La Niña’s calling card, expressed in unseasonably hot, dry conditions in the Southeast, is an issue farmers will be dealing with throughout this fall and winter possibly as late as spring, according to the Southeast Climate Consortium.

As a matter of fact, this calling card already has been presented.

The  La Niña effect, somewhat less known than its counterpart, El Niño, follows when ocean temperatures cool in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean — an effect expressed throughout parts of Central and South America and even as far away as the Southeastern United States.

A reduction in rainfall and an increase in temperature, mainly in the fall and winter, typically follows.  

“That’s what’s happening right now,” says Brenda Ortiz, an SECC-affiliated Alabama Cooperative Extension System agronomist and Auburn University assistant professor of agronomy and soils.  

“You usually have a transition between El Niño and La Niña known as the neutral, but this year’s change was abrupt, with just one or two months under neutral conditions.”

The reduced rainfall that follows this trend will likely mean extra challenges for Southeastern row-crop producers, Ortiz says.

“It means aquifers are probably not going to have enough water to recharge,” she says. “And if these dry conditions are carried over into spring, we’ll be dealing with low levels of groundwater for irrigation to start the next summer growing season.”

Southeast Alabama, which depends on its aquifers for crop irrigation, will likely be the most affected, she says.

“All the analyses we have conducted show the southern part of Alabama receives the higher impact in terms of dryness and rainfall,” Ortiz says.