SPOKANE — The Pacific Northwest will remain wet through March and then turn dry in April, a weather expert predicted Tuesday.
“Whatever moisture comes, it better come pretty quick,” said Art Douglas, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
Douglas delivered his annual forecast Feb. 6 at the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum. He has been speaking at the event since the winter of 1977-1978, he said.
Douglas said the Pacific Northwest is “OK” — not particularly wet, which would be expected in a La Niña.
But going forward, he’s concerned about “superwarming” in the spring, which could cause an early snowmelt, and the trend toward a warmer, drier summer and an El Niño possibly developing.
But, he said, the Pacific Northwest is probably one of the better parts of the world for wheat this year, compared to the wheat-producing regions of Argentina, India and Australia, where drier conditions have developed.
Winter wheat conditions are near-normal in Eastern Washington.
Douglas also said he’s heard winter wheat conditions in the Southern Plains are the worst they’ve been in 10 years.
Model forecasts vary, indicating La Niña could last through October, continuing drought conditions in the southwestern U.S. and Southern Plains, or possibly end earlier.
In the spring, a high pressure ridge will keep the West warm and dry. Northwest flow into the plains will push moisture to the east, keeping winter wheat conditions there poor, Douglas said.
In the summer, warm and dry conditions will continue to impact the West, Douglas said.
Expanding drought is evident in California and the Southwest, Douglas said, adding that spring high-pressure ridges persisting off the West Coast will be “disastrous” for California.
“They had some good moisture there in November,” he said. “It started turning dry in December, they had a very dry January. ...It looks like they’re going to have virtually no precipitation in February, and now you look at this forecast, complete blocking of all storms getting into California.”
Douglas said 2018 is most likely to resemble 2001, 1956, 1951, 1994 and 2014.
Oregon will be a little drier than Washington, Douglas said.
“The last good wet month is really March, and from then on out you’re flirting with dryness,” Douglas told growers.