Ag Weather Forum

Lower Chance For La Nina

By Bryce Anderson , DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst
Updated forecast model projections delay the Pacific Ocean's move to La Nina (cool) phase until fall, which favors crop weather conditions. (IRI graphic)

Farm meeting weather conversation has focused almost 100 percent on this set of questions: "Will the Pacific change character from El Nino to La Nina this year? When will it start? How bad will it be? Will it be bad enough to force corn prices to where they were three years ago?"

My answers have been as follows: "Possibly late summer into fall. Not until July at the earliest. Probably not a crop-threatening event. No."

Those comments were prepared and discussed before the early-February ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation) forecast plume was posted by the International Research Institute on Climate and Society (IRI). The IRI forecast plume is a representation of the consensus of forecast model renditions of the Pacific Ocean pattern for the balance of this year. The mid-January model consensus featured a near-50 percent chance for La Nina to form by the July-August-September time frame. This development, featuring the Pacific Ocean temperatures turning to cooler than normal -- and helping to bring dry and hot conditions to the central U.S. -- would be stressful to crops.

However, the Pacific remains very warm in the equator region; it's the warmest in that part of the ocean since 1997-98. That warmth was going to take a while to moderate. And, the model consensus now indicates that modification of the equatorial Pacific is proceeding at a slower pace. Ocean temperatures now show up as neutral for the entire summer season, followed by a 42 percent chance for either neutral or La Nina in the August-September-October time frame, with La Nina chances not being most prominent until a 50 percent chance in the September-October-November period. That's well into the Northern Hemisphere fall season before La Nina develops.

With this type of ocean evolution, the idea of crops showing decent production potential remains a valid viewpoint. As noted in this blog space in late January, the long-term trendline yield numbers of 165 bushels per acre on corn, and 45 bushels per acre on soybeans, are possibly the top end for performance this year, but those numbers still indicate a lot of crops coming out of the fields in 2016.


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Bryce Anderson 2/22/2016 | 10:18 AM CST
Interesting comparison Mark. Thanks for the detail.
MARK & LEA NOWAK 2/18/2016 | 9:46 AM CST
This looks a lot like the 1997/98 crop years when there was a strong El Nino. The 1997 crop was a very good one overall. El Nino hung around strong well in to the 1998 growing season and the 1998 crop was actually 6% better than the 1997 crop. My 1998 crop was up to that time the second best to only 1994. I'm hedging a lot of corn when Dec '16 futures get above $4. The though of a big crop again and sub $3 pricing motivates me to lock in $4 plus corn prices. I'll watch the weather very carefully using Bryce's team and can always buy call options if/when that appears necessary in case weather turns crop negative.
Bryce Anderson 2/17/2016 | 5:28 AM CST
David--La Nina impact on central Louisiana tends to be cool and dry. With a weakening El Nino to Neutral by midsummer as appears to be the case, the temperature trend is above normal (warm) and precipitation below normal (dry). Temperatures do not look to be as hot as last year, but either scenario has a dry trend.
Unknown 2/15/2016 | 8:38 AM CST
How would La Nina effect our weather in central Louisiana this year if it does take place by mid summer? Last year we had cool wet spring and HOT DRY July through Nov. can't handle another one.
David Yates DTN subscriber for years.