The long-range weather forecast generally looks good for agriculture across most of the country, according to meteorologist Art Douglas, PhD, professor emeritus from Creighton University. Douglas presented his weather data and outlook Wednesday during the Cattle Fax outlook seminar at the 2015 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio. This marked the 39th consecutive year in which Douglas has presented the long-term weather forecast to open the seminar.
According to Douglas, the El Nino condition, featuring warm surface water along the equator in the Pacific Ocean, formed during 2014. The warm water did not, however, extend east to the west coast of South America, and while further development of El Nino is somewhat unclear, we are seeing a reversal of a trend related to the recent drought cycle in North America.
Between 1998 and 2013, Douglas says, water temperatures trended cooler than usual along the West Coast of the United States and warmer than usual along the East Coast. Those conditions were associated with the severe droughts affecting the Pacific Coast and the Southern Plains in recent years. Now those conditions are reversing with water temperatures rising along the Pacific coast and, to a lesser extent, cooling along the Atlantic Coast.
Douglas says these conditions will contribute to increased precipitation in the drought-stricken Southwest and Southern Plains this spring and summer. In the Corn Belt region, Douglas says cool weather this spring and early summer could delay planting, but also could help protect corn crops through the critical pollination period when severe heat can reduce yields. Later in the summer, a warming trend should aid crop development.
While the forecast looks favorable for the Southwest, the Southeastern United States could face dryer conditions later this year. Douglas says models suggest a relatively wet spring in the Southeast, with rains diminishing and dry conditions beginning to dominate as the summer progresses.
Overall though, Douglas favorable conditions for the upcoming growing season in most grain and hay production areas.