By MICHELE F. MIHALJEVICH
MCHENRY, Ill. — Farmers hoping for an extended growing season may not be happy to hear what a meteorologist said last month about the chances for an early frost or freeze this fall.
While it’s too early to know for certain, there’s a 30-40 percent chance some areas of the country could see an early frost, said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather, Inc. He participated in Allendale’s Summer Conference Series on July 23.
“I think the bottom line here is that one thing we can say with a fair amount of confidence is that we are not looking at a year that is going to have an extended growing season,” he noted. “We’ll probably have normal frost/freeze dates or possibly some early frost/freeze dates, but the odds of us having a prolonged period without that seem to be low, in my mind.”
Lerner said conference participants shouldn’t walk away from the event saying he thought there will definitely be an early frost or freeze. “That’s not what I’m saying; I’m saying there is statistical evidence that provides a little more of a bias for that to occur, than not.”
In reaching this conclusion, he looked at the status of the latest El Nino weather event and water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska. He also compared statistical data from 1965 and 1983, which were similar weather years.
Earlier this year, some forecasters were certain the United States wouldn’t see an early frost or freeze due to the presence of El Nino, Lerner said. Those forecasters thought El Nino would remain a factor through the end of the year.
El Nino weather events tend to make Canada and the northern parts of the U.S. warmer than normal. The El Nino has become more minimal in recent weeks and won’t have an impact on U.S. weather during the remainder of the year, he added.
A warm water anomaly in the Gulf of Alaska stretching to Hawaii has intensified and expanded recently and could impact the weather in parts of the U.S. this fall, Lerner pointed out.
“This is a very important feature. The longer it prevails, the higher the potential that we’ll see shots of colder air coming out of Canada across North America as we go into the autumn season. If this pattern is still here in September and especially in October, you’re going to be seeing some pretty significant cold shots coming across Canada.”
When such a warm water event occurs in that gulf, the tendency is for it to support a ridge building aloft over British Columbia and maybe western Alberta, he explained. The ridge can become quite steep and force cold air out of the Arctic and into central North America. Lerner doesn’t expect a significant change in conditions over the next few weeks.
Farmers, especially those with late-planted crops, also have to be concerned about dry conditions in parts of the region, he said.
“The heat is accelerating a drying trend and firming the topsoil,” Lerner noted. “Many of the late-planted, underdeveloped crops with short root systems are likely becoming more seriously stressed. This is more of a soybean problem than a corn problem.”
There are pockets of abnormally dry conditions in the region, according to the August 1 U.S. Drought Monitor. A large area of eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois is considered abnormally dry, as are scattered sections of Indiana and Michigan, along with additional parts of Iowa and Illinois.
For August, Lerner is forecasting near to below normal precipitation for Michigan and Ohio, northern Indiana, parts of northern Illinois, northeastern Iowa, and western Tennessee. Normal rainfall is expected in eastern Tennessee, most of Kentucky, southwestern Indiana, and areas of Illinois and Iowa. Near to above normal rain is forecast for central Illinois and southwestern Iowa.