Martell: Persistent Cold Chilling Hopes for Early Midwest Spring

10:46AM Mar 03, 2014



The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of 

Persistent Cold Chilling Hopes for Early Midwest Spring

A fresh Arctic air mass plunged into the US heartland on the weekend dropping temperatures below 0 F as far south as Kansas. Winterkill in wheat is not a threat, as a fresh blanket of snow preceded the cold wave. Kansas wheat is still deep in dormancy as February temperatures maintained below the freezing mark and 7-8 F below normal.

Snow Cover Mar 3

North Dakota the top spring wheat state recorded -40 F Sunday morning. Spring planting feels a long way off. The normal start of wheat seeding is April 20, but this year is expected to be delayed. Snow needs to melt, then soil temperatures must warm up above 40F the threshold for wheat to germinate. The Climate Prediction Center anticipates lingering cold in North Dakota and the Upper Midwest at large this week.

Corn farms in Iowa and Illinois are buried beneath 6-12 inches of snow in the wake of a weekend storm. Generous winter precipitation in the Corn Belt would increase field moisture for spring planting. However a slow and orderly snow melt is needed to optimize absorption.

Drought Stress Southern Plains Wheat

Drought in the southern Great Plains damages the wheat outlook in Oklahoma and Texas. Only half of normal winter precipitation has occurred. Oklahoma is the second largest state and Texas the 3rd biggest, the 2 states together making up 18% of winter wheat. Kansas accounts for 27% of winter wheat.

Observed Precipitation Past 7 Days

Southern Plains drought is an extension of a winter drought in California and Southwest United States. Recently, very heavy rain has developed easing drought up to 4 inches in many areas. Moisture is needed to replenish reservoirs and recharge soil moisture. Mudslides are now threatening mountain homes in California, where bush fires previously burned off vegetation. Heavy rain has spread into Arizona and New Mexico, improving grass growth for grazing of beef cattle.

Rain has not reached drought-stressed wheat farms in Texas and Oklahoma. Half of the wheat in the states was rated poor or very poor late in the late February report from USDA.

Dry Forecast, Brief Thaw

Precipitation would be below normal in most areas except for the Northwest where heavy rain and snow is expected. Scattered snow showers would occur on and off in the northern Plains-Upper Midwest. The heartland would begin the week on a quiet note, cold and dry, with much below-average temperatures. However, by Thursday strong warming is predicted, mid-upper 30s F in Illinois and Indiana and close to 50 F in Nebraska. Snow would rapidly melt in Kansas wheat farms, where temperatures would briefly reach the 60s-low 70s F.

Weekly Precipitation Forecast

A fresh polar air mass would descend into the US heartland Saturday. Nighttime low temperatures would drop to -5 to + 15 F over the Midwest. Stubborn cold is predicted in the 6-10 day forecast east of the Mississippi River, but warming in the western United States.