The National Weather Service’s (NWS) forecast for November through January is calling for above-normal temperatures across much of the contiguous U.S., including the Central and Southern Plains and the Corn Belt. The exception is a band from Washington to western Minnesota, with equal chances for normal, below- or above-normal conditions.
The forecast calls for below-normal precipitation from Arizona into the Carolinas, including Oklahoma and Texas. With only a small part of the hard red winter wheat belt affected, the National Drought Monitor, says its outlook for less winter precipitation is of only moderate concern.
The outlook through January calls for above-normal precipitation from Montana south into Colorado. The Dakotas, Central Plains and the Corn Belt have equal chances of normal, below- or above-normal precipitation.
From the northern Rockies to the eastern Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley, farmers can expect wetter-than-average conditions, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The NWS’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) gives better than 50% odds of La Niña developing in the winter months ahead. “If La Niña conditions develop, we predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived, but it could still shape the character of the upcoming winter,” says Mike Halpert, CPC deputy director. “Typical La Niña patterns during winter include above-average precipitation and colder-than-average temperatures along the Northern tier of the U.S.”
The NOAA forecast for December and January adds if La Niña develops, drought could occur in parts of the South, mainly in areas that missed the rainfall associated with the active 2017 hurricane season.
Taking the extended weather outlook into consideration, NWS’s Seasonal Drought Outlook has the highest confidence for drought removal across Washington and northern Idaho.
“A relatively dry time of year favors persistence [of drought] on a broad scale. This persistence extends east to include the ongoing drought areas of the Dakotas,” states the Seasonal Drought Outlook.
Small areas of moderate drought exist across parts of the Ozarks, middle Mississippi Valley and Corn Belt. But harvest-delaying rains in mid-October helped to shrink the Midwest’s drought profile and the NWS looks for total removal of these drought areas by the end of January. This raises expectations that soil moisture will be recharged for the 2018 planting season.