Warm, dry spring ahead for Pacific Northwest, weatherman says

SPOKANE — El Nino will return to the Pacific Northwest, bringing with it a warm, dry spring, weatherman Art Douglas says.

Douglas said the El Nino weather pattern began developing in January as surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean began to increase.

A ridge of high pressure off the West Coast will also develop, blocking storms from reaching the Pacific Northwest, Douglas said.

He spoke at the Spokane Ag Expo on Feb. 7.

“Even though this developing El Nino’s going to favor ... presumably warmer temperatures, we’re going to have to melt the snow first to see that climb,” he said. “Rather than warming up in February, we’re going to have to wait until later in March.”

Temperatures will average 1 to 2 degrees above normal through spring, Douglas said.

March will be “exceptionally warm” all through the Western U.S. Conditions will cool off in April and warm up again in May, he said.

“Every single month in the spring is warmer than normal,” Douglas said.

He said warmer and drier conditions will continue into the summer across the West.

The main heat is likely to come in June and August, he said.

“A good situation for harvest comes late June and July, but the main concern is developing drought as we go into this new El Nino,” he said.

El Nino is more likely to raise drought concerns in late summer and into next winter, Douglas said.

Douglas said the current weather patterns are most similar to the years 1951, 1961, 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2015.

Douglas also forecast good growing weather in Russia, whose wheat competes with Washington wheat on the world market.

“I was more depressed about how good it is in other countries,” Ritzville, Wash., farmer Jerry Snyder said of the presentation. That affects wheat prices, which are currently below the cost of production, he said.

But Snyder was pleased that Douglas’ forecast showed more normal temperatures after a wet winter.

It affects what happens with diseases, Snyder said. “Every time you have a really wet year, things that haven’t been out there show up again.”

This marked Douglas’ 29th year at the show.

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