For the last several years, you could toss a coin in the air and do a better job than most weather forecasters. With that in mind, here's a summary of what three weather forecasters expect from Mother Nature in the coming months. The outlooks were summarized by Allen Dever, Doane Agricultural Services, during the recent Southern Soybean Conference in Tunica, Miss.
Bill Nelson, agricultural meteorologist, A.G. Edwards and Sons, St. Louis — Nelson said that in 2000, the United States had the largest area of extended drought since the 1950s. His forecast from here on out is for La Niña to disappear, which translates into a favorable summer outlook for the central United States. The South and Southeast continue to face a greater risk of adverse weather than the rest of the country.
Drew Lerner, BridgeNews Global Weather Services, Kansas City — There is a risk of a cool, wet spring, but this will diminish by May and won't be a big factor. La Niña is supposed to be going away, but since it's still lingering, it makes a summer forecast a little more challenging. He expects favorable June-July weather, but the United States does run the risk of a repeat of the last couple of years of turning off very dry in late summer. The risk of dryness is most severe in northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma, Arkansas and some of the immediate neighboring region.
Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University Extension climatologist — He says La Niña has probably been credited a little too much for weather over the last few years. La Niña doesn't bring any consistency to weather problems, but instead brings weather volatility. When there is weather volatility during the summer, there is a risk that it will be hot and dry. He believes the United States will see more-normal Midwestern weather this year.
The consensus? All three are projecting good weather, generally. That falls in line with National Weather Service long-range forecasts which point to a generally favorable growing season. However, the biggest risk this year for crops is a wet spring that disrupts planting. There is also a risk of some late-season dryness.
Weather forecasters declared La Niña's demise in 1999, but she hung around for another year. It's La Niña, not El Niño, which many believe was responsible for the drought of 2000, which extended across the largest area in the United States since the 1950s, a drought that many old-timers still recall. And there's still some who think La Niña could return for an encore in 2001.
The conclusion? Keep your fingers crossed. And remember, a wet spring could change acreage forecasts significantly and result in some marketing opportunities.