Douglas predicts wet spring; much of U.S. in 'good shape'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
SPOKANE, Wash. -- One of the most trusted names in weather calls for a wet spring and a dry summer in the Pacific Northwest and more rain for parched California.
Art Douglas delivered his latest forecast Feb. 2 as the Spokane Ag Expo kicked off.
This month, Douglas expects heavy rainfall to continue in California. The moisture will spread into the Pacific Northwest, and then the storms will move into the southern plains to aid winter wheat conditions in Kansas.
"As we go into 2010, the United States really is not threatened with drought," said Douglas, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. "The main planting areas of the country are in pretty good shape."
Douglas predicts relatively mild conditions throughout the northwestern third of the United States in February, with the main cold in the Southeast.
He's keeping an eye on the warm El Niño conditions in the central Pacific Ocean, which favor warmer conditions and means there will likely not be late arctic cold affecting wheat.
As summer approaches, Douglas called for minimal El Niño conditions through March, and La Niña conditions in July.
"That means warming and drying here in the summer," Douglas said, predicting precipitation will last until June in the Pacific Northwest, when it will turn hot.
The Midwest is too wet, Douglas said, and if the El Niño ends in May or early June, it will be better for the United States in general, improving crop development and drying fields to avoid late planting.
Other agencies have made different forecasts about El Niño, Douglas said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts temperatures 11/2 degrees above normal through the summer.
Australian weather agencies predict a gradual cool-off come August, which also means a cooler, wetter Midwest in the United States and a cool summer in the Pacific Northwest.
European forecasters expect a completely different scenario for the United States, with a warm and dry Pacific Northwest in the summer and a drier spring in the Midwest.
"One of these forecasts for El Niño is going to be right," Douglas said.
Malad, Idaho, farmer Don Buehler said he was concerned about the mild weather Douglas predicted for the Midwest, which could lower the price of hard red winter wheat, he said.
"I hope he's wrong," Buehler said.
A dry land farmer, Buehler said he would work to get his wheat in the ground as soon as possible to capitalize on the wet spring in Douglas' forecast.
"Then we could carry through the summer without much rain," he said.
Elsewhere in the world, Douglas said China's rapeseed is not doing as well as is typical, while India's crops are in good shape.
Australia is not as dry as is typical in El Niño conditions, save for some spotty drought in the southwestern and southeastern corners of the nation. Recouping rainfall will be the main concern through the summer, Douglas said.
Argentina has improved from the worst drought in a century last year to ideal growing conditions. Northern Brazil is a little drier this year compared to last, but Douglas doesn't expect problems with soybean production.