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Cold Weather Coming to Midwest, Window Opens for Anhydrous Applications

If you’ve been waiting to apply anhydrous until soil temperatures dropped, your application window may finally be opening. A cold front moving across the country will put an end to above normal temperatures.

By Saturday, temperatures will fall into the 30s and 40s. In parts of the northwest where there will be snow, the temperatures could drop down to the 20s, says meteorologist Dan Hicks with Freese-Notis Weather. This will drop soil temperatures below 50°F. in most areas of the Midwest this weekend.

John Sawyer, Iowa State University Extension fertility specialist, recommends waiting until the soil temperature is 50°F. and trending cooler before applying fall N. (Get more fall nitrogen application tips here.)

However, Hicks does point out that the soil temperature could come back above 50°F. in the southern Midwest next week. “By Sunday afternoon, there will be some warming in the Plains, which will spread eastward. Temperature readings will climb back up closer to normal early next week, causing an upswing in soil temperatures,” says Hicks.

While temperatures will be warmer, they won’t climb to the highs seen this week in the Midwest. The weather for Thanksgiving will be typical for late November.

First Midwest Winter Storm

The cold front that will drop temperatures is also going to bring the first winter storm system across the Midwest.

Snow has started to fall in eastern Wyoming, and the system will move eastward, bringing snow and mixed precipitation to parts of the Dakotas by the end of today. The system will continue moving east through Saturday morning, dropping snow in eastern Wyoming, southern and eastern South Dakota, western and northern Nebraska, the southeast corner of North Dakota, and areas of western and northern Minnesota. The heaviest amounts will fall between South Dakota and Minnesota, where snowfall totals will range from 6 to 12 inches, according to Hicks. “The rest of that broad area will have closer to 3 to 7 inches of snow on average,” he says.

While corn and soybean harvest is near completion in the upper Midwest, any fields that aren’t harvested could become problematic. “On the eastern side of the snow area, there will be some wind gusting up to 40 to 50 mph tomorrow and tomorrow night. With wet snow and crops still in the field, that will be a concern,” adds Hicks.

In the lower Midwest, there will be some showers and light rainfall. Other areas of the country will stay relatively dry. “Farther south in the Plains in winter wheat areas, there may be some precipitation but not enough to alleviate the dryness. This also won’t be a big rain maker for the Delta and southeast,” explains Hicks.

Winter Weather Outlook

To put together a winter weather forecast for December through February, Hicks looks at data from three sources.

First of all, he searches for a year that has similar weather patterns to this year. The one that stands out most is 2010. “That was a year when we had warmer-than-normal temperatures for a large portion of the year, but it wasn’t exceptionally hot. There was some wetness in the growing season for the Corn Belt and dryness in the south-central U.S. during the fall. That was also a time when we were coming off an El Niño to La Niña, just like this year,” he says. While there are some differences between 2010 and 2016 if you look more closely, these overall trends aligned more closely than other years.

“In the winter of 2010, temperatures were below normal over a large area east of the Continental Divide, most pronounced from the northern Plains into the Midwest,” he says, noting that while temperatures were below normal, they weren’t significantly lower.

Precipitation that winter varied across the country. There was a distinctly dry area from Oklahoma to Texas through the Delta. Areas were wetter in the north-central U.S. and back into parts of the West, adds Hicks.

Second, Hicks searches for other years with similar weather patterns up to this point in the year and analyzes the winter trends for those years.

Last, he looks at what winter weather has looked like in years with a weak La Niña, which is what there will be this year. “The correlation with La Niña is temperatures tend to be colder than normal across the northern U.S. and warmer than normal across the southern part of the country,” explains Hicks. “When there is a weak La Niña, the cold bias for the northern half of the nation seems to be more pronounced.”

After analyzing all of this data, Hicks puts together a winter outlook. For this year, he’s anticipating below-normal temperatures for the northern portion of the country from the Rockies through the northern Plains and the Midwest into the northeast. The areas more likely to have above-normal temperatures include the south-central U.S.

“There is also a strong correlation between La Niña and below-normal precipitation in the southern U.S. from the desert through the southern Plains and parts of the Delta and Southeast,” Hicks continues. “On the other side, there is some correlation with above-normal precipitation in the Pacific Northwest, the western part of the northern Plains, the eastern Midwest, and the eastern Grate Lakes.”

If that’s the case for this winter, this is unwelcome news for parts of the southern U.S. with drought conditions. “If the correlations follow through, significant drought conditions could continue through winter in the South,” says Hicks.

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