In the midst of another unusual spring season full of frequent bouts of rain, cold temperatures and lingering drought in North America comes an observation that the situation may look much like that of 1983. If true, mid- to late-summer may be notably dry across the southern two-thirds of crop country in the Plains, Midwest and Delta. World Weather, Inc. took a hard look at the situation and concluded that the similarities to 1983 are of interest, but the general pattern is not likely to support the parallel for very long.
Drought mongers were beat down earlier this year when their forecasts for ongoing drought from 2012 failed to materialize in the midst of an unusually wet and cool March through the early May period. Most of the eastern Midwest broke free of the 2012 drought in the autumn and early winter, but the Plains and western Midwest were still deep into drought at that time. Since mid-May substantial rain has fallen in the Northern U.S. Plains and northwestern Corn Belt taking another significant bite out of the lingering 2012 drought.
But wait, the drought mongers have surfaced again, coming up for one more attempt at scaring the market back into a bullish bias over the potential for returning drought in 2013. This time the fuel used in the forecast was a parallel found between this spring’s weather and that of the spring of 1983.
World Weather, Inc. examined the prospects of a 1983 drought-like finish to the 2013 growing season and has suggested that the similarities to 1983 will be strongest in June and early July, but some deviation will occur in weather patterns thereafter.
There are similarities to 1983 and they certainly should not be overlooked. The April/May period of 1983 was the third coldest on record for the entire United States. Nineteen eighty-three was the seventh coldest in the Corn Belt and it was the 22nd wettest April/May period on record. This year’s Corn Belt may certainly be among the wettest years for April and May, but only if the balance of May is notably wetter than usual. It is quite obvious that spring 2013 will go into the history books as one of the coldest springs in recorded history, especially in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest where anomalies have been nothing short of amazing.
The wet cool bias in the spring of 1983 continued into mid-June that year and then the weather went upside down and it quit raining, putting much of the southern Plains central and eastern Midwest, Delta and a part of the southeastern states in a serious state of dryness from July through September. October was the next time significant rain fell in the lower Midwest. Could that happen again? Well, it is not out of the realm of possibilities because a low amplitude ridge of high pressure will be around this summer, suggesting rain may fall routinely across the northern U.S. while southern areas are a bit drier.
World Weather, Inc. believes the situation will not be a repeat of 1983, but we do expect the southern U.S. Plains to struggle more with dryness this summer, and since the region is already drier biased there will be potential for some of the dryness to expand. We already have included a fair amount of the central Plains, lower Missouri River Valley and areas from the northern Delta into the Carolinas with some dryness. We have stopped short of suggesting conditions like that of 1983 in the interior southeastern U.S. and lower Midwest because we believe Gulf of Mexico moisture will reach up into that region a little later this summer, but only after the region does dry out in late spring and early summer.
Worry over another 1983 style dryness pattern is expected to be in the market mentality as we experience drying in the Delta and southeastern states in June, but the situation should break down in July just enough to prevent a repeat of 1983. That does not mean the southern Plains will not suffer and it does not mean the lower Missouri River Basin and parts of the northwestern Delta will not deal with some notable dryness and crop stress.
Let’s back up for a moment. The first and foremost issue on the minds of producers and traders in mid-May was whether the 2013 corn crop would get planted in a reasonable amount of time or not. A week later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a record setting corn planting pace making up for much of the lost time in April and early May when the ground was too wet for fieldwork. Getting the crop planted on time is extremely important since a later crop would be more vulnerable to late season dryness than an early planted crop.
June is expected to be wetter biased in Canada’s Prairies, the northern U.S. Plains and northern Midwest with near to above average rainfall in the central Plains and remaining western Corn Belt. The Delta, southeastern states and lower Midwest will have a net drying bias and temperatures will be warmer than usual.
The reasons for this come from some ridge building in the southeastern United States. The ridge building will be part of that pattern that will scare the 1983 drought mongers into possible panic mode as rainfall diminishes greatly in June. Second, there will be a ridge of high pressure building over western North America and that will force more cool air into the north-central states and southeastern Canada’s Prairies. As a result of these two features, frequent storm development will take place in the middle of the nation and the ridge in the southeastern U.S. will thwart subtropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the middle of the nation to boost rainfall.
The coming 30 days will be warmer in the southern Plains, Delta and southeastern states, although the wetter bias in a part of the Plains will raise humidity and put a limit to afternoon heating for a part of the region. Temperatures likely will gyrate quite a bit. The coming 30 days may be the last of better rain potential weeks for the southern Plains as the ridge of high pressure begins to build into the region shutting down rain potentials later in June and especially July.
Mid-June to mid-July is then expected to support a low amplitude high pressure ridge in the middle of the nation. The ridge will be somewhat similar to that of last summer except its intensity will be reduced and its staying power will be low. An active jet stream across southern Canada and the northern Plains will keep flattening the ridge and at times sending parts of the ridge downstream across the northern Midwest. Each time a surge of cooler air runs over the top of the ridge some rain will be possible. That pattern will be perpetuated into July and possibly August.
The low amplitude ridge of high pressure in the middle of the nation will have the look and feel of a “normal” summer with one huge exception. The southern Plains will have limited amounts of moisture in the ground when the ridge evolves, and it will not take too many warm and dry days to deplete what moisture is present. And that will lead to more heat and very little rainfall. Tropical moisture will bring showers to the Texas and Louisiana coasts this summer, but it will take a small miracle to send that moisture under the high pressure ridge based in Oklahoma and Texas.