A warm, dry summer could be in the offing for the South and the Midwest, according to one University of Missouri-Columbia atmospheric scientist.

The weak and waning El Nino lingering in the Pacific Ocean usually means a cooler than normal summer, but that might not be the case this year.

Tony Lupo, University of Missouri-Columbia associate professor of atmospheric sciences, says that last summer the Midwest experienced regular rainfall and mild temperatures, which are common conditions that occur before an El Nino.

El Nino is an irregular warming of the waters of the Eastern Pacific equatorial waters, stretching west from South America toward the South Seas Islands, he said. Its counterpart, La Nina, describes the cooling of the same waters. In both cases, Lupo said, North America’s weather is profoundly affected.

"I consider drought to be the biggest issue," he said. "I would not be shocked to see it be drier than normal in the Midwest."

Lupo said MU researchers discovered that in La Nina years, or when the climate was in transition to La Nina, dry spells lasted longer in mid-to-late summer — typically about three weeks.

"When an El Nino dies out, as this one currently is, data typically points toward warmer and drier than normal conditions in the Midwest," Lupo said. "Drought is a possibility. Frequent, lighter rains are better for agricultural and other purposes than gully-washers that can be associated with dry summers."

Lupo added that it would be a mistake to read too much into any long-range forecast — including his own — regarding the 2005 growing season.

"We can't really rely on it," he said. "Long-range weather forecasting still is a dicey proposition, and I've rolled snake-eyes before."