KANSAS CITY — The first week of October was the last time that significant rain fell in portions of the region from interior southwestern Kansas into western Texas. There was one brief bout of rain during mid-winter, but it mostly affected the wheat areas of the southern Texas Panhandle into north-central Oklahoma. Diminishing La Niña conditions and seasonal changes occurring around the world will bring opportunity for change to the U.S. Plains and Canada small grain production areas during late March and April.
In the meantime, Russia snowmelt will begin soon, and the potential for flooding is likely to be high this year. China weather will be favorable for a little while, but it may dry down later this season in the North China Plain. Western Australia may wait a while for greater rainfall to evolve.
Weather trends already have been shifting in March. The Canadian Prairies and the northern U.S. Plains have trended wetter recently with bouts of snow and some rain noted. The precipitation has disrupted many weeks and months of little to no precipitation. However, frost in the ground is reported to be deeper than usual because of prolonged snow-free conditions this winter. Bitter cold air that evolved in December and continued frequently into February brought the frost on, and some areas in the central Canadian Prairies have reported ice down to the range of 6 to 10 feet below the surface of the soil. That likely will delay spring planting for some areas, but more importantly it will inhibit the downward movement of moisture into the soil as snow melts this spring. Subsoil moisture replenishment after last year’s drought may not occur for a while until the ground warms sufficiently and allows moisture from melting snow and rain to soak deeper into the ground.
The recent abundance of precipitation and the trend for more promises to have the topsoil saturated with moisture this spring, delaying early season farm activity in the areas with the deepest frost and greatest snow depths.
A little farther to the south, the central U.S. Plains is still dealing with drought, although mid-month precipitation did bring a little relief to a few counties in central Kansas. Spring weather patterns in North America are promising to produce an active storm track across the central and northern U.S. Plains in the last days of March and April. The stormy pattern will then shift the more frequent precipitation farther north into the Canadian Prairies later in April and May to perpetuate improvement in those areas, as well as the central and southern U.S. Plains.
A wetter bias is expected to evolve from northern Arizona and northern New Mexico through Kansas and Colorado to the eastern Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The pattern will promote rain for improved soil moisture in Kansas, Nebraska and parts of the western Corn Belt where La Niña has left behind a scar of dryness that needs to be eliminated in the next few weeks so that spring planting of corn and other crops can proceed with quick seed germination. The irony of the situation is that the process in moistening up the dry areas in the United States and Canada also will create an environment that is not very supportive of early spring fieldwork.
A warmer-than-usual bias is predicted to evolve this spring in the central and southern U.S. Plains and across the Midwest, Delta and southeastern states. The warmth will improve drying rates between rain events and should help winter and spring crops get off to a great start. The warmer temperature bias may continue into late spring when rainfall is decreasing, and that could lead to some rapid drying rates. World Weather, Inc. does not believe the anticipated weather trends will be very disruptive, although early spring conditions will trend wetter than usual while late spring conditions will trend drier.
Dryness in the southwestern U.S. Plains is not likely to go away this spring. However, it will be temporarily eased. West Texas, southwestern Kansas and western Oklahoma will experience a boost in precipitation during the final days of March and April. The moisture boost will be welcome, but it is not likely to be enough to soak the subsoil, resulting in some concern about late spring moisture.
Timely precipitation early in the spring of 2018 in the Plains will reduce dryness, but warm temperatures building up late in the season likely will generate some accelerated drying that may induce some stress as April turns into May and June because of quick drying rates and a general decline in precipitation as April moves into May.
World Weather, Inc. anticipates improved hard red winter wheat conditions and greater production potential as time moves along. The wetter early spring precipitation bias also will result in some possible delays to spring planting in a few areas.
In the meantime, weather in Europe that has been abundantly wet in recent weeks is about to experience some net drying conditions. A little too much moisture has occurred in recent weeks, and that has left many production areas with a need for significant warming and less rain — at least for a little while.
Wet weather in parts of Ukraine already has translated into some surplus to excessive moisture recently, and some flooding has evolved. Western Russia also is reporting substantial snow depths with saturated ground underneath it. April temperatures will begin warming, resulting in melting snow and the likelihood that some significant runoff and flooding may result if the snow melts too quickly.
In China, weather this winter and last autumn was rated quite favorably with sufficient amounts of moisture present during much of the season resulting in well-established crops and good early season production potentials. China will need timely precipitation and seasonably warm temperatures to induce the best possible crop development this spring. Most indicators suggest a relatively well-balanced diet of warm and cool weather and periods of sunshine along with seasonable temperatures.
None of China is dry enough to raise concern over early-season production potentials. A routine occurrence of showers and thunderstorms is expected, and most winter and spring farming activity will advance relatively well. There is some potential for eastern China to trend a little drier than usual, and if that occurs, dryness would have a natural tendency to expand across parts of the region.
Ocean temperatures west of Western Australia are colder than usual, and that may inhibit autumn rainfall for a while. The implication of this is that rainfall during the autumn planting season may be lighter than usual, and that could result in slow or poor crop establishment. Crops in South Australia, Victor and New South Wales likely will see a more normal precipitation bias supporting favorable crop establishment.