El Niño’s Return Could Hinder Harvest In South, Dry Temps In North

June 26, 2018 12:26 PM

As drought grips portions of the United States while other areas of the country feature fields suffocating from too much water, 2018 seems to be a year of extremes.


Those weather patterns parked over portions of the country without the help of El Niño orLa Niña. However, meteorologists warn the tides are turning, meaning weather patterns may change.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) says ENSO-neutral conditions are favored through Northern Hemisphere summer 2018. The agency is also calling for the chance for El Niño to rise to 50 percent during fall and 65 percent by winter.


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meteorologist Brad Rippey admits the U.S. has seen some false starts with both El Niño or La Niñathe past few years, but he agrees that conditions favor El Nino’s return this fall.


“For a couple of months now we've seen a lot of warm water just lurking below the surface of the equatorial Pacific and in the last couple of weeks it seems to be working its way to the surface,” said Rippey. “Just given the expanse and the warmth of that water that's there, it's going to be tough to turn the tide on that.”


He said as the warmer water becomes more prevalent, it may start influencing weather patterns in the U.S. in just a matter of month. He said the typical cycle of El Niño sticks around through one season. Rippey said if it develops in the fall, then it could last through the winter months.


“The earlier that actually does happen, the earlier begins to affect us weather patterns,’ said Rippey. “That could come into play very late in the growing season and into the harvest season.”


What could El Niño mean for fall harvest in the U.S? Rippey said it typically produces very distinct weather patterns

“A lot of times we're looking at a situation where you'd begin to get a little moisture through the southern tier of states in that situation,” said AgDay/U.S. Farm Report meteorologist Mike Hoffman. “But it's kind of a transition period, which means it's not the massive factor that it is during the winter.”


Rippey is on the same page as Hoffman, saying the producers in the southern U.S. who had trouble planting this spring due to heavy rains, may be in a similar boat this fall, fighting rains.

It’s those rains that can be lethal to open bolls of cotton, which are vulnerable to rains and winds.


“Typically it would bring is some rain clouds, chilly conditions to the southern United States, but northern areas—for example the upper Midwest and the northern Plains—could have a longer or extended growing season,” said Rippey.


He said that includes a possible later frost, which would prove to be benefited for areas of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota where excessive moisture caused the crop to be planted late.


Looking at South America, Rippey said El Niño has the opposite impact on the area than growing areas like Brazil and Argentina saw last winter.


“We just came out of a very significant drought in Argentina, and so it would be the flip signal for that, and it would be during our winter and their summer growing season,” said Rippey. “You would also expect to see fairly wet conditions across Argentina in southernmost Brazil.”


Whether it’s possible abundant moisture in Argentina, or a dry harvest in the northern U.S. this fall, it could be a mixed bag for harvest and planting in both hemispheres, as farmers hope a mild fall could help yields repeat the record finish some saw in 2017.

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Jim Getten
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6/26/2018 06:08 PM

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