A wild weather year brought excessive moisture to many areas of the U.S., resulting in planting occurring at an historically slow pace. The cooler and wetter than normal weather didn’t seem to budge throughout May, a weather pattern Drew Lerner of Weather World, Inc. said was forecast this winter.
“We use the lunar cycle, an 18 year repeating pattern, and it was very obvious,” said Lerner. “We had three analog years, and every one of them had the same wet bias and an alternating cool and warm bias to it.”
He said one factor his forecast didn’t show is the repeating monsoon-like rains farmers had to endure this spring.
“That's kind of a byproduct of all those warmer ocean water temperature and atmospheric conditions that we have right now,” he said. “There's so much more moisture in the atmosphere. Every time a cooler mass comes along, you know, we get these bigger rains.”
As the calendar turned to late June, the heat started to show up. Heat and humidity finally providing needed heat to the late planted crop, but Lerner said don’t get used to the heat sticking around this year.
“This whole cycle that created the wet bias is a repeating pattern that's not going to go away; it's going to stay with us,” said Lerner. “We'll go through some brief periods of warmer weather, and then we're going to cool down again and then we'll go back into the warmth again, but most of the time, we're going to be cooler bias.”
A cooler than normal pattern Lerner said occurs when the Solar and Lunar cycle are both at play. The scenario creates cooler conditions.
“It wouldn't surprise me at all to see your average temperature in July and August both be a little below normal, although we'll have some brief moments of warmer weather intertwined in there,” he said. “We will end up with degree day accumulations that might be a little bit below average, especially in August.”
Lerner said the best-case scenario is a normal amount of heat comes through the second half of summer, but he says growing degree day accumulations will end the season below normal.
With cooler than normal conditions, what about an early frost or freeze? Lerner said that’s his biggest concern right now.
“At best we're going to have a normal frost and freeze,” said Lerner. “I do not see this growing season being extended, especially in the northern parts of the Midwest. The odds are really high that we're going to end up with the northern areas finishing out early.”
Farm Journal Agronomist Ken Ferrie said an early frost or freeze can take 30 to 40 bushels off crop yield in areas. However, there could be some areas that don’t see the cold fall bring a sudden end to the crop. Lerner thinks the Ohio river Basin and lower Missouri River Valley could see a longer growing season than counterparts to the north. He said the fall heat and later than normal freeze that growers have become used to the past few years is not likely.
“All this comes out of this repeating cycle that I mentioned before: 1965, 1983 and 2001, or a part of that,” said Lerner. “1965 and 1983 both had early frost freezes, and they were both closely tied to the solar minimum, which was what we're coming up upon. And further research has reflected that anytime the solar minimums at play, and we have a slight cooler bias, we tend to verify with the early frost or freezes. So, the odds are fairly good that we're going to go down that road.”
Lerner said the good news is he doesn’t see the U.S. turning off extremely hot or dry, two factors that could toast this year’s crop. However, there will still be challenges to finishing out the late planted crop this year.
“I think probably the most important thing is that we are going to have a finish to the season that's not necessarily going to be all that great,” said Lerner. “We need to be aware of the fact that there's not much we can do about it. But I think that the bottom line is it's going to be a difficult finish to the season for a lot of folks.”