Looming El Nino Could Bring Farmers Decent Growing Season

(Radio Iowa) The La Nina weather pattern is gone, and the National Climate Prediction Center anticipates an El Nino will develop within a few months, which could be welcome news for Iowa farmers. Meteorologist Dennis Todey, director of the U-S-D-A’s Midwest Climate Hub — based in Ames, says El Ninos typically mean a decent growing season for our region, while the extra rainfall could help to knock down the long-running drought.

“Conditions look like they’re heading towards El Nino, in the way of the computer models and what we’re seeing in the way of sea surface temperatures,” Todey says, “so they issue what they call an El Nino Watch, which means that an El Nino is likely to be occurring after this.” While the La Nina lasted for three years, he says the switch to an El Nino pattern is coming on much faster than expected.

“The ocean temperatures in the Pacific, especially close to South America, are warming up very quickly,” Todey says. “The computer models continue that progression to likely being El Nino. Reading the advisory now, the El Nino seems more likely by summer which seemed a very quick transition.” Wide areas of Iowa have suffered from drought, and this weather shift could provide some much-needed relief.

“El Ninos typically are better growing seasons for us. They may not be outstanding growing seasons but the tendency is for them to not be bad growing seasons,” Todey says. “Temperatures tend to be more moderate, better chances for precipitation. So for the drought areas, that’s not a bad thing and actually a good thing.” Northwest Iowa’s Monona and Woodbury counties are in the worst category — exceptional drought, while much of Iowa’s western half is either rated in moderate, severe or extreme drought, while broad sections of central and eastern Iowa are listed as abnormally dry.
(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)