Weather conditions are looking a little dry over much of the Corn Belt as of early June. May was a dry month for many farmers in areas of Iowa and it's been even drier in Illinois and Indiana. That's because a high pressure ridge has been driving the storm pattern and keeping storms away from the Midwest and this ridge will not dislodge easily. "Ridges often block our storms coming across the U.S. until the ridge gets bumped aside," says Elwynn Taylor Iowa State University Extension climatologist.
"We are getting a smattering of rain around Iowa and our neighboring states," he observes. "That is because of weak disturbances coming across this low level ridge, which is not too strong of a ridge. Ridges often block our storms until the ridge gets bumped aside. But ridges that let little bits of storms get over them tend to stay put. Nothing easily dislodges them. They can cause problems. That's what we're dealing with right now. Things are looking a little dry over much of the Corn Belt and they might just stay dry because the ridge will not dislodge easily."
Near-normal temperatures in June for Iowa, warmer-than-normal south of Iowa
The National Weather Service on May 17 released its monthly outlook for June. The government weather experts expect the southern Corn Belt, Ohio River Valley, Missouri and Southern Illinois to be warmer than usual. Everything north of the Iowa-Missouri border is expected to be near normal temperature. That's good news for the northern Corn Belt, not good news for the Ohio River Valley and areas south of Iowa.
The National Weather Service doesn't have a definite forecast on the rainfall outlook for 30 days ahead, says Taylor. They really don't know. The Weather Service forecast for June expects conditions to go dry in the northwestern U.S.—in Washington and Oregon and those areas, but the National Weather Service doesn't really know what's going to happen in the Midwest for either the one month or three month outlook.
"However, the National Weather Service does expect the weather to be warmer than normal in June in areas south of Iowa," notes Taylor. "That wouldn't be too bad if we get timely rain. Overall, I don't particularly like to see 'warmer than usual' in the long-range forecast for summer."
Weather has shifted from La Nina into neutral; may mean average yield
We don't have a La Nina weather pattern to deal with anymore, says Taylor. La Nina has officially gone away. Now we are dealing with conditions that will be neutral as far as the El Nino vs. La Nina weather pattern. Neutral means we have a 50-50 chance of producing an average corn and soybean crop in the U.S. in 2012. "We'd rather see the pattern change to an El Nino, which would mean favorable yields for farmers in the Midwest. El Nino is typically the Midwest farmers' friend. But there is no indication of El Nino happening for the 2012 growing season.
"As we look around the world, particularly the United States, no significant storms are coming ashore right now," he said on May 17. "In Argentina, they are getting some significant storms. That's a relief for them although it's not the time of year when they need the rain so much. Australia has had very few storms, Africa is having very few—I'm looking at the main crop production areas for both of those places."
Lots of places in the world look like maybe we'll have a bit of a dry spell
What does the El Nino vs. La Nina situation mean when it's in neutral? "It doesn't give any indication of changing," says Taylor. "So it likely won't have a big effect on us during the 2012 crop growing season in the U.S. At the present time it's this unique but persistent ridge of high pressure air that might give us more dry weather than we really want here as we finish the 2012 planting season in Iowa and the Corn Belt."
You can follow Elwynn Taylor (@ElwynnTaylor) on Twitter for updates on his weather comments. Looking a little further ahead, what is Taylor's current thinking regarding the 2012 growing season and a possible U.S. yield average for corn? The following comments are what he had to say on May 17.
USDA is looking for good yield and good size U.S. corn crop in 2012
USDA is projecting a corn yield for the U.S. in 2012 of 166 bushels per acre. Does Taylor agree with that? "It's in the area of my projection," he says. "It's above trendline by the way. The 166 bushels per acre USDA is projecting is a couple of bushels per acre above trend. So they are looking at a really good yield."
He adds, "We don't have any real reason to think that will happen, except much of the main corn growing area in the U.S. this spring got planted early. Sometimes that's a good sign. Right now we can't tell if it's a good sign or not. Many places that were planted early had frost or soil temperatures dropping down to below normal and the crop is about in the same stage it would have been if planted on the normal date."
What's Taylor's prediction right now? Is he in the USDA's 164 to 166 bushel range for corn as a projected U.S. average yield in 2012? He answers that by saying, "I'm projecting 162 to 164 bushels per acre for the U.S. average corn yield in 2012, so I'm a bit shy of USDA's projection."
Elwynn sees slightly lower U.S. corn yield average for 2012, a bit below USDA
So what clues do we watch for as to the kind of weather we'll likely have in Iowa and the Corn Belt during summer 2012? Craig Solberg, senior meteorologist for Freese-Notis weather forecasting service in Des Moines, is saying much the same as Taylor. La Nina has officially ended. A year ago La Nina came back. Is there any reason to think that won't happen again? Solberg says no. La Nina generally brings bad weather to U.S. Corn Belt in the summer, El Nino brings good weather. This year it looks to be neutral during the summer, which would mean normal weather.
Taylor doesn't think La Nina weather will return this year. The way La Nina is behaving now, looking in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and then at Australia, it's giving more signs of continuing to move toward developing into an El Nino than signs of recovering and coming back as La Nina. "Last year at this time La Nina was already showing signs of recovery. This year, La Nina has been gone long enough that if it did come back it would be a new La Nina. New La Nina's don't usually form this close together—not right away after the old La Nina died. In fact, I can't think of a La Nina that ever did that."