Drought concerns persist for agriculture this year

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2014-Drought conditions in the western and southern plains regions of the country could merge together later this year, persisting harsh conditions for agriculture, said Drew Lerner, president and senior agricultural meteorologist of World Weather, Inc.



Lerner summarized weather conditions and predictions important to the industry during the Ag Leaders Conference hosted by Allendale Inc. brokerage services.

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“Water supply in western U.S. and in particular California will be dangerously low this year if better precipitation does not occur in the second half of winter,” he said today.

Currently, the California mountain ranges have only 7 percent their regular snowpack. He noted that winter precipitation should improve in the second half of the season, but not enough to bring conditions back to normal this year

Meanwhile, river and stream flow in the eastern United States is near normal, although ice has reduced some of the river levels, he noted.

This winter is marked with cold weather across most of the country, likely making it a year to be noted in record books, he said. Other comparative years include the winter of 1977 and 1936.

Cool weather will persist into early spring, causing delays and a “narrow window of opportunity” for planting in the Southeast and Delta regions.

“The first part of spring will be cold and somewhat dry and you'll have to find the right moment to get seed in ground before the rains start to hit,” he explained.

He also noted that bouts of cold weather are still expected in southern parts of country, which could mean damaged wheat crop in those states.

Lerner explained that he conducts much of his analyses based on an 18-year weather cycle, which focuses on trends in the upper atmosphere.

The extremely cold weather “is just more proof on paper that perhaps the [global warming] alarmists weren't quite right,” he said today.

“We are living in volatile world,” he said. “We need to be careful and pay attention to the patterns we can find and try to keep our heads on straight.”

For the short-term, he said the next 30 days of weather will be quite similar to the past 30 days, but likely with a little more rain in northern California and western Texas.

Lerner also addressed the possibility of El Nino-a weather pattern characterized by warm surface water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific-developing this summer. He said water temperatures in that part of the world indicate the opportunity for El Nino is somewhat low at this time, but it may evolve this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts that El Nino will begin to evolve in the middle part of spring and become more significant in the summer.

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