OMAHA (DTN) -- Mid-month forecast updates from public and private sources point to no major threat to U.S. crops in the summer of 2020.
"The trend is your friend," said Doug Kluck of the NOAA regional forecast office in Kansas City, Missouri.
Topping the list of trends in Kluck's view of the summer outlook is a central U.S. pattern that has largely not been very hot, particularly in the Midwest, in the past few years.
"The summer temperature trend is for normal to below-normal (temperatures)," Kluck said during a NOAA regional forecast update webinar April 16. "That doesn't mean that it won't get warm, especially at night. But we have seen daytime temperatures not be very hot since the 2012 season."
Kluck noted that another trend since, again, 2012, is for central U.S. summertime precipitation to run above normal, particularly in the Midwest.
A big reason why trends have prominence in forecasting for the 2020 growing season is that the big atmospheric drivers such as the Pacific Ocean are, frankly, not offering any clue on how the weather patterns will act.
"There's a lot of stuff that isn't there this year," Kluck said. "There are none of the usual clues from El Nino or La Nina along with the other (ocean) indices. So we're left with the tendencies."
Forecasts for the equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures during the Northern Hemisphere summer are for values to remain near to slightly above normal. In the forecast scheme of things, the effect on U.S. summer crops is that there is no effect -- benign, in other words.
Research has shown that the most notable Pacific Ocean effect on U.S. summer crops is when the equatorial-region temperatures are in La Nina -- the term given to identify cool or below-normal water temperatures. Pacific Ocean temperatures in a La Nina phase have an adverse impact on U.S. crops, contributing to yields that run below trendline.
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecasts for the three-month May-to-July period call for equal chances of above-normal, normal or below-normal temperatures in the Northern Plains and western Midwest, and above-normal temperatures elsewhere in the continental U.S. Precipitation is pegged at above normal for the entire Midwest and much of the Plains, Delta and Southeast, while the Northwest has below-normal amounts forecast.
The CPC forecast discussion lists ample soil moisture in the central U.S. as a key item.
"Soil moisture currently ranks above the 90th percentile from the Missouri River Basin south to the Ozarks and Tennessee Valley," the CPC discussion said.
However, even with the high soil moisture levels, conditions are much improved for fieldwork and planting prospects this year from a year ago, Kluck said.
"We had a wet April, May and June last year," he said. "It would take a lot more rain to flood like it did in May and June of last year."
While precipitation may slow down planting in 2020, Dennis Todey, director of the USDA Midwest Climate Hub, said he does not expect the long-lasting planting delays of 2019 to repeat in 2020.
"It (planting) may be low, but not a big issue," Todey said. "I think we're in reasonable shape for planting to be done by the end of May."
DTN's May-to-July forecasts call for temperatures to be above normal through the entire U.S. except for the far Northern Plains. Precipitation is depicted as above normal in the southeastern Plains, Delta and Southeast; near normal in the central and southwestern Plains through southern Midwest; and below normal in the northern Midwest and Northern Plains.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at Bryce.email@example.com
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