2017 drought continues to expand coverage area

Agriculture and weather go hand in hand. One (agriculture) watches the other (weather), while one (weather) has a big effect on the other (agriculture). Weather, specifically the 2017 drought, is hitting agriculture hard. That’s why it’s time to talk weather with my guy, Ryan Martin, who you can find at his personal website address, weatherstud.com. By the way, if you needed any more credibility, he’s also the Chief Meteorologist for the Hoosier Ag Today radio network in Indiana, so he’s established.

2017 drought

Meteorologist Ryan Martin, shown here giving a presentation at the 2017 American Farm Bureau Federation national convention, says there’s not much relief in sight for states hit hardest by the 2017 drought. (photo from twitter.com)

We’ve talked an awful lot about what’s going on with the 2017 drought in the Dakotas. Both North and South Dakota have suffered under immense heat and non-stop dry weather. What you may not realize is the coverage area of the drought is still expanding. While the focal point is at its worst in North and South Dakota, it’s also into a good deal of Montana (have you heard about the wildfires?) and well up into the Canadian prairies.

I caught up with Ryan on the phone while he was actually driving through the Canadian prairies for work, so he saw firsthand just how far north the 2017 drought went. The drought is in Saskatchewan and western Manitoba, where it’s been going on for some time now. The Saskatchewan wheat crop is starting to turn color but it’s not even at all. There are bands that actually look dead along the outside edges of some fields while still green in other places. The lack of rain has hit Canada’s wheat fields pretty hard.

The hardest hit areas are in what’s referred to as exceptional drought. In actual terms, that means many of the hardest hit areas have picked up .5-1.5 inches of rain over the past two months. In other words, not enough.

The biggest question is whether or not there’s any relief in sight, whether in the short or long term. Ryan describes it as a situation in which “dryness begets dryness.” Give a listen to the conversation.

 

Slow down the El Nino weather discussion

Social media can be a very handy tool for disseminating information quickly to a large number of people. News stories have been known to “go viral” from coast to coast and around the world faster than some would believe possible. For example, check out the words El Nino.

Unfortunately, it is the internet and no one is watching to make sure everything that goes up is the complete, 100% truth, especially when it comes to weather. A recent Twitter conversation really got the weather forecasters and their followers going when a reputable weather forecaster told his followers that El Nino would make a return to the global weather outlook in 2017.

El Nino

Here’s a diagram of what an El Nino weather pattern looks like, courtesy of SteamGreen.com.

Ryan Martin is a longtime broadcaster/meteorologist who wants the El Nino discussion to slow down a bit and he’s got plenty of reasons why. One of the biggest reasons is that El Nino is not a year-to-year event. And think about this: What happens if we do see an El Nino? What does that do to American weather? It turns things nice in the Corn Belt and we’d be seeing above-trend line yield numbers again. So, it’s not exactly the storm of the century causing death and destruction everywhere you turn.

“If you look at it from where we see warmer waters in the equatorial Pacific,” said Martin, “it’s not in the right spot. One gentleman that seems to have a fairly significant following put up a map that talked about El Nino coming back. He drew a triangle around an area of water off the northwest coast of South America. While it is warmer water in the equatorial Pacific, it’s not in the right spot.”

Another area he likes to look at for signs of El Nino is just off the Australian coast. He says there should be a significant pressure difference and easterly winds starting to develop. Those signs haven’t developed at all.

“I’m not going to completely rule out a return to El Nino at some point in the next year to two years,” Martin says, “but to talk about it coming right now and having a big-time effect on us is way out of line. Anybody trying to trumpet this is likely a fringe forecaster looking for notoriety.”

 

State Climatologist talks southeast MN weather

The weather throughout fall and during the transition to winter can only be described as interesting. It’s been awhile since I was doing play-by-play for a high school football game during early November and actually had to take my winter jacket off because the press box was actually quite comfortable. I would imagine outside chores have been much less taxing during the nice fall weather too.

Conditions are going to change at some point. We know that here in southeast Minnesota. Colder weather and snow will be coming starting next week, but the question is how cold and how much?

State Climatologist Mark Seeley talks southeast Minnesota weather

Mark Seeley is a climatologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. (photo from mprnews.org)

Mark Seeley of the University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. He’s a professor, a climatologist, and the main guy Minnesota media has turned to with weather questions for decades. I first met Mark while at KLGR radio in Redwood Falls. He was at the annual Farmfest event down the road near Morgan, Minnesota, and a fellow broadcaster said I needed to talk to Mark if I wanted to do a weather segment.

My most recent weather assignment comes from my freelance reporting job with Bluff Country News Group. We wanted to know what the upcoming winter would look like so I gave Mark a call and had a visit. The 2016 calendar year weather conditions in southeast Minnesota have been record-setting, with too much heat and moisture. I wanted to know how much heat and moisture have hit the area and this is what Mark had to say:

Spring planting will require patience, as usual

I thought we’d talk spring planting on the chadsmithmedia.com weekly podcast.  I wanted to introduce you to Ryan Martin, the owner of advantageweathersolutions.com, and it’s not just because I work for him.  I was in radio a long time and read thousands of weather forecasts, and his is the most accurate I’ve seen in a long time.  No weather forecast will be 100 percent accurate, but a reliable forecast can be really hard to find nowadays.

Spring Planting

Ryan Martin of Warsaw, Indiana, is the Chief Meteorologist at Hoosier Ag Today, pictured here at a recent weather seminar. He’s also the owner of advantageweathersolutions.com)

I can remember during my last radio gig at KLGR radio in Redwood Falls there were more than a few times I’d read the weather forecast and have no idea where they were getting their information.  Just for the record, I wasn’t the only one that paused more than once due to confusion over what we had just read in the forecast.

Certain parts of the country have had spring planting challenges, and the challenge vary based upon where you are at.  The deep south has been wet, other areas have been extremely windy, and still others have been well below normal in terms of temperatures.  Let’s talk weather with Ryan, who happens to be the Chief Meteorologist for Hoosier Ag Today…tape

Winter weather predictions at NAFB

I spent some time in Kansas City at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s2015-NAFB-Convention-Logo-FINAL 72nd annual convention.  During the second day of the event, a trade show brings people in from far and wide to talk about all things agriculture, a topic more complex than most outside the business would believe.  By the way, the show is called Trade Talk.

Of course, weather is one of the premium topics in any agriculture discussion, and one gentleman who’s been talking weather and ag for a long time is Bryce Anderson.    I’ve talked many times with Bryce during my years in radio, and finally had the chance to reconnect.  One of the hot topics right now is above normal temperatures in the fall with not much precipitation.  The question is:  How long does it last, and what does this foretell for the winter?

 

Weather forecasting

Bryce Anderson, the Chief Meteorologist for DTN. (Photo from hoffmanag.com)

Bryce Anderson has been DTN’s ag meteorologist and fill-in market analyst since 1991. He combines his expertise in weather forecasting with a south-central Nebraska farm background to bring in-depth, focused commentary on the top weather developments affecting agriculture each day.

His comments in the DTN Ag Weather Brief and the DTN Market Impact Weather articles are read by persons involved in all aspects of the agricultural industry and in all major crop and livestock production areas of the U.S. and Canada.

Bryce also delivers forecast commentary on regional and national farm broadcast programs and hosts DTN audio and video productions.

Prior to joining DTN, Bryce was in radio and television farm broadcasting and agricultural meteorology at stations in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. He holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nebraska, and a certificate of broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University.

Keeping a weather eye on Minnesota

“Persistent.”  Not exactly the word many Minnesotans may choose to describe this winter, but it’s appropriate, according to Mark Seely, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist.

U of Mn Extension climatologist Mark Seely (photo from minnesotaalumni.org)

U of Mn Extension climatologist Mark Seely (photo from minnesotaalumni.org)

 

According to a recent Google search, the word ‘persistent’ has many interesting synonyms:  tenacious, determined, single-minded, relentless, interminable, and uninterrupted.  Seely said the reason all these words fit is it hasn’t been this consistently cold in Minnesota and the Midwest in a long time. In fact, the Minnesota Public Radio website calls this “the coldest winter in 30 years.”

 

Looking back

 

Seely said the interesting thing about this bitterly cold winter is, “it didn’t necessarily start early.  The winter that we know it as, frankly, didn’t start until the first week of December.”  Since then, Seely said the state has been in a deep freeze, the likes of which it hasn’t seen in some time.

 

“Since December, it’s been the coldest weather, by any measure, since the winter of 81-82.”  Winter this consistently cold is a new experience for many young Midwesterners:

 

Seely said the Midwest has had colder winters, but few that have been this persistent.  “It has been so consistently cold, we’ve had many of our observers report large numbers of nights with below zero readings.”

How this winter stacks up against past winters (graph courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS)  (photo from blogs.mprnews.org)

How this winter stacks up against past winters (graph courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS) (photo from blogs.mprnews.org)

 

What is driving the cold?

 

According to the Weather Underground website, a weather phenomenon known as the polar vortex may be driving this relentlessly cold weather in the Midwest.  The polar vortex is an area of very cold air that typically centers over Siberia and Canada’s Baffin Island.  A piece of the vortex broke off, and was forced south in part by the Jet Stream, into the Great Lakes Area of the US.

 

DTN Senior Meteorologist Mike Palmerino said “An unusual area of warm air over Alaska and northwest Canada pushed the cold air south.  They’ve had a lot of warm weather in Alaska this year.”  The polar air has pushed south in the past, so it’s not an unusual occurrence.

DTN meteorologist Mike Palmerino  (Photo from www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com)

DTN meteorologist Mike Palmerino (Photo from www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com)

 

Uneven snow cover

 

“I would say the eastern half of the state ended up with fairly decent snow cover that’s pretty consistent,” said Seely.  “However, the western half of the state, because of the high winds, ended up with variable snow cover.  In areas unprotected from the wind, our weather observers have reported seeing areas of bare soil in their farm fields.”

 

Seely said in unprotected areas, the lack of snow cover has allowed the permafrost has driven 4 to 6 feet deep, and that’s something, “We haven’t seen that in a long, long time.”  That means the ground is going to take time to thaw for spring planting in Minnesota.

One of the few areas where wild grass pokes through snow cover in SE Mn (photo by Chad Smith)

One of the few areas where wild grass pokes through snow cover in SE Mn (photo by Chad Smith)

 

What is ahead?

 

“The weather models are coming together and showing some moderation for the rest of the winter,” said Seely.  “That’s not to say we won’t have colder than normal days, but the sheer number of below zero days are going to go away.”

 

Palmerino said soils “east of the Mississippi River are in pretty good shape moisture-wise.  If anything, I think the main concern going into spring is that it’s too wet.”  He said “a stormy weather pattern and cooler than normal temperatures would definitely interrupt spring planting.”

 

Seely said the good news is the future models are showing moderating temperatures into March.  However, not all the predictions are positive:

 

Palmerino said it’s a fine line when farmers look to spring.  You want the weather to warm up and melt the snow, but not too fast either:

SE Mn has a lot of snow to get rid of before spring planting (photo by Chad Smith)

SE Mn has a lot of snow to get rid of before spring planting (photo by Chad Smith)

 

Here’s what it’s been like to drive in the Midwest this winter: