Meteorologist sees dry weather ahead

Farmers will likely see dry conditions this spring and summer as La Nina returns, meteorologist Art Douglas says.

"Any time we get into a rebounding La Nina situation, it's really dangerous for the U.S. because it favors stronger drought development," said Douglas, professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

Douglas spoke during the virtual Spokane Ag Show on Feb. 23.

"It never got as cold as what was being forecast, but the newest models show that La Nina's actually going to strengthen again in the summer, going into fall," Douglas said. "That's going to have a lot of repercussions in terms of world weather and crop conditions in the United States."

La Nina and El Nino are complex weather patterns that result from variations in the Pacific Ocean’s surface temperatures.

Douglas predicted gradually decreasing ocean surface temperatures along the equator in the spring, summer and fall, and warm water pools in the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans. That will produce drought and high pressure ridges across North America, he said.

He expected La Nina to "dominate" for the next eight to 12 months.

Douglas expected February to be the coldest month of the winter, with the cold persisting in March and gradual warming in April and May.

He expected occasional cold air throughout the Pacific Northwest during the spring, averaging normal temperatures but dry conditions, especially in the western Washington and Oregon.

"Not a particularly good forecast for wheat in the Pacific Northwest," Douglas said.

Precipitation will be relatively scant in March and April, with rain along the coast in May.

High pressure ridges will keep much of the U.S. hot and dry through the summer. The Pacific Northwest will be slightly cooler than normal west of the Cascades, with the rest of the region's temperatures near to slightly above normal.

Dryness will extend through the Rocky Mountains into the Plains and eastward into the central Corn Belt.

"So not an encouraging map for crop production in the United States," Douglas said.

He predicted a "super bummer" of a dry August from Texas to the Canadian border.

There will be "a lot of challenges as we go forward in this upcoming summer," Douglas said.

The western U.S. will be hot and dry in September, Douglas said.

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