Ag Weather Forum

Cold Pattern to End October

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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A very cold pattern for the central U.S. may push temperatures to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit below normal on Oct. 29. (Penn State graphic)

A general pattern of cold air is set to cover the entire central United States during the final week and a half of October. The cold trend will be a continuation of things in the Southern Plains, Delta and the Mississippi-Ohio Valley area, where a plunge to much below normal temperatures is set to begin Oct. 24 and continue.

The Northern Plains and northern Midwest have a more varied setup, with actually a brief run of milder weather Oct. 25 before the new round of colder conditions moves in. But, during the coming weekend, on Oct 26-27, temperatures are indicated to steadily become colder and colder -- dropping to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit below normal on Oct. 29.

This next incursion of cold air will probably signal the end of the growing season across all the major U.S. crop areas. Temperatures are set to plunge to the teens to low 20s F in the Dakotas by Oct. 30, and into the low 30s in the Great Lakes during Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. The northern Midwest has temperatures pegged for the upper 20s F at the end of October as well. So, crops that are still not mature will likely not make it.

Corn maturity and harvesting are running from 10 to 14 days behind normal. Soybean maturity is from six to 10 days behind normal, and soybean harvest is from five to 15 days behind normal. States with the chills are also behind on corn maturity significantly: Michigan at 62% versus 89% normal; North Dakota 65% vs. 93% normal; Ohio 72% vs. 94% normal; South Dakota 74% vs. 95% normal; and Wisconsin 61% vs. 88% normal.

Nationwide, the corn harvest rate of 30% finished is the slowest in the past 10 years, since the late harvest of 2009. Back then, harvest going into the final 12 days of October was measured at 17% finished.

Forecast precipitation tracks are somewhat more varied at midweek than indicated earlier in the week. Heaviest amounts are now indicated for the southeastern Plains through the Delta, possibly totaling more than 2 inches. Lighter amounts of from one-tenth to four-tenths of an inch are forecast for the Northern Plains and northern Midwest. However, cold air means that this moisture will likely occur as snow, adding to harvest complications.

And, complicated they are. Early-week rain means that northern Corn Belt harvest may not be able to get back into action until Oct. 25. Any further precipitation will simply add to the delay. Some growers may set new personal records for the latest beginning to corn harvest.

The fact that this widespread cold held off until late October has allowed for late-planted crops to perform better on yield than had been feared earlier in the season. There may also be some benefit in wetter areas if temperatures are low enough to freeze the ground to enable harvest machinery to pass through a given area. But, the bottom line is that any hopes that the weather scene might switch to mild and open harvest conditions are not verifying -- to say the least.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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