One of the defining setup features of the major Corn Belt drought in 2012 was a dry season all the way through fall 2011. You may recall that the fall 2011 harvest time frame had a run of stories, articles, video and photos of combine fires started by extremely dry crop plants and very dry air sparking these conflagrations at a moment's notice. Winter was dry as well. When the rains came, they eluded the southern two-thirds of the Corn Belt, and the result was a dramatic reduction in yields. Did the dry fall of 2011 directly cause the big drought the following year? No -- but it contributed to the more-favorable scenario for this event.
That brings us to the fall of 2015, which, after a warm and dry September and October, evolved into a wet November over much of the central U.S. Information catalogued by the Midwest Regional Climate Center in Urbana, Illinois shows that only the northwestern Plains and the eastern third of the Midwest have seen below to much below normal precipitation. Just about everywhere else, the moisture has been above to much above normal, notably in a swath from western Kansas northeast to central Minnesota with 200 to 300 percent of normal precipitation. The week of November 16-22 alone was an eventful period with the heaviest snow in almost 25 years in Iowa. The state also had average precipitation of 1.79 inches, or four times the weekly normal of .45 inches. And, the November 16-22 week was the wettest week in 13 weeks -- since mid-August.
There is a big difference in Pacific Ocean conditions between the fall of 2015 and the fall of 2011 as well: in 2015 the Pacific is still in a strong El Nino temperature and pressure configuration; in 2011, the Pacific was still in a very strong La Nina. We have seen again this year that El Nino is, overall, a favorable event for U.S. row crop production. La Nina is unfavorable for U.S. production. And, the soil moisture boost that we are seeing now is promising for offering crops a reserve for next season.
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