John Phipps: The Biggest Weather Threat May Not Be in Your Backyard

09:15AM Aug 05, 2020
While missing a rain is top of mind for John Phipps right now, he says the more alarming issue is a look at weather globally.
( AgWeb )

Some rare years, summer weather on our farms matches our hopes well enough we don’t think about it often. I’d say that has happened maybe 3 times in my career. Every other year is like this one – obsessively checking weather websites on anything with a wifi or cellular connection; replaying loops of storm progress to see if it will hit or miss us; and comparing notes with colleagues near and far to measure how much we can legitimately complain. Complicating this intense scrutiny are the stories of where needed rain did arrive, only to be accompanied by winds and/or hail. We not only want to get the precipitation; we want it to fall straight down over several hours in reasonable amounts, preferably weekly, without interrupting activities like haying or spraying. That doesn’t seem too much to ask, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, almost totally pushed out of the headlines by COVID, politics, and disinterest, global weather has been a big story. Our planet keeps setting temperature records almost every month. May 2020 was the warmest May on record, for example. And the rolling twelve-month average, which evens out one-off events, repeatedly competes for a top spot in the all-time list as well.

According to the European weather agency Copernicus, the twelve-month period from July 2019 to June 2020 was very close to that of the 12-month periods ending in May 2020 and September 2016, the two warmest such periods in this record.

Many of the global records are driven not only by above average heat virtually everywhere except central Canada and oddly enough, northern India – where below normal can still be scorching by my standards - but literally blazing temps in Siberia and the Arctic. Not only were 100˚F temperatures reported north of the Arctic circle this summer for the first time ever recorded, it happened before any 100-degree weather in Dallas or Houston. As the Arctic heats up it dries out and is ripe for wildfires, which Russians have been battling for months. Perhaps the greater threat is the melting of permafrost, releasing enormous amounts of methane. Livestock producers familiar with the methane debate could oddly see some shift in public attention away from animals, simply because these Arctic emissions and abandoned fracking wells emit far more of that unwanted pollutant.

The global picture is certainly alarming but being aware of planet-wide trends gives needed perspective on my frustration over missing a half-inch shower.

Farm Journal Field Days

John Phipps is also a speaker for Farm Journal Field Days this year. For a program agenda or more information about Farm Journal Field Days and the #FarmON Virtual Benefit Concert, which are both FREE, go to