The Battle of the Oceans
Apr 29, 2015
How do you make a Southwestern cattleman smile – rain on his parade (and pastures). As temperatures rise, winter wheat farmers are grinning at the rain as well. Further north, corn and soybean farmers are waiting for lousy weather as well. City people may complain about the rain, but crops just soak up the water.
Unfortunately, it has been a dry winter for much of the US farmlands. Cold air holds less moisture. The frozen Great Lakes did not generate lake-effect snow. Much of corn, soybean, wheat and dry bean country has endured a cold dry springtime. When combined with the long-term Western drought, an estimated 58% of the lower 48 states are dry or in drought.
To make matters more worrisome, the waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are unusually hot. While warm spring temperatures and moist marine air are welcome, if the hotter than normal temperatures last into summer, there could be heat stress and even flash droughts in pastures and croplands.
El Niños in the Pacific bring timely rainfall for most Central and Eastern US crops. Source NASA
Enter El Niño. The US Climate Prediction Center has shown most scientists expect the event to last all summer (70%) and possibly into autumn (60%). El Niños historically bring timely rainfall to US agriculture east of the Rockies.
It already has encouraged more rainfall throughout most of the Central and Southern Plains and much of the Corn Belt. This means, in the short term, good conditions for springtime pastures and newly planted crops. As the weather warms, the rainfall typically spreads even further, relieving much of the short-term dry and drought conditions of the Northern Plains.
Expect summertime to be a battle between the heat of the Atlantic and the moisture from the El Niño. Usually, especially if the El Niño lasts into autumn, the result is average to above average crop and pastureland production. It will all depend on whether the event lasts through August. Here at the Browning Newsletter, we are watching those Pacific water temperatures like a hawk. They shape the globe’s weather and food supply.
So enjoy the battle of the oceans, Atlantic heat vs. the Pacific El Niño. They are clashing with each other here in the US and the winner or loser will be American crops and pasturelands.