From the Farm: Harvest Weather

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Winter officially begins tomorrow, ending the longest fall that many farmers have ever experienced.

One farmer recently said it was the longest harvest season he had ever had, and Nutrien’s chief atmospheric scientist Eric Snodgrass, agrees.

“We thought we would get into the fields in October, but by mid-October, the jet stream was just screaming over parts of Illinois,” Snodgrass said. “What ended up happening was, beginning about October 13th, we had system after system, it was very, very wet, and in fact right here in east-central Illinois, our climate reporting district, second-wettest October on record.”

“Then November shows up, drier, it was cool at times, and those harvest windows started to show back up again and we were able to get not only that late harvest work done, but some application done in December because it was so warm,” Snodgrass continued. “So this was a very, very strange end to a growing season. Folks were pushed out of the fields when they wanted to be in, then allowed back in at a date they often find themselves not working. Mother Nature’s really thrown us a curve ball this past fall and early winter.

Was this part of the onset of La Nina, then?

“So what was happening was that we saw the La Nina was strengthening in most of the fall and then early winter.” Snodgrass said. “And when that happens, what tends to occur is the Pacific jet stream just gets cranked up and it was moving quickly. So it hit the west first and came to the mid-west and that’s what kind of shut us down in October.”

As La Nina fades out, will we see anything but neutral weather conditions?

“That’s one of the problems. As it fades, or if there was an El Nino and it faded, it removes one of our predictors; predicting all next spring and summer is going to be really challenging,” Snodgrass said. “But I tell you what I am going to watch. There is some really cold water in the Gulf of Alaska. Now the only weather variable you can use for seasonal weather predictions with any sort of accuracy is ocean temperatures.”

“When I see that cold water in the Gulf of Alaska, if that hangs on, I’ll be concerned about what that does to the jet stream come next spring and summer because usually when it is cold in the Gulf of Alaska, we tends to get warmer than average in the Midwest,” Snodgrass continued. “That’s a long ways off and we’ve got a lot to pay attention to between now and then, but it will be the number one thing I am watching. That and the drought development in the southern plains.”

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