Good news for Western Corn Belt growers – meteorologist Greg Soulje says that relief is on the way, bringing more rain and less drought. The Western Corn Belt had until recently been tapped as the area to watch for a dry summer and possible crop problems.
The El Nino/La Nina cycle is in the neutral phase, Soulje says. The set-up is ripe for lingering cold and warm air masses to duke it out during June and July over the Midwest.
"Expect a subtle shift of the jet stream southward form the Pacific West, east-southeastward through the Midwest and on to the mid-Atlantic states," he explains. "It will mean longer spells of heat and warmer to much warmer than average temperatures from the Desert Southwest to the southeastern states. Meanwhile, temperatures will average close to or somewhat below normal throughout the upper Midwest, and at times in the Northeast and New England. Wide-ranging temperatures will be found across the Heartland. Extended spells of seasonal heat and cool spells are likely.
"The precipitation outlook for early to mid-summer suggests a wet and active pattern for the northern and eastern Plains, much of the Corn Belt, and eastern states. Drier-than-normal weather is likely in the southern Plains to the southern states."
Just because the drought is loosening its grip in the Western Corn Belt doesn't mean there couldn't be crop issues.
"From the Dakotas through Minnesota and southward toward Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and the Great Plains, a rather challenging early- to mid-summer may be ahead, especially with a cool, wet season at the onset," Soulje says. "Frequent outbreaks of showers and thunderstorms are likely. Significant drought improvement is forecast."
There will be bouts of beneficial warmth, he notes, but these may be few and far between compared to normal early in the season. Winter wheat and summer crop regions on the southern and western Plains may only see limited improvement to the ongoing extreme to exceptional drought.
Soulje is not guaranteeing that every area of the Corn Belt will go into the season completely recharged, but there has been significant improvement in some of the driest areas in March. The picture now looks different than it did just a few weeks ago.