2014 hottest summer; drought predictions for 2015
By T.J. BURNHAM
Talk about weather, axiomatic when most farmers meet, is getting to be an even bigger subject as drought looms as a renewed threat for part of the West and Washington ends 2014 as the hottest year yet.
What may be the most troubling outlook is the forecast for continued drought in Nevada and parts of Utah next year.
Meanwhile, California is seeing no predictions for relief from its monumental drought, which has all but drained major reservoirs and has dried up many rivers usually still running at this time of year.
The National Weather Service sees little October-December relief for the drought, which has existed in parts of the West since 2012.
Nevada is experiencing severe drought in more than 80% of the state, with much of the state labeled “extreme or exceptional” in terms of the NWS rankings of drought.
Severe drought also stalks 15% of Utah, the NWS adds.
Washington, coming off what Washington State University weather-watchers at AgWeatherNet label the hottest summer on record, also had a spring season that was the warmest in two decades.
That gave producers a particularly open growing season this year.
The year “was Prosser’s hottest summer on record in terms of high, lows and overall mean,” says AgWeatherNet meteorologist Nic Lloyd at WSU’s eastern campus. “Nearly 12 years have passed since Prosser experienced such large positive temperature anomalies in any season.”
That may be related to what is considered to be the largest wildfire on record for the state. “Wildfires have exacted an abnormally harsh and direct toll on Washington agricultural interests,” says Gerrit Hoogenboom, AgWeatherNet director. “There were numerous reports from north-central Washington of scorched orchards, dead livestock and disrupted operations as a result of raging fires.”
This summer, “it was difficult for some growers to keep pace with irrigation demands and heat-stress management during the relentless heat,” he says. “Unfortunately, some peaches were splitting due to rapid growth associated with the extreme heat.”
Most crops, however, reported good quality and minimal negative effects from adverse hot weather conditions, he adds.
The National Weather Service hosted a special Pacific Northwest winter weather awareness week last month, Oct. 2-8, focused on raising public awareness of winter weather dangers in the region and providing management advice.
History shows that the Pacific Northwest can get flooding rains during the winter, which the service says continues to be a “significant hazard.”
Information on snowstorms, blizzards, ice storms, wind chill and flash floods continues to be available from the service following special press releases during the last month on these potential problems. For more, go to www.noaa.gov.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which operates the NWS, is a U.S. Department of Commerce agency monitoring climate. It provides the most advanced flood warning system in the world.
AgWeatherNet, found at weather.wsu.edu/awn.php, is WSU’s much-copied weather network. It uses data collection points around the state to update information on an hourly or more frequent basis for ag users. The site also provides aids to help growers make management decisions during various weather scenarios.
BURNING SUMMER: 2014 was a bad wildfire season for most of the West, which will see continued drought in some states in 2015.
This article published in the November, 2014 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.