Nebraska growers are getting ready for planting season as La Nina conditions fade in the Pacific Ocean and there’s no consensus on what may come next.
A La Nina means sea surface temperatures are below long-term trends, bringing cooler weather to our region.
Dennis Todey, director of the USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub, says there are signs an El Nino is developing.
“There are hints we’re heading back to warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific,” Todey says. “I’m not as convinced about that as some people are. Even if it does go that way, I don’t think we’d be seeing El Nino conditions before the end of the growing season.”
An El Nino means ocean temperatures are averaging above-normal for an extended time, which can bring weather extremes to North America. Todey says an El Nino developing is not in the cards.
“It really would be unprecedented,” Todey says. “Not completely unprecedented but unlikely where you go from a strong El Nino to a La Nina and then back to an El Nino in subsequent years. It’s only happened one time in the last century. It’s possible but it seems very unlikely.”
Current trends and long-range forecasts into early summer indicate temperatures and precipitation will be above-normal for much of the Midwest and Northern Plains.
Nebraska climatologist Martha Shulski says there are early signs. By July, August, September and then further out, the El Nino starts to be slightly favored in terms of probability,” Shulski says, “and the neutral probability continues to go down.”
Shulski says the two primary types of computer models they’re running are starting to agree.
“They’re both trending towards an El Nino occurance,” Shulski says. “Obviously, this is something we’ll keep a close watch on as to how this progresses over time and how the probabilities trend over time.”
The Pacific was in a La Nina phase, or cooling, for the past year or so. That’s reverted to more neutral conditions.
Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton