Martell: Rainfall Increases in Heartland as La Nina Weakens

April 16, 2012 05:37 AM

The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of

As La Nina Weakens, Rainfall Increases in U.S. Heartland

The La Nina reached its peak in late January, weakening to ENSO-neutral in early April.  Strong warming in the Nino 3.4 region of the Pacific Ocean  indicates weakening, as the La Nina is a "cool episode."  The eastern equatorial Pacific is now warmer than normal,  as La Nina gradually weakened in recent weeks. Coolness lingers in the Central equatorial Pacific, however, suggesting aspects of La Nina are continuing.  

Welcome Midwest Rainfall

The Southern Great Plains has received exceptionally good rainfall in April in Kansas and Oklahoma, the 2 leading hard red winter wheat states. This area is prone to drought when the La Nina is in effect. The Midwest has not been wet this spring; in fact, growers reported extremely low topsoil moisture in the April 8 USDA report.

Rainfall over the weekend was a big improvement, restoring field moisture in much of the corn belt west of the Mississippi River. Rains were rather disappointing in the Eastern Midwest corn states.

European Wheat Mediocre Outlook, Worse than Last Season

French analysts at Strategie Grains earlier this month reduced its estimate for the European Union soft wheat production to 126.8 million metric tons (MMT), down from last year’s 129.1 MMT. Wheat is not up to par in France and Germany, the top 2 wheat growing nations.

Europe Vegetation vs Year Ago

Analysts originally blamed winterkill for wheat losses, but drought also may have also have contributed to mediocre conditions. Hardly any rain occurred in March. February also was very dry. Rainfall has increased a bit in April, improving topsoil moisture for wheat growth. Yet the latest satellite vegetation image, valid April 1-10, still indicates a sub-par crop and much worse than last year.

The European Union is the largest wheat growing area in the world growing nearly 20% of world production and 16-18% of exports. Significant wheat exports come from the top exporting nations France, Germany and United Kingdom and to the deficit wheat countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Parana Drought Continues, Brazil Corn in Jeopardy

Unusually dry conditions have plagued winter corn developed in the Center-South area of Brazil, including Parana, nation’s top corn state. The dry fall conditions in the past 2 months have done nothing to replenish parched fields which grew became extremely dry in the summer growing season.

East Brazil Drought

Winter corn is planted in January-February and harvested in August. The USDA has increased its estimate for Brazil corn production to 62 MMT in the April supply-demand report and establishing a new record. Last year’s record harvest was 57.5 MMT. The reason for optimism is based record-high plantings in winter corn. Local authorities believe the total acreage sown would be 10-11% higher than last year. Our take is that poor yields would offset the higher area to a large degree. Not only is the topsoil dry, but also the subsoil following a severe summer drought.

Mato Grosso is one state with a favorable winter-corn outlook, not suffering from drought that has grown severe in Eastern Brazil. Very promising corn yields are projected on with 8-9% increase in plantings. The 2012 corn harvest estimate may be vastly over-stated from widespread, severe drought in Eastern Brazil. Parana is Brazil's largest corn state and faces a much worse harvest than last season.

Eastern Australia Field Moisture Excellent For Fall Planting

Planting of winter crops wheat and rapeseed is due to begin in May and June in southeastern Australia. Field moisture could not be better. Summer growing conditions were exceptionally wet also in Western Australia, the top wheat state. In fact, the 2011 calendar year was the wettest on record with back-to-back La Ninas in wet winters 2010-11 and 2011-12. Whereas the La Nina causes very severe drought in southern South America in Argentina particularly, it causes extreme wetness in Eastern Australia. The Indonesian Basin also gets copious rainfall with La Nina. Imagine in your mind’s eye a see-saw effect in air pressure at either end of the Southern Hemisphere Pacific Basin. Low pressure and rainy conditions occur with La Nina in Eastern Australia and the Indonesian Basin. Stable high pressure causes persistent drought in Argentina, especially, and often southern Southern Brazil with the La Nina in effect.

Australia Record 2011 Wetness




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