La Niña: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

January 1, 2012 11:19 PM

Volatile weather plagued farm country throughout 2011 as each season’s weather disaster left lasting impressions on crops, homes and families. Unfortunately, it appears that same unpredictable weather is here to stay.

Three predictions are currently floating through weather expert circles. The first is that La Ni&ndtild;a is here to stay, the second that conditions will become neutral come early spring and the third says there is a 60% chance the weather pattern will turn to a strong El Niño come summer.

Gail Martell, of Martell Crop Predictions, says that there are no indicators pointing to La Niña leaving the scene. "Every model I have looked at and every analysis I have viewed from Australia is saying that La Niña is here for a while," she says.

Citing the Australian Government Bureau for Meteorology (ENSO) she explained that while some models are showing that La Niña could be near its peak, it will remain through the summer. ENSO says that even though the strength of the La Niña could begin to slowly decline it will remain our weather pattern until the fall.

Allen Motew, analyst for QT Weather, says that according to his research the La Niña pattern could have peaked in November which would result in the neutral conditions in March or April. According to the model put out by NWS this week, equatorial water temperature departures will be on a steady rise by February. That would result in two scenarios for the U.S. by March, one dry and one wet. The La Niña effect is predicted to continue, but slow down drastically, in March resulting in above average precipitation for the Mid-Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, the northern Rockies and Northern Plains. It would also result in dry conditions in the Southern High Plains and Southeast. However, Motew predicts that by the end of April the La Niña will be neutral.

Elwynn Taylor, state climatologist at Iowa State University, agrees that La Niña is here for a while but says that looking at historical data it is unlikely the weather will remain neutral and there is a 60% probability that the summer will shift to an El Niño.

According to Taylor the La Niña is already considered in the weak-to-moderate stage and although he doesn’t agree with Motew that it will remain neutral he does foresee the potential for La Niña to leave.

Long-range Forecast and Market Warnings

According to Taylor there is a 1-in-3 chance of 1989-like crop conditions in the year ahead. He says the chance of above trend Corn Belt yield is 45%, the chance that drought is over in Texas, Okla. And N.M. is 25% and says there is significant chance of flooding on the Missouri river, but the degree of flooding will be determined by winter snow pack.

Martell says that regardless of when and if the weather pattern changes to El Niño, the current La Niña has the potential to keep Brazil in drought which holds implications for the soybean market. "Moisture stress is building in Brazil corn and soybeans due to sub-par rainfall since Nov. 1. 

Dry conditions would not be damaging in Brazil crops, if generous rainfall developed the remainder of the summer season. Yet with a moderately strong La Nina in effect, there may be a reason to worry about drought," warns Martell.

She says that last year Brazil had the highest yield in eight years and produced over 75.50 million metric tons of soybeans. La Niña is the only thing this year’s weather has in common with last year’s. According to her Brazil’s current weather forecasts looks much like 2008-09 when Brazil’s soybean crop suffered in drought.

The countries top three farm states are all suffering from lack of rainfall and Martell warns that should the dry spell continue through the rest of the growing season yield damage will be significant and will impact the global soybean market.

For More Information
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Editor’s Note: Here at, we tried to identify what stories in 2011 will continue be top of mind in 2012. You’ll see one of these stories each week day until Jan. 3. Send any thoughts or comments on the stories to

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Spell Check

1/2/2012 01:55 AM

  I got absolutely nothing out of their comments except we all have a different opinion!

1/2/2012 02:58 AM

  It could be wet or it could be dry.Not hard to get it right when you put it that way

1/2/2012 05:28 AM

  Just like all the other weather people,whenever wrong they still get a paycheck. Really never got anything out of this arcticle.