The El Niño event that has blessed much of the country with ample rain in 2015 will soon be over, predicts Art Douglas, professor emeritus at Creighton University and the CattleFax weather analyst for the last 40 years.
Speaking during the CattleFax outlook session at the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention in San Diego, Douglas said the current El Niño will mature and begin to wind down over the next three to five months. In the interim, however, drought will continue to lessen its grip on much of the U.S., especially California and the Southwest.
His forecast for February calls for warmer temperatures across the northern tier of states while the southern swath will be slightly cooler. He predicts above-normal precipitation for California and the Southwest, perhaps in the later part of the month. “It’s going to be wet in the Southwest and Southern Plains,” he says, but drier for the Northern Rockies toward the Ohio Valley.
March, he says, could bring storms from the West Coast to the Central Plains. “This indicates we’re probably going to have a lot of blizzards. It will be cold, but it won’t be minus 10, minus 20.” That dies down in April, but as we transition into May it’s going to remain relatively moist in the West, he predicts.
“As we get into April, we have very strong westerly winds across the Plains. We have very cool conditions in the Southern Plains spreading into the Corn Belt, It’s likely we’re going to see delayed planting because of this very cool April.”
“The summer forecast indicates we’re going to have a pretty strong jet stream coming out of the Pacific into the western U.S. It’s going to keep things cool and slightly on the wet side. On the other hand, in the Southeast, we’re going to be building a ridge of high pressure. That’s where we get super hot and dry throughout the Southeast and spread north.”
June will bring more rain along the West Coast, but the monsoons will be a disappointment in the Southwest, leaving it dry. “Pretty heavy rains in the Ohio Valley but dry in the Northern Plains.”
As June transitions to July, the Northwest is very wet, but it dries out from Southern California all the way to the Southeast. Then finally, as we get into August, dry conditions return to the central U.S. “So this is the switch from El Niño to La Niña.”
That poses, as we move through the summer into August, possible problems for the corn crop, he says. “We’re going to have a very hot August. We’re going to have to worry about what this is going to do to the corn crop.”
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