Meteorologists Affirm Farmer Angst About Summer Heat, Early Frost

01:40PM Jul 09, 2019
Natural disasters
“It's been wet, but you know, hey, we're kind of turning things around.”
( Farm Journal )

Mother Nature has thrown farmers curve ball after curve ball in the 2019 growing season. First a long, late and historically wet winter delayed planting for much of the Corn Belt. Now, many farmers are facing hot dry weather and losing sleep over the thought of an early frost. Unfortunately, Kirk Heinz and Michael Clark of validated those fears on an episode of AgriTalk this week. 

“Into the Ohio Valley and Tennessee Valley area, if you can envision from there to the desert southwest with a with a void in the middle, from [tropical storm] Barry, that's where the risk is keeping things too dry,” Heinz explained adding a pressure ridge will continue to keep that area dry between now and July 23. “It's been wet, but you know, hey, we're kind of turning things around.”

Basically, the areas that have been swampiest will be the hottest and driest until at least July 23. What’s special about that date? Well, forecasting models used by Clark and Heinz show that would be the timeframe where a weather pattern shake-up could occur.

“That that would be the date where we start raising the red flags in terms of, if that does not develop, we could see this extended warmer, drier period linger longer, deeper into July and maybe even early August,” Clark explains. “That's why it's a top priority for us.”

Farmers across the country are expressing concern about how their crops could endure a hot and dry growing season. 

“We've spoken with some of our guys around here who are concerned. Everything's just way behind and there's not a good root system and so people are worried,” he said. “Throughout Central Indiana where we are  if it's not a rock-solid ground it's brown grass and that just doesn't look. It's literally flashed dry, it's pretty crazy. I never would have thought that it could have gone like this that fast, but it has. Anyone can tell you that around here.”

Setting Records

While analysts, farmers and meteorologists search for analog years to compare 2019 to, Clark and Heinz point out at this is a year for the record books. 

“The problem we're facing is this is the wettest year in the last hundred and 24 years according to NASA,” Clark said.

Still, 1977 is one of the years they are referencing as they seek to forecast long-range weather patterns for the remainder of the growing season. 

“We try to base our data set off of similar occurrences but it's hard to do that when it's number one,” he said. “Our top years heading into August for example, is 1977. Additionally, 1991, 1993 and 2004 are some other loose fits.”

When the BAMWX team looks at an analog year, they’re looking for atmospheric similarities. 

“What that means is the atmosphere behaved in a similar fashion during that time frame, so it gives us an idea of, based on our forecast methods and the some of the historical analogs, that we're not crazy when we say ‘hey, this should happen,’” Clark explained. “When I say ’93, I'm not saying that, we're going to mirror 1993. It's a lot of similarities and how the pattern was controlled by the atmosphere are still present now as they were in 93. It's not a one to one correlation.”

Early Frost On Tap? 

“It's no surprise that we have a growing season that started significantly later than when it normally does,” Clark said. “So a normal frost date in this kind of scenario may be considered like an early frost or freeze.”

Still, according to him, sometimes when you're having a deeply lower, solar state it can just make it colder earlier. 

“Some of the data sets, we were looking at show maybe late September and October that there is full potential earlier than normal there already and some of our analog years [point to that],” he said. “We need this growing season to last longer and there are things like lower solar, if this El Nino continue things like that, that would make that cold come earlier.”

Heinz agreed, pointing to the Southern Oscillation index or the pressure changes between Tahiti and Darwin as an indicator. 

“Those can, those can magnify the strength of our cold fronts and here in the last two to three weeks, we've had 30 and 40 points swings, which is very significant,” he said. “So that can also that can even be a sign of some pretty strong cold fronts late August early September even so certainly in the in the cards at least.” 


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