By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — With weather that “keeps getting more and more outrageous,” Drew Lerner, president and owner of World Weather, Inc., feels confident “a much improved weather pattern is suggested for 2013 across key U.S. crop areas.
“This year will not be perfect, but rain is expected to scatter around much more normally, with some pockets of dryness. There is still a big question of recovered soil moisture and World Weather, Inc. believes large moisture deficits will prevail in the Plains and in a part of the Western Corn Belt. That may be a constant worry because rainfall will not be abundant enough to restore soil moisture to normal,” Lerner said.
He was one of several speakers at the 25th annual Ag Leaders Outlook conference, titled “Success in an Era of Change,” sponsored by Allendale, Inc. in late January.
Lerner said the big questions are: was 2012 an enigma or are we in a long-term drought pattern, and was the drought the result of global warming or simply part of a weather cycle?
“It may just be cyclical,” he said. And he expects weather to be “a whole lot more tame in 2013.” He said huge moisture deficits remain in the middle of the nation, but the amount of rain needed to bring the Palmer Drought Index back to a neutral value is 2-9 inches.
He believes that can be achieved by late spring “if we start the improving trend immediately. Weather patterns will support improvement for many areas, but may fall short of producing the rain needed to completely end the drought. It all comes down to timing,” he said.
He said moisture deficits are usually resolved in the winter months; and that has occurred in the lower Delta, the lower eastern Midwest and interior Southeastern states.
In fact, he believes too much rain may become an issue in those areas later this winter and into spring.
As for weather’s cyclical nature, Lerner showed several charts demonstrating dry cycles through the years, pointing out 2012’s closest parallel was 1934.
“It was not obvious until the drought was fully mature, but the weather pattern last summer was looking more like 1934 as time moved along; 1934, 1936 and 1988 were the only other years in recorded history to have drought conditions as severe as 2012. And 1988 was not nearly as bad, in many respects,” he said.
“Today’s drought indices still look somewhat like those of 1934, and that warrants a closer look at what happened in 1935 – the year following what was, at that time, the worst drought in recorded history.”
He also discussed the potential effects of El Nino or La Nina. “El Nino would produce above-average precipitation, but it’s hard to make El Nino occur. Don’t get taken in by the guys saying La Nina is coming and the drought will be worse. I’m not convinced they are right,” he said.
Neutral ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) conditions have evolved in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, suggesting there will be no El Nino or La Nina in the coming six months, he said.
“From a statistical perspective, none of the three previous years of severe drought were followed by a second year of critically dry weather, which leaves a little encouragement for better weather in 2013,” Lerner explained.
“The point is, from a statistical perspective, we have yet to ever have a second year of dryness. That does not mean it can’t happen.”
He said the key is when does it start raining, and when does it start getting warm? “Late April into May is crunch time. We need substantial rain during that time. It should moisten up by late April.”