Ag Weather Forum

A Look At Summer Forecasts

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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The U.S. forecast model continues to suggest warmer and drier trends in the Midwest during summer, thus affecting final crop yield potential. (NOAA Graphic)

There is some controversy in the ag weather world over how the summer 2016 U.S. crop weather pattern will evolve. The crux of that discussion -- carried out through presentations, webinars, e-mails, and social media comments and reactions -- is whether U.S. corn and soybean production will be slashed by the sudden onset of debilitating hot and dry weather in June, July and August.

Timing is everything, of course. Does a hot and dry pattern set up shop on June 10, July 10 or August 10? When the heat comes on, how harsh does it get? And would this event be one that settles in for the duration of the season, or would it be an intense but brief happening -- one that causes some damage, but does not linger to reinforce the hurt?

Those details are important, and forecast models, while having the best skill at analyzing and predicting the atmospheric flow pattern that we have ever seen, are still not at the point to where an exact date for the onset of a dramatic feature like a summer heat wave can be identified. However, the latest output of U.S. Climate Forecast System (CFS) forecast model certainly points to a summer that is much different than the past two summers.

In 2014 and 2015, the central U.S. -- particularly the Midwest -- was one of very few regions on the entire globe where temperatures were below normal. That's a remarkable run in this time of steadily-rising temperatures worldwide. But, this summer, the CFS forecast has above-normal temperatures from the eastern Midwest through the Northeast. Along with that, the precipitation trend in the eastern Midwest is generally below normal. Combine those two, and you come up with a hotter and drier pattern for June/July/August -- and unfavorable for crop prospects.

The same model has a notable difference from east to west in the Midwest, however. From the Mississippi Valley west, temperatures are indicated at near to below-normal levels, and even notably below normal in the Southern Plains. Precipitation is also much different, with a near to above-normal trend indicated, and definitely above-normal in the Southern Plains. That helps to make up for at least some of the potential crop stress in the eastern Midwest.

The bottom line at this juncture early in the row-crop season is this: At this time, the forecast does not indicate a sharp drop off in production. But, there is enough potential stress to crops and performance indicated that trendline yield is likely as high as we will see yields go this year. I have offered this scenario at meetings and in interviews throughout the past winter into spring, and this still looks like the year that we are seeing shape up so far.


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Bryce Anderson
5/11/2016 | 8:04 AM CDT
Thanks for the comment Richard. You make a very good point.
5/11/2016 | 7:56 AM CDT
In 1998 we had a severe localized drought in the mid south. Our corn yields were ravaged and at harvest the elevators paid us a dollar a bushel because of the high aflatoxin levels found when the trailers were probed. My recollection is that the weather in the mid west was good, however, with the "Dome of Doom" circulating the moisture-laden jet stream north of us resulting in good crops there. We ended up with the worst case scenario of a low yielding crop with aflatoxin and low prices because of a good yielding crop in the mid west. The moral of this story is buy crop insurance, install irrigation where possible, and diversify your crop mix.
Bryce Anderson
5/11/2016 | 5:29 AM CDT
Thanks for the question. Most of the comparison work involving crop season 2016 has been done using the transition from a strong El Nino as a focal point. From that angle, the crop year 1998 is coming into more prominence as a useful analog year. And, production in 1998 turned out well--actually a slight bit above the previous year.
5/10/2016 | 12:23 PM CDT
what are your thoughts Bryce as to some analog years? that pattern that you described remind me of 1999 or 2007 both years were kind to western cornbelt but so much for the east