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'Fire and ice' weather?

John Walter Updated: 03/28/2012 @ 4:46pm

After a winter in which temperatures averaged well above normal over large parts of the country, is a warm, dry summer in store for key crop areas of the nation? And what are the odds of a hard freeze that would threaten early-planted crops?

Meteorologists addressed those issues on Wednesday, putting on the radar at least some possibility of such contrasting conditions occuring in places.

An analysis by MDA EarthSat Weather of ten similar years to 2011 suggests a chance of a follow-on warm and dry summer.

"There is indeed a warm/dry signal across the Delta, into the central Plains, and far western Midwest," Donald Keeney, MDA EarthSat meteorologist, wrote in his daily newsletter. "The signals are not extreme, but there is a slight tendency towards the dry/warm side in those areas nonetheless."

Keeney cautions, though, that this past winter's weather doesn't guarantee the summer's conditions, and that El Nino/La Nina patterns from those same analog years actually suggest a "cooler/wetter threat" in the southern Midwest and the Delta.

The company's latest 31-60 day temperature outlook sees warm conditions across the Midwest and Southeast. Expectations are trending "a bit cooler" across the central Plains and into the southern Delta, Keeney wrote.

Threat of hard freeze?

In the near term, prospects for early corn planting continue to be generally favorable.

The National Weather Service 6- to 10-day outlook (April 2-6) calls for near- to above-normal temperatures across the country, except for cooler conditions in the Mid-Atlantic, said Brad Rippey, USDA agricultural meteorologist.

Warm weather will be most likely across the western half of the U.S., he said. The 6- to 10-day, calls for near- to below-normal precipitation across most of the U.S., except for the Northeast, which will be wetter.

Threat of a crop-threatening hard freeze remains low, according to Joel Widenor, Commodity Weather Group.

"Light frost is possible in the far northeastern Midwest late this week," he said in his report Wednesday. The forecaster does see a freeze chance again in the northern half of the Midwest late in the 11- to 15-day period.

"However, the chance for a hard freeze to reach any emergent corn or jointing wheat remains low," Widenor wrote.

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