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Polar Vortex in July? Jacket Weather Headed to the Corn Belt

Jeff Caldwell 07/11/2014 @ 8:25am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

No need to drag out the Carhartts just yet, but be ready for a cooldown in parts of the nation's midsection in the next few days, forecasters say.

Remember the polar vortex that swung down into the Midwest a few times last winter, bringing temperatures well below zero? It's the same basic weather dynamic, just the summer version. That's slated to happen again early next week, causing the 10-day forecast to feature temperatures as much as 20 degrees below normal in parts of the region, according to MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley. While it's certainly anomalous, the temperatures come at an almost ideal time for the affected region's developing corn crop.

"Temperatures will be near seasonal levels across the central U.S. through the weekend, but much cooler weather is still on tap for next week, with high temperatures only expected to reach the 60s and 70s, and lows dropping into the 40s and 50s," Tapley says. "The cool temperatures will favor the corn crop as it pollinates across the Midwest."

Moisture-wise, look for showers in the northwestern part of the Corn Belt through the weekend, though it likely won't keep things too soggy for long, Tapley says.

"Rains will develop across the northwestern Midwest and will spread across the rest of the Midwest this weekend. These rains will maintain abundant moisture for corn and soybeans in most areas, but will maintain some wetness in the northwestern Midwest," he says. "However, drier weather is still anticipated most of next week, which will allow for drying of soils in the northwest Corn Belt."

Looking ahead, these conditions add up to a favorable forecast for corn and soybean crop advancement, Tapley says, with a couple of exceptions: If cool temperatures linger too long, it could affect postpollination crop development during a time when heat is a necessity. Furthermore, there could be a continued excess of moisture in parts of the region -- namely where most rainfall's targeting this weekend -- causing some wetness concerns to continue.

"The cooler-than-normal conditions in most areas would keep heat threats low and would favor pollination and filling of the corn crop. The cool temperatures would slow development of corn and soybeans, however. The precipitation outlook has trended drier in the central Plains, which would allow some long-term dryness to linger in the west-central Plains," Tapley says. "The forecast has trended a bit wetter in the northwestern Midwest, which may allow some wetness to linger, but seasonal rainfall is expected across the rest of the Corn Belt, which would maintain adequate moisture for corn and soybeans. Overall, the forecast is favorable for corn and soybean development."

Looking further down the road, weather-wise, some farmers are already looking at late-summer conditions and what could happen, namely an early frost or freeze. Though that may sound a strange topic to discuss in mid-July, temperatures dipping into the 40s have the topic bubbling up already.

"Northern Corn Belt is on track for an early freeze. Climate is trend-lining in this fashion, bumping on record lows already. Record-early freeze date for Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is September 3," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk adviser c-x-1. "Be honest with one's self and ask: Can northern Minnesota and Wisconsin freeze in July?"

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