Wet spring should turn into an agreeable summer, but forecasters are watching jet stream
After a turbulent start to the 2017 growing season, the summer forecast shows some respite, particularly in the Midwest.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), June and July temperatures for much of the Midwest will be on par with past summertime averages, but there’s a chance of above-average temperatures in the Southwest and East Coast.
Farmers should see relief in regard to precipitation as well. Most of the continental U.S. is slated for normal precipitation in June and July, with parts of the northern Rockies and western Great Plains to see above-average rainfall.
As forecasters look into August, higher average temperatures could creep into the eastern Midwest and southern Great Plains.
Stephen Baxter, NOAA meteorologist and seasonal forecaster, says although temperatures should be above normal for much of the country in late summer, it’ll still be more mild compared with 2016.
Eric Snodgrass, co-founder and senior atmospheric scientist at Agrible, says if not for the rocky start to the 2017 crop season, agreeable summer weather could have fueled another record-breaking corn and soybean harvest.
“This summer is not looking to carry a lot of heat or drought stress with it,” he says.
That said, long-range forecasts are notoriously fluid, and Snodgrass says he’s looking at several factors that could cause current predictions to change course. Particularly, he has his eyes on the Gulf of Alaska. Although thousands of miles from the U.S. corn belt, the sea surface temperatures there can affect where the jet stream is placed.
Notably, Snodgrass says a shift could create a trough in the jet stream in the West with a ridge over the central U.S. “That could shut down rain and bring in heat,” he says.
Although heavy rains this spring were not always welcome, they at least erased drought conditions across much of the U.S. Since March, the amount of the country experiencing drought has been cut in half. As the summer marches on, the only increase in drought conditions is expected in the Southwest.
“If heavy rains fell north of where they did this spring, we would be having a very different conversation—perhaps even similar to what happened in 1993 [one of the most devastating floods in the U.S. in living memory],” Snodgrass says. “But as it stands, we’ve almost entirely eliminated preseason drought for the entire corn belt.”