If all goes well, producers along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast will only have to deal with three to six hurricanes and one or two major hurricanes. That’s what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts in its 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.
NOAA’s outlook indicates that a near-normal or below-normal hurricane season is likely in 2014 in the Atlantic hurricane region. The administration is also predicting the likely development of an El Niño this summer or fall, which could lower the risk of hurricanes. However, an El Niño weather event, brought on by the warming of surface waters off the coast of Peru, could also change U.S. weather patterns.
"Even in a below-average season, a single storm or two could affect the United States," says Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist. He points out that in the El Niño year of 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida.
Agricultural Blessing and Curse
Tropical storms and hurricanes are both a blessing and a curse to producers in the Southeast. The high winds and heavy rains that occur during a tropical event can be devastating to an open-boll cotton field, says Rippey.
"Without hurricane activity, the Southeast can end up on the dry side," he says. "The ideal situation for agriculture would be a significant number of weak systems."
If an El Niño develops this summer, which is looking increasingly likely, timing will be critical. An early El Niño could increase the risk that harvest will be wet in the Dakotas and Minnesota. If El Niño does not develop until later in the year, October through April could bring a mild and dry winter to the Upper Midwest and northern plains states, making exposed winter wheat and alfalfa vulnerable to winterkill, he adds.
A cold-season El Niño also increases the chance of rain in California and the Southwest, as well as parts of the central and southern plains states—the same area now mired in drought, according to Rippey.
Globally, an El Niño weather pattern can cause drought in Southeast Asia, Australia and India.
Other weather highlights this year include a record-high combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for the month of April. April 2014 tied with 2010 as the hottest April on record, 1.39°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F.
The global land surface temperature was 2.43°F above the 20th century average of 46.5°F, which was the third warmest April on record. April’s global sea surface temperature was 0.99°F higher than the average 60.9°F, also the third highest April on record.
The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–April period of this year is 1.15°F above the average 54.8°F, marking it the sixth warmest such period ever, according to NOAA.