Our latest calculation of the sea surface temperature departure in the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean stands at 2.1 degrees Celsius above normal. This is down from the 2.9 degrees C above normal observed during January, but is up from the 1.8 degrees C above normal observed during the first half of February. At this point in time, we would think that El Nino weather patterns will continue into spring. This would imply a wet pattern for the southeast plains, Delta, the southern and eastern Midwest and the Southeast states. It should be on the dry side over the northwest Midwest and the northern and western Plains.
We will be closely watching the sea surface temperature departures during the coming months. If sea surface temperatures decline sharply, as some of the computer models suggest, then you could see some intensification of the dry conditions in the northern and western plains and the northwest Midwest. If El Nino conditions persist, then you would likely see some expansion of the wet weather in the southern and eastern Midwest back into the Plains and northwest Midwest.
We have noticed that topsoil moisture conditions have declined significantly during the past month in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. If this dryness persists in the Southern plains well into spring, some significant stress can be expected to the winter wheat crop. On the other hand, the likely continuation of wet weather in the southern and Eastern Midwest and Delta on already saturated soils will disrupt and delay spring fieldwork and corn planting.
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