While parts of the Midwest struggled through drought this summer, many areas experienced normal to below normal summer temperatures. Regardless of early season conditions, many crops are begging for rain to complete grain fill.
Overall temperatures this summer have shown very little extreme heat. “If you look at Chicago, this is kind of a benchmark for the central and northern Corn Belt, we have seen only eight days of 90° heat so far this growing season and a maximum temperature of 95°,” says Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist.
Moving to the south in St. Louis, temperatures have also been lower than normal with only 46 days of 90 degree heat—note July provided a big heat spike at 108° on July 22, but even that was fleeting. Even now, the first half of August has been cool, with temperatures from four to eight degrees below average, Rippey adds. While it’s warming up a bit now it will still only be around average temperatures for the month.
“I don’t think we’ll see any significant stress of filling corn and soybeans,” Rippey says. “It does look like we’ll see a bit of a stormy weather pattern…. But we will continue to deal with some pockets of dryness I think in the Midwest as we finish out the growing season.”
These potential late summer rains could provide the cavalry many farmers need, but Montana and other drought stricken states farther west might continue to miss rains.
“Montana kind of stands alone as a dry island as we move into late summer,” Rippey adds. “There are places in Montana that had little or no rainfall now for a couple of months and we just have not seen any relief whatsoever.”
For states that benefit from upcoming rains, thank hurricanes and storms moving in from the Atlantic.
“One thing we’ll be watching is the fact that we have a number of disturbances out in the Atlantic right now,” Rippey says. “We’ve seen two hurricanes [and now] we have our ninth storm coming. So we’ve had a very active start. [There’s] only been three years that have had similar active starts with this many named storms by the middle of August.”
“Anytime we get into this active tropical pattern we really have to start watching steering currents, sometimes those storms can come in through the Gulf and a lot of the moisture can be deposited through the Southeast or the Midwest,” he continues. “New outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center for September and for the autumn months of September through November indicate we do expect a pretty wet pattern in the south.”
Moisture could help with grain fill, but if it persists could make harvest trickier for farmers in the south. In the Midwest expect more mild conditions return in October and November that should be ideal for harvest and could help finish off crops that are behind schedule.