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Wet winter, dry summer in store for Northwest

Douglas: 'You couldn't have asked for a better forecast than this one right here'


Capital Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- The Pacific Northwest will receive lots of moisture this winter, but will see drier conditions next spring and summer, a well-known weatherman predicts.

"You couldn't have asked for a better forecast than this one right here," Omaha, Neb., meteorologist Art Douglas told the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention.

The Pacific Northwest will continue to get precipitation in the coming weeks, Douglas said. That allows moisture to build up in the ground, with temperatures near or slightly below normal, but no freezing is expected, he said.

Douglas called for a relatively wet December.

"You're going to get your rain now," Douglas told farmers. "(The Southern Plains) have got to wait until probably February until their precipitation is probably really going to turn around."

A ridge of high pressure from Siberia into the northern Gulf of Alaska and across Canada will keep arctic cold away from the Pacific Northwest, he said.

A weak El Niño, or warming of the surface waters of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, is expected to give way to a La Niña, a cooling of the Pacific, developing a high-pressure drought ridge across the U.S. in the spring. The pressure ridge will mean a hot summer in the western U.S., particularly in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Drought will hit South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Illinois.

Douglas called for early planting and fieldwork, with warm weather from the West Coast to the Midwest. He said he is still concerned about a spring drought in the interior Western U.S. and southeastern U.S.

In the summer, the Pacific Northwest will get 80 to 90 percent of normal precipitation, he said.

Douglas typically compares the weather behaviors of the current year to previous years, knowing farmers will often go back and review their records.

"There's not a single set of years from 1950 to 1980 that has any resemblance to what's going on right now," he said, comparing the present conditions to 1991, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2009.

Douglas expects continued dry weather this fall in the northcentral United States, Arizona, Texas and the Southeast.

The wheat-growing area of the Southern Plains is "in terrible shape," he said.

In key wheat-growing countries, Douglas predicted difficulties in southwestern Australia, noting the government there recently began lowering wheat crop estimates.

Some areas of the Black Sea region are still under drought conditions, but the winter wheat crop is gradually improving, he said.

Europe will be bone-dry for the next two weeks, but moisture will increase throughout Eastern Europe and into the Black Sea area. For now, Europe's temperatures will remain above normal.

After hearing the forecast, Dennis Rea, a farmer in Milton-Freewater, Ore., doesn't foresee any changes to his operation.

"It looks like it's going to be close to good rain in the winter and then slightly off in the spring," he said.

Rea will keep an eye on marketing possibilities in view of Russia's dry conditions.

Garith Krause, who resides in Spokane and farms in Wilbur, Wash., welcomed Douglas' forecast for moisture.

"We've gone through a real dry summer, so additional moisture coming is very beneficial for our crops going into 2013," he said.


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