KANSAS CITY — Have you noticed that US Midwest rainfall has been below average over the past few months or that portions of northern Europe have not seen rain for more than a month? Portions of the US Plains started getting rain several weeks ago, and the trend is still in place while some areas in Canada are just as dry this year as last year. The patterns of persistence have become a concern for some of the market trade and producers around the world. Is this the beginning of another 2007-08 period in which world weather sours, production falls and prices rise? World Weather, Inc. believes this stationary trend is typical of multi-year La Niña events that give way to the quick development of El Niño all in the span of just a few months.
The atmosphere is one big machine. It is responsible for moving around pools of warm and cool air to differing parts of the world, making rain and sunshine occur periodically so that crops grow and people thrive. At times, the atmosphere goes through a major shift and patterns develop — we may be in the midst of that now. Weather has been stagnating for a while. Trends in rainfall and temperature have not changed much in recent weeks and months, but the influence from that seems to be waning, and as a new El Niño event gets under way look for many changes to take place.
Weather patterns have been a little too persistent recently. Drying in the US Midwest has occurred for three months and soil moisture is ebbing lower. Crop stress has increased in the US corn and soybean production region with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Vegetative Health Index clearly showing a decline in crop conditions from eastern Nebraska through Iowa and Missouri to the heart of the eastern Midwest relative to normal and especially relative to last year.
Canada’s Prairies are still dealing with drought, and for parts of southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan it has been seven years since soil moisture was abundant. Well, that statistic is a little too extreme for the point being made here, though it certainly exemplifies the need for change. Europe’s North Sea region was completing a fourth week of well-below normal rainfall at the end of the first week in June and portions of the Baltic Plain were in their fifth week of such conditions. Eastern portions of Russia’s New Lands recently experienced multiple weeks of dry weather along with northern Kazakhstan, raising worry over their spring wheat and sunflowerseed crops.
In the Southern Hemisphere, even though La Niña dissipated many weeks ago its footprint has continued to leave a drier-than-usual bias in place across Argentina, maintaining some worry over western wheat production potentials in the year ahead. Brazil weather, however, has stagnated with a mostly “normal” weather pattern, and the same is true for South Africa, Australia and China.
The atmosphere is much like a fluid, and in fluid mechanics it is well known what happens when you suddenly stop or reverse the flow of fluids. The sudden change in direction of fluid movement causes numerous eddies of turbulent flow first, and then as the original direction of fluid flow slows and begins to reverse, there is a period in which the fluid has no well-defined direction. It is during that period of directional change that fluid motion stagnates. Fluid mechanics is a perfect example of how our atmosphere is dealing with the sudden end to a multi-year La Niña event of significance and the turn toward aggressive El Niño development.
El Niño and La Niña are polar opposites, and their influence on the world is often totally different in opposite directions. La Niña-induced drought in Argentina, Uruguay, southern Paraguay and southern Brazil usually gives way to moisture abundance during El Niño, and the same kind of flip-flopping of weather occurs in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Central Africa, Central America and northern South America. There is also usually an opposite spin on anomalous weather in the mid-latitudes as well during the major trend changes from significant La Niña and significant El Niño.
World Weather, Inc. believes the recent stagnation in weather around the world may be traced back to the demise of La Niña and quickly evolving El Niño event. Our atmosphere is going through a large transition during the next few months, and significant trend changes will occur around the world ending the lingering footprint of La Niña and the most recent period of weeks of stagnant weather and bringing on new trends. Some of those new trends may not be liked while other areas are finally going to see a positive change.
For Canada, the change will be positive in the Prairies with the return of a more active weather pattern and the weakening of drought. Drier-biased conditions that have prevailed in the US Midwest for the past few months will give way to better-timed precipitation and a milder-than-usual summer. In South America, Argentina will see a different spring and summer with drought absent. The recent drier weather in the United States should slowly give way to better rainfall, and the same is expected in Northern Europe and possibly in the eastern Russia New Lands, although the Russia eastern New Lands dryness might linger a while longer before dissipating.
China’s abundant rains of late will give way to drier and somewhat warmer summer weather. Meanwhile, eastern Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and mainland areas of Southeast Asia will trend drier after bouts of long-term wet-biased conditions. Central Africa will see drier-biased conditions soon as well, and India’s weather should trend drier, although the production year may prove better than feared.
World Weather, Inc. believes this change in atmospheric trends should lead to a better agricultural production year in most of the middle latitudes worldwide while the tropics will become the new area of concern over dryness.