With planting season now over in most parts of the Midwest, it’s time to look ahead at what weather you can expect this growing season. On one hand, it’s tempting to think that the conditions could be pretty volatile based on the extreme events we’ve seen on the news. After all, we’ve already seen intense flooding in certain areas and amazing heatwaves elsewhere—in some cases jumping from wintery conditions into 100℉ heat in a matter of days. But really, the weather that matters is about what’s happening on your farm. To help you prepare for the season ahead, here’s a broad look at the conditions that are coming your way.
The good news—and the bad news—is that the weather you’ve been experiencing is likely to persist. That’s because our local weather conditions are maintaining a holding pattern on the whole. Through the summer, we’ll see cooler conditions than normal across the North and drier and hotter conditions than normal lingering in the South and Southern High Plains.
La Nińa is settling in
This year is likely shaping up to be the third consecutive year in La Nińa, which in itself is a somewhat rare occurrence. Those of you who have been farming for the last two decades might remember a similar pattern playing out in late summer of 1998–2001, which, broadly speaking, was a period of near average corn and soy yields However, while we’re experiencing a similar presence of a lingering La Lińa now, each year is always a bit different, and we can expect it to manifest in new and different ways this coming season.
Heat is the wild card
To really get a sense of what’s ahead in the longer term, we really need to pay attention to the upcoming heat—where it is, how hot it gets, and whether any moisture can develop to temper those conditions. Most forecast models including the highly respected European Model are showing increasing heat and dryness east of the Rockies and south of the Dakotas.
What we call ‘warm’ events in meteorological circles are now truly becoming ‘hot’ events. Looking ahead, models project that we will see intense heat waves forming throughout the Southwest which are expected to threaten both crops and people. It’s also logical based on our current information and ongoing trends to expect similar ‘hot’ events to arise in the Midwest as well.
This is in large part due to the westerly flow that is blocking out moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, which is essential for bringing moisture into large areas of the lower 48 east of the Rockies. And without that rainfall, the hot and dry conditions are pretty well locked in. While there are no indications that this pattern will break, NOAA is forecasting an active hurricane season. This of course is a double-edged sword—hurricanes may bring much-needed moisture to areas currently experiencing drought, but they can also cause significant damage to areas directly in their path.
Strong local gradients
Taking a more granular look at local weather conditions, we’re seeing many of these forecasts play out in tight gradients that aren’t shifting much. For example, many of the storm systems that have developed in the Midwest have followed one another down several relatively narrow paths —soaking the same thin stretch of land without distributing that moisture to the surrounding areas.
Because of the broader persistence of our weather conditions moving forward, these hyperlocal patterns aren’t expected to evolve or change in any meaningful way going through the growing season.
In my experience, farmers know their local weather better than anyone, but it always pays to stay well-informed. In addition to the various weather-related algorithms and tools already built into FieldView™, there are also some third-party resources that are available to help you track the hyperlocal weather conditions for your operation.
NOAA Regional Climate Centers
These multi-state, regional-scale centers are incredibly useful for monitoring weather trends where you live and work. These NOAA centers are generally affiliated with universities and other research institutions, meaning that you’re getting research quality metrics and reporting for your given area. In areas with agriculture, they also publish climate reports and analyses that are specifically tailored to benefit farmers. And best of all, it’s entirely public and free.
If you’re ready to cross over into full-on weather geek territory, I personally use and recommend downloading a detailed weather app. There are many free, freemium, and paid apps available which can provide insightful, real-time information about exactly what’s happening weather-wise in your immediate area.
When you are weather-wise, you know what to expect for your farm, and you know how to handle it. And by enriching what you already know about your local weather conditions with the insights of platforms like FieldView, you’ll be better able to navigate the challenges and opportunities for your operation. In the meantime, wishing you clear skies or rainy days—depending on your fields’ needs!