Weatherman warns of dry future
'This means trouble for the winter wheat areas in the Plains'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
SPOKANE -- Meteorologist Art Douglas predicts relatively dry conditions will continue for the Pacific Northwest through a cool spring and warm summer.
For the spring, Douglas said that cool storms will come out of Alaska and British Columbia and into the Pacific Northwest.
"The problem is any time storms come out of the Northwest, the amount of moisture they have is not particularly high," Douglas said. "The spring overall should be cool, at least adequate moisture, but not a wet pattern."
The Pacific Northwest will see cooler weather and some moisture along the West Coast of Washington and Oregon, but the interior areas will be slightly drier, especially Eastern Oregon and southwestern Montana.
Douglas, of Creighton University, delivered his forecast Feb. 5 at the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum.
For the rest of the continental U.S., Douglas called for warm summer weather from the Southwest all through the major winter wheat areas and into the Midwest.
"This means trouble for the winter wheat areas in the Plains," he said. "On the other hand, in the Midwest, they're going to be able to plant earlier than normal."
Douglas is concerned about a "quite dry" outlook farther east, all the way from Wyoming into Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and portions of Iowa, and the possibility of the dryness extending into the Ohio Valley.
Temperatures will not be particularly high, but the dryness is a concern, Douglas said.
"The main heat is getting away from the drought area, so maybe the crop isn't going to be fried like last summer," he said. "I don't think it's going to be a disaster like last year. If you were comparing to the last 10 years, maybe it's going to end up the second worst or third worst."
The Pacific and Atlantic oceans will continue to work together to produce drought in the Southwest and Plains, Douglas said, but reduced solar activity will mean slow cooling over the next 30 years.
"In three decades, definitely, we're going to see a cooler climate," Douglas said.
The year 2013 appears to be stuck between El Niño and La Niña conditions, Douglas said. He originally expected an El Niño, but it died out.
"El Niño peaks normally in December, January -- this time it peaked way back there in June and July," he said. "It was way off-base."
Douglas said 2013 shows the most similarities to the years 1971, 1999, 2002, 2009 and 2012.
Overseas, Douglas pointed to good moisture for wheat in India, but severe drought for winter wheat in Australia. The soybean-growing region in central Brazil has become quite wet, while Argentina has become dry in the last few weeks. The Black Sea region will receive adequate moisture in the weeks ahead.
Joel Mietzner, who farms dryland soft white wheat outside Airway Heights, Wash., said Douglas' prediction of dry weather eases his concerns about root rot and other moisture-related diseases.
"I would have had to readjust how much chemicals I put on the field," he said. "I probably won't worry so much about rust this year."
Gale Akers of Worley, Idaho, said he was hoping for a drier spring for his logging business.
"The drought is definitely a concern, it's going to increase a lot of prices on different things," Akers said. "We're going to have to be watching that."