According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, Indiana is expected to experience above-normal temperatures during the month of August. Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist in Indiana, reminds us that all that means is temperatures will be warmer than normal if the predicted forecast proves accurate. It doesn’t indicate how much warmer than normal temperatures might be.
There is an equal chance that Indiana could receive above-normal, normal or below-normal amounts of precipitation. In other words, government forecasters are being more cautious than many private forecasters who have been talking about drought for months — especially for August.
La Niña factor
There is a 50-50 chance that La Niña will begin by August, Scheeringa says. This refers to the development of a cool phase in the El Niño-La Niña cycle. This cycle refers to the warming and then cooling of tropical waters in the Pacific Ocean.
Studies show the typical trend seen in Indiana during a La Niña event in August is higher-than-average temperatures with average precipitation. This is consistent with the Climate Prediction Center outlook. There is the potential for regional drought once La Niña begins and becomes moderate or strong in intensity. A widespread drought such as in 2012 is not expected at this time.
Climatologists who have studied the El Niño-La Niña cycle say no two cycles play out the same way. That is one reason why it is difficult to predict long-range weather when a change in the cycle is about to occur.
The other unknown is lag time before the La Niña actually has an impact. The lag time can be as long as three months after an El Niño cycle ends. This particular event in 2016 is shaping up so that whether or not there is lag time, and the exact timing of the La Niña intensifying, will be critical factors to what happens with Indiana crops.