster

Tuesday 04/14/15

Crop Report And Weather Comments

The latest weekly state crop reports are out and really don't offer much in the way of any surprises.

With better weather in the southern US last week corn planting picked up. Although progress still lags the normal it is not as far behind as it was a couple of weeks ago. With more rain in the forecast during the next 7 days along with a turn to some cooler weather next week we would except to see slower progress on the remaining corn planting as well as early soybean planting.

Corn planting progress in the Ohio River Valley and southern Midwest is beginning to fall further behind normal as progress usually picks at this time of the year. With a wet weather pattern expected to continue followed by cooler temperatures next week we would expect to see progress continuing to fall further behind normal. The opposite is the case in the northwest Midwest where dry soils have allowed producers to accomplish a lot of pre planting fieldwork with producers in Minnesota just waiting for soil temperatures to warm enough to support corn germination.

The dry weather in the northwest Midwest extends back into the northern Plains. This has allowed producers to plant spring wheat at a rapid pace with over 40 percent planted in South Dakota. In Minnesota planting progress is the second fastest in the last 10 years. We continue to not be overly concerned about the dry weather in this area looking at it as an opportunity to get crops in early with the expectations that the wet weather to the south will eventually move northward into the region as we head further into spring.

Finally the southern plains winter wheat belt which has been experiencing some falling crop ratings is expected to see a moderate to heavy rain event during the latter half of the week including the dry areas of Kansas. This should set the crop up quite nicely as it moves through the jointing stage of development and on into the critical heading stage. Some colder weather next week bears watching but at this time we are not looking for it to be damaging to the crop.



Posted at 11:11AM CDT 04/14/15 by Mike Palmerino
Comments (1)
Hope your right about wet weather moving north further into the spring. East central sd About 40 miiles south of Aberdeen we have had less than an inch of moisture since Sept. 30th. Most of that was 8 inches of snow. Wind and dirt blows pretty much everyday. Reminiscent of 2006 here.
Posted by jay esser at 10:03PM CDT 04/14/15

Thursday 04/09/15

Canada Weather Patterns Show Change in Winds

The ever strengthening sunshine appears to be taking its toll on the never-ending cold upper level trough across eastern North America of the past few months. The trough is weakening and before we get into early next week it should be replaced by a west-to-east upper level jet stream flow across the northern U.S. and southern Canada.

These changes are certainly good news for winter weary residents of eastern Canada and New England. Even into April, Maine saw readings fall to minus 20 Fahrenheit (minus 29 Celsius) early Monday morning. This set an all-time low for April for the still deeply snow-covered state.

The sun now has the same strength that it has around Labor Day when summer temperatures are typically in place for many areas. Arctic air will now have a tough time developing since the days are longer than the nights and snow cover across central and eastern Canada will be shrinking during coming weeks.

The developing upper air jet stream flow looks like it will take what we call a transitional type of pattern in which any given location shifts from mild to cool weather, then back to mild, and so forth. Usually over a couple of weeks a pattern like this averages out to close to normal, even though on any given day it may be milder or cooler than normal.

There should be a series of transient troughs moving from west to east across southern Canada and the northern U.S. during the next few weeks bringing changeable temperature patterns to the Prairies along with potentially a little precipitation at times. There still remains some question as to how much moisture can be gathered as low pressure and frontal systems cross the Prairies during the next two or three weeks.

The west-to-east motion tends to ring some of the moisture out of Pacific-origin storms as they cross the Rockies; this leaves only dribbles of precipitation for the Prairies. Our hope is that some moisture can be pulled northward through the U.S. Plains and possibly be gathered into one of the slower-moving systems at some point to help diminish the dry soil moisture threat across the Prairies.

This unfortunately has a better chance of happening through the eastern Prairies where soil moisture is in better shape than across the western regions where precipitation has been sparser so far this spring. Current model forecasts for May depict above-normal temperatures across the Prairies along with above-normal precipitation. If this pans out, then farmers could be set up for a good and earlier start to the seeding season than during the past two years. First we have to get some additional moisture into the soil for Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:23AM CDT 04/09/15 by Doug Webster

Tuesday 04/07/15

Crop Report And Weather Comments

The latest crop reports are out and show no major surprises. Corn planting in the southern U.S. remains behind normal but it is starting to catch up, as we are beginning to see a seasonal trend to more warm days and less-frequent rainfall. We would expect producers will continue to make further progress taking advantage of the strengthening April sun to dry out fields in between rain events.

The center of fieldwork and planting delays is now beginning to shift northward into the Midwest. We can expect to see little work being done during the next 7 days due to frequent episodes of rain, some of which will be heavy. Southern and eastern areas are already wet and will remain so. Some areas of the northwest have actually been on the dry side with producers happy to see more moisture. However, given time this could become too much of a good thing and could ultimately end up slowing fieldwork and planting during the latter half of the month. There are no indications at this time of any dryness issues developing in the Midwest with the character of the pattern leaning much more to the wet side rather than the dry side.

The area of interest as it concerns dryness is the southern Plains winter wheat region. This region has adequate to short topsoil moisture. As the crop is still only in the vegetative to jointing stages of development, moisture needs have been limited. However, as the crop advances towards heading, moisture needs will increase. It is a tough call to make at this time as to whether these areas will pick up some significant moisture in the coming weeks. The wet weather pattern will not be far off to the east. It will all depend on the speed of movement of systems coming in from the west. If they move too fast, Gulf of Mexico moisture will remain off to the east. If these systems move through at a slower speed, Gulf moisture will be able to find its way back further to the west into the main growing areas. Along with dryness concerns, some of the northwest areas have experienced winterkill which will impact production.

The northern Plains had a snow drought this past winter, leading to little concern over spring flooding. Producers should enjoy the drier fields they are experiencing now and take care of some pre-planting fieldwork, because it is likely the seasonal northward shift in the wet weather pattern in the central US will bring more rainfall to the region later in the spring.



Posted at 2:56PM CDT 04/07/15 by Mike Palmerino

Thursday 04/02/15

El Nino And Trendline Corn Yield

A comment made its way around the ag social media platforms this week that made a few of us go "hmm". The comment went like this:

" El Nino summer has NEVER produced below trend line corn yields in the U.S."

Absolute comments are certainly worth checking out, and notably so in this case, just ahead of planting season. Of course, whether El Nino will actually still be around in a couple months is still up for conjecture. Nonetheless, let's dive into that posit. Does the presence of El Nino in the summer mean that U.S. corn yields are NEVER below trend line?

In checking this question out, I used the NOAA Climate Prediction Center's Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) as the parameter for defining El Nino. This index is based on whether the equatorial Pacific temperatures are at or above 0.5 degrees Celsius for a 3-month period (a ballpark definition). For the summer season, I looked at the June-July-August period. Since 1950, there are 15 years when this time period had the ONI value in El Nino territory. I ran those years by Joel Karlin, author of the DTN "Fundamentally Speaking" blog, and Joel checked the yield versus trend in those years.

Results of this checking showed that there were seven years when, even though El Nino was in effect, the final corn yield was actually BELOW trendline.

Here are the years and departure from trendline yield---

1952 -11 percent

1953 -10.5 percent

1957 -9 percent

1958 -4 percent

1963 +5 percent

1965 +8 percent

1969 +13 percent

1972 +19 percent

1982 +12 percent

1987 +8 percent

1991 -8 percent

1997 -2 percent

2002 -7 percent

2004 +12 percent

2009 +7 percent

So, again, to respond to the absolute statement that summers with El Nino NEVER have below-trend line corn yields--the answer appears to be "yes, they do."


Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Posted at 3:08PM CDT 04/02/15 by Bryce Anderson

Wednesday 04/01/15

Spring Soil Moisture a Concern for Canadian Prairies

A look back at March across the Prairies shows that most areas saw temperatures in the range of 3 to 5 Celsius (6 to 10 Fahrenheit) above normal, but it was a little closer to normal across Manitoba where there were more episodes of cold weather. Precipitation was generally 60 to 80% of normal with major precipitation events mostly lacking.

Snow cover has already receded with most areas reporting either bare ground or just a few patches of snow left. Only central Manitoba maintains a significant snow cover. According to the snow cover chart, the snow cover is already farther north than is would normally be for April 1.

The departure of the snow cover is nearly a month earlier than the past two seasons and could bring about some soil moisture concerns if we do not see an upswing in precipitation during the next few weeks. The warmth of the past few weeks and early exit of the snow cover helped start the drying process already, especially across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Current short term outlooks do indicate a couple of potential storm systems that might bring some moderate amounts of snow and rain to the region. The first of these occurs today with northern parts of the Prairies seeing some snow and mixed precipitation that might add up to several inches of snow where it remains all snow.

Another system may track early next week into the U.S. Pacific Northwest and east, just south of the U.S./Canadian border and bring an opportunity for the southern Prairies to see some light-to-moderate rain and snow. Overall, the weather pattern might become a little more favorable for some precipitation across the Prairies during the first half of April, but will this improved precipitation potential continue through the month?

Some of the latest model products are not overly enthusiastic about keeping things moist all month, at least for all areas. Today's weekly forecasts for the last two weeks of April show drier weather returning to the western Prairies while eastern areas are forecast to see near- to above-normal precipitation. The weather during this time is forecast to start mild then turn cooler.

The same models' forecast for May indicates drier weather along with increasing temperatures versus normal returning. A good scenario for the region would be to see an upswing in moisture during April to allow soils to moisten up and set the stage for a good seeding season during May.

Mother Nature does not always deal us what we would like to see, so we'll continue to monitor the potential of dryness for this upcoming seeding and growing season. Hopefully some of the weather systems that are expected to pass through the region during the next few weeks will produce beneficial precipitation to set the stage for a good start to the new crop season.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:18AM CDT 04/01/15 by Doug Webster

Monday 03/30/15

California Drought And Climate Change

A research article posted in the online version of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", and summarized in an article on the CleanTechnica website, concludes that there is a strong link between the devastating drought in California--dubbed a megadrought--and climate change. The article is titled "Anthropogenic warming has increased drought in California", and is authored by a research team from Stanford University, led by Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh. The original article was posted on March 2nd, 2015.

"This plot of California temperature and precipitation anomalies since 1895 shows the 3-year period ending in 2014 was by far California's hottest and driest on record." (Graphic by P.H. Gleick)

The California research goes along with other findings from studies of historical droughts in the Plains and the Southwest. Those studies have concluded that the risk of severe and protracted droughts in those regions is rising to unprecedented levels. The extent of heat and dryness has not been seen since the Medieval Climate Anomaly 1,000 years ago, when a 50-year drought and water shortages forced the ancient Pueblo people to abandon their civilization setup in Chaco Canyon (in today's New Mexico).

In the case of the California drought, Diffenbaugh's research team found that warm and dry years, with increased snowmelt, higher water loss from plants and soils, and diminished water availability, have been about twice as likely recently to produce severe droughts as year that were dry but with cooler temperatures. In the article, Diffenbaugh is quoted:

"Our findings...provide very strong evidence that global warming is already making it much more likely that California experiences conditions that are similar to what we have experienced during the current severe drought."

You may be wondering if there is any actual "on-the-ground" producer example which speaks to this question. I do have one--not from California, but from central Washington state, which also had a very dry and hot year last year that was well off the charts--and which still has long-term dryness in effect. This is how this grower described the situation from last year:

"While our annual precipitation totals are not significantly different since my 37-year farming career began, the distribution and timing in recent years has been frustrating. Summers have been very hot and intensively rainy in gully-washer events. (It) cooks the wheat before it's ripe and rains on it when we are trying to harvest."

The western U.S. has a big drought challenge. The region's management of this may well set the stage for how we deal with additional climate change-related events.

The full article, with more keynote graphics, is at this link:…


Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Posted at 1:51PM CDT 03/30/15 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (6)
If L. A. ,Ca. has a blizzard, it must be global warming. We have carbon credits to sell!!!
Posted by Charlee Garst at 9:30PM CDT 03/30/15
Interesting, I don't see anything about blizzards in L.A. in this article, could Charlee Garst be wrong?
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 6:55AM CDT 03/31/15
I'm curious as to why the mega drought that occurred a thousand years ago or the 1930's drought was natural, cyclical climate change and the current one is totally man made.
Posted by MATT MULLER at 1:23PM CDT 03/31/15
Were the man-made lakes not constructed because of the water shortage?
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 6:51AM CDT 04/01/15
The Climate Change "experts" can't agree whether earth will burn up with drought or drown out with too much rain. But they know for sure that whichever occurs, it will be "disastrous". And to Matt - the EPA has a "save our winters" program which they hope to use to help provide JOB SECURITY.
Posted by Curt Zingula at 6:56AM CDT 04/01/15
Conclusions from climate change research are actually for both extensive drought and too-wet conditions although in different areas. There's more detail at this link to U.S. climate change impact highlights:
Posted by Bryce Anderson at 7:47AM CDT 04/01/15

Friday 03/27/15

When Wheat Dies; Winterkill Notable In Plains Wheat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Posted at 2:23PM CDT 03/27/15 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (1)
Bryce,Here in Michigan we have winter kill in soft red quit often.Last year it was bad,lots of acres were tore up and planted to something else.We had early snow and alot of snow all winter so the ground never froze.I think then in the spring when it did freeze and thaw it heaved it out. Wheat looked good when we top dressed,but 2 weeks later was dead.Winter kill in some form or another happens almost ever year here.
Posted by Raymond Simpkins at 6:42AM CDT 03/29/15

Thursday 03/26/15

Spring Forecast Concerns for W. Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug Webster can be reached at


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

Wednesday 03/25/15

Early Spring Pattern Implications

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

cutline: (Map courtesy NOAA)


Twitter @BAndersonDTN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Land and Sea Surface

Temperature Percentiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

January--February 2015 Blended Land and Sea Surface

Temperature Percentiles

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

February Precipitation

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday 03/23/15

NW Corn Belt Drought to Continue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

Follow Bryce Anderson on Twitter @BAndersonDTN

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

Thursday 03/19/15

Warm Eastern Pacific Ocean May Influence W. Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug Webster can be reached at


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