CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Totally independent of the seasonal temperatures, the weather is slowly changing and that is due to the fading La Nina, said Eric Snodgrass, noted atmospheric scientist who visited yesterday with a Farm Credit audience in Champaign.
“We’re watching those trends right now, so La Nina probably peaked, in terms of its total influence on the atmosphere, sometime in the last three to four weeks. And it’s a slow death; it slowly kind of fades and it’s becoming more east-focused,” Snodgrass said. “It’s over by South America, no longer nosing over like Australia. And as that happens, it’s going to transition into spring and summer and maybe go back to neutral and we might even be talking about El Nino in July, and that could really change the whole flow of the atmosphere, as we get out to the growing season for us.”
And what would it do to us? What would an El Nino do to our spring and summer growing season?
“If El Nino was already there, and it was going to last, we would mostly be pretty happy about it. It tends to give us a stronger southwest flow in the jet stream and better precipitation. But this is not that scenario,” Snodgrass responded. “This is one event, La Nina, fading to become El Nino. What I don’t like is there is still a lot of cold water in the Gulf of Alaska. And if you keep that cold water there, it tends to help the west coast and the jet stream stay south over the west. It’s got to rise somewhere.”
“At this point the long range models suggest that we are going to keep the plains, especially the southern plains, dry, probably through June and July. And what I care about is what if all of a sudden, the jet stream responds to that, and that drought expands as we go into our pollination? All of that is on the table,” Snodgrass continued. “But I also remember this: our summertime precipitation in Illinois is up about three-and-a half inches over the last 70 years, so we are getting wetter, and for those storms to come through and save the crop, there is a pretty good chance that could happen as well.”
Snodgrass said we are not too bad on soil moisture right now across the central and eastern Cornbelt. But he says the key is the amount of precipitation between now and May 20 for retention and recharge.