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Wild weather shift unfolding

Jeff Caldwell 05/01/2013 @ 11:19am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Get ready.

The next 24 hours are going to bring an unprecedented shift in weather conditions that earlier this week finally appeared to be trending toward a warmer, drier spring pattern. It's already started happening in northern and northwestern parts of the Corn Belt and the system will carry abrupt temperature shifts, rain, and snow through the region.

"April showers bring May flowers covered in snow. What is wrong with this picture?" says Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., senior ag meteorologist Harvey Freese. "Temperatures may be 30 degrees below normal over parts of South Dakota [Wednesday] as rain mixes and changes to snow over the James River Valley. Some areas of southwest Minnesota may receive 4 or more inches of snow later today and especially tonight. A wintry mix of precipitation is forecast southwestward from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this afternoon and tonight over eastern Nebraska and western Iowa and even northern Kansas. Most snow accumulations will be confined to grassy areas with up to an inch possible."

That developing pattern, which will keep conditions cool and damp into the weekend, will further delay improvements in conditions that are desperately needed before much fieldwork or planting can get done. And, the cold front riding the coattails of the front moving through will cause a temperature shift of 50 to 70 degrees in an area stretching from the Texas Panhandle to the central Corn Belt, according to MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley.

"A wild temperature swing will take place across the central U.S. over the next day or so. In Amarillo [Texas], for instance, a record high of 97 degrees Fahrenheit was seen [Tuesday] and a record low of 29 degrees is forecast for Friday. This huge swing in temperatures will stress the wheat crop across the central and southern Plains," Tapley says.

It's obvious the weather shift is a major setback to crop development and planting prospects moving forward. Tapley says once this system moves through, conditions will eventually return to a warmer, drier state. However, there will be a lot of warming and drying to do before fieldwork can get back into gear despite the relative heat wave that paced the weather in the nation's center earlier this week.

"The 6- to 10-day period has trended drier across the central and western Midwest, but given the cool temperatures expected over the next 10 days, it will take some time for soils to dry out enough to allow corn planting to resume," Tapley says.

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