Arctic saga continues in farm country
This morning represents yet another frigid day in the Arctic saga of the winter of 2014. Yesterday, an intense Arctic cold front plunged south from Canada, dropping temperatures as much as 40 degrees F. across the Midwest and Plains, accompanied by winds frequently gusting to 50 mph.
Today, a sprawling area of Arctic high pressure builds in to the Midwest, providing sunny skies and anomalously cold temperatures. Most of the Midwest will experience highs in the single digits above and below zero, a solid 20 to 30 degrees below normal. Rapid NatGas drawdown will ensue once again, which has spurred March prices near $5/mmbtu early this morning (although prices are currently dropping). Tonight, this area of high pressure will favor clear skies, light winds, and low dew points, an optimal situation to maximize radiational cooling.
Low temperatures will fall to near zero across the southern and western Midwest. As expected, Sunday's warm surge ahead of the cold front has left much of southwestern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri bare. As a result, bare ground in addition to temperatures near zero will result in patchy winterkill across these areas, with 10-20% SRW wheat at risk.
Across the HRW wheat areas, most of Kansas and Nebraska will remain above zero, negating any winterkill threat. March wheat this morning is +3-0 at 568-2. Tuesday will feature only gradual moderation in temperatures from today's highs. Wednesday, a short-lived warm surge will develop across the western Midwest ahead of yet another cold front, with some above-normal high temperatures possible, primarily across central and western Iowa westward into Nebraska.
Late this week into early next, the trend for the central and northern U.S. will be for near to below normal temperatures, with below-normal temperatures favored across the upper Midwest and northern Plains. Looking further into the future, the consensus from our long-range ensembles is for a continuation of below-normal temperatures during the 11- to 15-day period, with relatively strong agreement between models. In fact, another cold surge is possible after February 4, although confidence is very low this far out.
During this time frame, there are some indications of a westward retrogression of the jetstream, with the East Pacific ridge retreating as far west as western Alaska. This will allow more of the central and western U.S. to experience colder-than-normal temperatures with a potential warming trend across the East Coast.
The implications for NatGas (which continues to drop as I write this), are rather ambiguous. However, NatGas storage/supplies will continue to diminsh at an above-normal pace through the start of February. A look at some analog years (1979, 1994, 2009), would favor some form of a warmup during the latter half of Februrary, although several days of CFS runs favor a cold pattern throughout a good portion of the month.
If January 2014 has taught us anything, it's that Old Man Winter will not stop until we have all frozen into a bunch of life-size ice pops.