Precipitation expected to shrink drought in most regions of the U.S.
A very classic El Nino weather pattern is present this year, and overall, the U.S. forecast is in good shape, Art Douglas, professor emeritus of Creighton University, told attendees of the 2019 Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show.
Douglas explained that the classic El Nino pattern is ideal for bringing storms to the West Coast. “California has already had good rains, and we’re getting ready to have a long period of above-normal precipitation,” he said.
Above-normal temperatures are going to continue into the summer and early fall, so this El Nino is not going away anytime soon, he added. “What we have now is what will continue into the summer,” he said.
Further, Douglas said sea surface temperature forecasts for the summer of 2019 also suggest favorable precipitation conditions for the southern and southwestern states. “I think we have a pretty good insurance policy here that we’re going to continue to have good rains throughout that part of the country,” he said.
Precipitation over the past 180 days has been well above normal from Texas to the Carolinas and northward to the Canadian border, Douglas said, adding that precipitation has been running about 120-140% above normal.
In fact, Douglas said the Drought Index for this year shows that major drought has contracted to the western U.S., which is an improvement from last year, when the Plains experienced severe drought. The drought map will change further, he added, as a major storm track is getting ready to hit the western U.S. for the next three to four months.
Regarding temperatures, Douglas said the eastern U.S. will start to warm up soon, and the main cold temperatures in the Plains will recede to the Canadian border.
All of this translates into a mild spring stretching from Washington and Oregon to New York, he said. There will also be relatively cool conditions in Texas based on the subtropical jet, with cloud cover and moisture keeping it cool.
The Corn Belt, which has been relatively moist ever since last summer and into the fall and winter, will be dry, which Douglas said will be good for planting. “We’re going to dry out the area, and it’s going to be warm. We should have early planting, and there shouldn’t be planting delays,” he explained.
Still, as summer unfolds, Douglas said it will be important to watch the dryness in the Midwest. “I’m not forecasting a drought. I’m just simply saying it’s going to be a dry spring, followed maybe by a dry summer," he said. "There could be some spotty drought developing through the Corn Belt.”
Key global regions
Douglas also provided a snapshot of other key regions of the globe, particularly Argentina, Brazil and Australia.
The current El Nino pattern has created very wet conditions in Argentina, while Brazil has been dry, and Australia is in really bad shape, he said.
“The major concern right now is the drought in Brazil,” he said, adding that it was dry for the last 90 days, but during the past 30 days, drought has intensified. This has further intensified even more in the last seven days.
Crop conditions in Brazil are below normal, which means the country will not have a record crop like last year, Douglas said.
Argentina, on the other hand, is doing excellent compared to last year, Douglas said. “Growing conditions are way above normal this year. They are going to have an excellent crop after a failure last year,” he said of Argentina.
“The main concern that I have is that El Nino favors keeping it wet in Argentina and dry in Brazil," Douglas said. "I think we’re really going to have to watch what’s going to go on with [Brazil's] crop. It’s very important, because China is the one that’s really looking at the crop; they’re planning on importing their soybeans out of South America as opposed to buying them in the United States.”
The impact of Australia’s very dry conditions was seen in the latest vegetation health index, which Douglas said reveals how bad it is. The index showed that there has been no impact from summer rains throughout the midsection of the country. “This is definitely impacting a large part of the cattle from the region in the east,” he added.