Martell: Volatile Weather in U.S. Heartland

April 14, 2014 06:02 AM



The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of 

Volatile Weather in U.S. Heartland, Sharp Cold Wave Underway

The heartland is expecting heavy rain and sharply colder temperatures following a stormy weekend in Midwest corn states.

Strong showers have developed along a slow moving cold front in the United States heartland, bringing heavy rainfall to the Midwest and Mid South, but scattered light amounts in the Great Plains. However, top bread wheat states Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas received very little rainfall. Kansas and northern Oklahoma are getting light-moderate rainfall this morning, however.

Historic Drought in Wheat

Rainfall in the week up to April 7 was virtually nonexistent in the 3 top bread wheat states perpetuating drought. The dry conditions in April are an extension of a severe drought in the Great Plains. Rainfall December 2013- March 2014 in hard red wheat was only 1.9 inches , the lowest in more than 60 years. The drought this season is worse than 2010-2011 when hard red winter wheat production ended with 780 million bushels, down 23% from the previous 3-year average.

Historic Dryness HRW Wheat

Heavy Rain Reaches Corn States

A sharp cool front has been tracking slowly west to east across the United States heartland. Strong showers erupted yesterday in the Midwest causing drenching rain in southern Nebraska, southern Iowa, Wisconsin and western Illinois. Rainfall was very welcome as the winter was very dry. However, with intense thunderstorms and gully-washer rain, a good deal of the rain ran off into streams and ditches.

7 Day Precipitation Outlook

The main worry for corn planting is deep penetrating frost. The subsoil is still mostly frozen in the northern two-thirds of Midwest the deep soil layer down 4 to 15 inches. Deep soil temperatures in northern Illinois are 44- 52 F. Minnesota's subsoil is even colder with 37-44 F this morning. Producers would not proceed with corn planting, until frost is entirely is complete gone.

Fresh Cold Wave, More Rain

Northern Midwest corn fields are dusted with snow. There is a lot of water standing on frozen fields, reflecting strong weekend thunderstorms and heavy rain. Sharp cooling is predicted this week when the jet stream carves out a deep, cold trough in the US heartland. This is an unwelcome change in the weather, as April temperatures previously were near average.

Hard Freeze Predicted Tonight

A hard freeze is predicted tonight in Kansas, Oklahoma and west Texas. Would wheat be damaged by a hard freeze? Temperatures in April have been sufficiently warm for "jointing" to begin, the rapid growth phase in winter wheat. Yet due to a slow developing cold spring, wheat has not yet reached the sensitive flowering stage, when a hard freeze would cause severe and irreversible damage.

The cold wave would set back corn planting in the Midwest. Northern corn farms are expecting 35-40 F, on average, April 14-20, while the balance of the corn belt would be relatively warmer with 40-45 F. Corn seeding is due to start late in April - early May, but fields may be too corn for germinating seeds (50 F).

The forecast calls for heavy precipitation this week over much of the Midwest. Kansas is also expecting heavy rain in excess of .75 inch over much of the central state Rainfall would be less in most of Oklahoma and Texas, though some meaningful rain is possible.



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