Early March 2019 is marked by several factors leading to the prospect for extensive disruptions to spring fieldwork. These factors include: heavy snow cover in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest; the prospect for some additional snowfall on Thursday; and, additional snow in the Northern Plains, with moderate to heavy rains in the Midwest over the weekend.
In summary, that's a lot of precipitation to usher in the spring flood season, in addition to already wet soils from heavy rain and snow last fall and during February.
The only positive aspect to the weather pattern is that it does not look to be persistently warm anytime soon, which will slow the snowmelt. However, with another moderate to heavy rain event possible next week, things are clearly going to get worse before they get better. There is a very good chance that little fieldwork will be accomplished this month.
One of the main reasons to support the statement regarding fieldwork is that eastern Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures have trended higher during the past 15 days. Sea surface temperatures had dropped to 0.7 degrees Celsius above normal during the middle of February, but they have increased back to 1.3 degrees Celsius above normal for February overall. Also, the warmest sea surface conditions are closer to the South American coast. This feature has been tagged as a "coastal El Nino" by the meteorological agency in Peru. The result of this is a very active storm track in the southern branch of the jet, producing heavy rains in much of the Midwest and severe weather in the southern states.
Regarding winter wheat: Soil moisture is favorable for the overwintering wheat crop in the Southern Plains, with the exception of west Texas. Snowfall over the weekend was followed by some subzero cold in northern areas. However, the snow cover provided protection from the cold. We would expect the crop to come out of dormancy in good condition.
In South America, an active rainfall pattern continues for second-crop (safrinha) corn in central Brazil. This is favorable for soil moisture supplies for this important component of the total Brazilian crop. In Argentina, the pattern has turned wetter, possibly related to the resurgence of El Nino. This is a beneficial turn of events for filling corn and soybeans. This trend does have the potential to cause some issues with crop quality and harvest if it continues; but, for now, the rain is welcome for crops.
Michael Palmerino can be reached at email@example.com
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