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Expect early frost, mild winter in Nebraska, climatologist says

Agriculture.com Staff 09/25/2006 @ 12:15pm

If preliminary forecasts hold true, this winter in Nebraska -- and much of the Corn Belt -- will be a mild one, with frost coming early on, predicts Allen Dutcher, Nebraska state climatologist.

"This may be the year that eastern Nebraska sees a 'bookend' weather pattern develop in contrast to its normal patterns," Dutcher says. "This occurs when prevailing weather patterns lead to increased precipitation and cooler temperatures in the fall and spring with a mild, benign, dry winter."

Nebraska's summer and early-fall weather has been a two widely varying stories. Western parts of the state saw severe drought conditions throughout the summer, while in eastern and south-central Nebraska, late summer precipitation -- 10 to 13 inches in some areas in August -- broke records.

"Eastern Nebraska has received above-normal levels of rain since early August and soil profiles are at levels typically seen in March," Dutcher says. "In other areas of the state, including north and west of North Platte, precipitation has been isolated during the same period and some areas have precipitation deficits as high as nine to 10 inches. These are the same areas that have had drought conditions and limited water resources the past five to six years."

The El Niño weather pattern is largely to blame for this outlook, Dutcher says. Having built up through much of the summer, he says the unusually strong pattern will likely keep the jet stream south of Nebraska and the Corn Belt, keeping a considerable amount of winter moisture south of the region and making for dry winter months.

"If the pattern moves further northward than currently expected, southeast Nebraska and some areas of south-central Nebraska may see above-normal moisture. From December through February, abnormally dry conditions may develop in the central Corn Belt, including eastern Iowa, Illinois and Indiana," Dutcher says. "Unfortunately, if the pattern holds true, the central Rockies would receive poor precipitation through the winter and there would be little drought relief for western Nebraska from snowmelt, depending on when El Niño begins and ends."

This weather pattern may be good news for growers in eastern Nebraska, some parts of which have received higher-than-normal rainfall amounts, but it doesn't bid well for those in western parts of the state, where existing drought conditions could be aggravated by an extended dry winter.

"While this precipitation pattern has already started to provide significant drought relief to south-central and eastern Nebraska, it's done little for western Nebraska's drought," Dutcher says. "A break in the predicted pattern leading to significant fall rains and wet winter snowfall would be welcomed in western Nebraska."

If preliminary forecasts hold true, this winter in Nebraska -- and much of the Corn Belt -- will be a mild one, with frost coming early on, predicts Allen Dutcher, Nebraska state climatologist.

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