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Wet Now, Less Certainty for What Lies Ahead for 2017 Growing Season

We’re in-between an El Niño and La Niña year.

So what’s up for weather for the rest of the growing season for 2017? Here’s an update from Alan Czarnetzki, a University of Northern Iowa meteorologist. Czarnetzki spoke at last week’s Iowa State University Soil Management and Land Valuation Conference.

We’re in-between an El Niño and La Niña 

El Niño is the warming of ocean water in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. In La Niña, cool water extends from eastern tropical Pacific Ocean further west in the Pacific Ocean. Iowa had an El Niño event the summer of 2015.

“It wasn’t really that strong, but during the June through August period that year, temperatures averaged 1.3 degrees below normal,” says Czarnetzki. “It was the 29th coolest year among 144 years of records. Precipitation was 3.91 inches above normal. It was the seventh wettest among 144 years of records.”

Last summer was a neutral situation, with neither an El Niño or La Niña occurring. “In Iowa, temperatures from June to August were 1.2 degrees above normal. It was the 50th warmest among the 144 years of records. Precipitation was 1.92 inches above normal, was the 20th wettest among 144 years of records,” according to Czarnetzki.

It’s the same story for 2017. “We are not in an El Niño or La Niña, as we are presently in neutral conditions,” he says. Unfortunately, neutral conditions are not helpful to the forecasting process. “There can be a wide range,” he says.  

Soil moisture is abundant in the Midwest

That’s particularly true in areas like southern Missouri. Some areas, such as much of northern South Dakota and southern North Dakota, are abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. But they’re the exception.

“Moisture conditions should be more than adequate," he said. The latest National Weather Service (NWS) map shows odds are higher for above-normal precipitation from June through August, particularly in western South Dakota and western Nebraska.

Summer Temperatures

The three-month forecast from the NWS is a bit murkier for June through August temperatures. At this point, there’s an equal chance for above-normal, below-normal or near-normal temperatures in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and northern Missouri.

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