Very few problems are indicated in the weather forecast from mid-April through mid-June, according to U.S. Central Region forecasters and climatologists. That's the message from a Central Region outlook conference call this week.
A major benefactor to conditions in the region was moderate-to-heavy rain during the weekend of April 15-17. "Topsoil moisture saw a big decline in the short to very-short categories," said Missouri state climatologist Pat Guinan. He noted that the mid-April rain eliminated drought in much of Colorado and South Dakota, along with portions of Kansas. "Overall, things are better" when it comes to dryness now, he said.
For the balance of the spring, Guinan noted "no big concerns," citing corn planting well ahead of average in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Missouri. Fescue grass in Missouri also is off to a fast start.
One area of concern may be potential rust in winter wheat, he noted.
Rust potential is prominent in the thoughts of Mary Knapp, Kansas state climatologist. "If rust attacks the flag leaf of the wheat stem, as much as 70% to 80% of potential yield could be lost," she said. "The problem with applying any fungicide is that the leaf has to be exposed in order for spraying to be effective. The timing is very important."
As far as the Pacific Ocean temperature trend is concerned, Guinan said the very warm conditions, which produced a strong El Nino during the past winter, have shown a cooler trend. "The water temperatures are now weaker -- around 1 degree (Celsius) above normal. And there is now a La Nina watch, because the Pacific is forecast to turn cooler than normal and move into a La Nina event in the next six months," he said.
But, the likelihood of La Nina forming in time to cause stressful conditions in the U.S. during mid to late summer is very low, according to Doug Kluck of the Central Region climate office. "This summer will not be a major La Nina summer," Kluck said. "The tropical connections with either El Nino or La Nina are much more minimized than in the winter. Also, the atmosphere will not have time to react before the end of summer to any change in the Pacific temperatures."
Confidence in the forecast for the Central Region is high due to a generally well-received forecast model representation of the 2015-16 El Nino. Still, "this El Nino was an odd duck," said Doug Kluck. "The southwest (U.S.) usually gets a lot more precip than it should. Also, remember the immense rains in the Midwest in December -- it was crazy wet. From that perspective it's very odd. But, generally, the pattern held."
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