The Weather and Crop Progress - Monday, 21 April 2014

The probability and timing of a potential 2014 crop season El Niño was a topic of conversation during the NOAA webinar to discuss the Midwest and Central Plains drought outlook last Thursday.  There has been a lot of discussion for several months now about the development of this possible weather pattern but for quite some time now our current pattern seems locked in a neutral position.  The Pacific equatorial sea surface temperatures are less than one half of a degree Celsius above normal and the SOI is also remaining in a neutral position.  There is though a sizable sub-surface pool of warm water streaming through eastern regions of the Pacific now that forecasters are watching and believe will be the stimulus to spark this El Niño event.  Even once all of the conditions are present for a specific weather pattern such as El Niño to develop there is a delay before the actual effects are noticeable, it takes time for things to adjust and be felt.

Will this weather pattern develop as some predict to offer drought relief to parched regions in the western regions of the U.S. as well as supply ideal conditions in the Corn Belt during the critical corn pollination time-frame?  South Dakota state climatologist Dr. Dennis Todey suggests that by July and August we should be able to see signs of its development; signs that would decrease crop stress and bring us near-normal temperatures.  Unfortunately for California though he does not see any relief from their drought conditions arriving until this fall or winter.

Some forecasters are calling for this El Niño to be a rather strong event, similar to the one during 1997 and 1998.  Yields that year were above trend line and 3% higher than estimated. 



Many climatologists believe that weather/climate is cyclical in nature and all changes we are seeing in temperature/precipitation are simply following a pattern established over many decades and is not influenced or altered by human actions.  Then there are those that believe that our climate is influenced by our behaviors and our world’s addiction to carbon burning activities is causing the changes we are seeing in our weather patterns, changes that are ultimately altering our food supplies.  The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change met in March and discussed the negative impacts that they believe climate change will have the world’s farms, farmers and world production.  There seems to be few willing to argue against these findings since for the first time the U.N. used hard data to project what climate changes we will see if our excessive carbon burning continues.  Some of their findings include:

  • In typically dry areas the frequency of droughts is likely to increase; this is also likely to decrease the quality of raw water which will post risks to the quality of drinking water in those areas.
  • Ocean levels are expected to rise and significantly increase the probability of super storms – like Sandy that hit the coastal regions of New Jersey and New York and caused enormous amounts of devastation and cost billions of dollars.
  • “For the major crops (wheat, rice and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production…Projected impacts vary…with about 10% of projections for the period 2030-2049 showing yield gains of more than 10% and about 10% of the projections showing yield losses of more than 25%.”

Eugene Takle, a professor of agronomy and director of Iowa State University’s Climate Science Program, has been working on a report that is due out by the end of the month that will “paint a sobering picture of climate change globally and its impact on the United States.”  He went on to say that; “One of the key messages of the report is that the incidence of weather extremes will continue and will have increasingly negative effects on crop and livestock productivity because critical thresholds are already being exceeded.”


The grain trade was lower today due in part to Funds liquidating their long positions on the board.  Favorable weather outlooks and good planting conditions in some areas over the weekend also moved prices lower.  Ukraine continues to be locked in an ongoing battle; the concern now is whether this will escalate into a full blown civil war and what implications it may have on the global economy.


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