By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Weather expert Art Douglas predicts drier conditions and development of an El Niño pattern this spring and summer.

El Niño will bring dry conditions to the Pacific Northwest later this year, Douglas said.

Historically, El Niños tended to form later and last longer, causing the Pacific Northwest to be dry all fall, winter and spring.

Currently, the weather pattern supports the development of El Niños earlier, which means they are not as strong and tend to end much sooner.

Douglas said the El Niño is likely to form in May and be gone by February 2013.

"You're going to have problems right now, have a dry fall and beginning of next winter, but you could already have good moisture again come later in the winter and spring of next year," he said.

For the rest of 2012, drought will continue in the southwest and southeast in February.

Pacific Northwest precipitation will run 65-75 percent of normal, he said.

The spring in the upper Midwest will be similar to previous years with lower temperatures than normal, causing problems with planting. Heavy precipitation may lead to late snows and delayed field work.

Drought will continue in Texas and Kansas, and extend to the Pacific Northwest.

Douglas said the Pacific Northwest will likely be one degree below normal for the spring, but with spotty, below normal precipitation. He called for a slightly colder March, a normal April and then a slightly cool May.

April offers the big chance for moisture in the western U.S., but it will still be on the dry side in the Pacific Northwest.

Drought will strengthen in May from Washington and Oregon into Kansas, Douglas said.

"It's a real mixed bag for the Northwest, but it's sure not going to be a wet spring," he said.

In the summer, Douglas called for above-normal temperatures in the Northwest and dry.

In the Midwest, temperatures will be lower with delayed planting and fewer growing-degree days.

Harrington, Wash., mayor and wheat farmer Paul Gilliland said the drier forecast doesn't sound as favorable for spring wheat as it does for winter wheat, after several years that have been good for spring wheat.

"Less wheat, less money," said Doug Bromiley, a farmer in Washington's Douglas County, of the forecast. "Probably more input costs with less money coming back, that's not good."

There's not much Bromiley can do on his dryland farming operation.

"I always hope to have an average crop with above-average price and below-average costs, but that doesn't always come together," he said with a rueful chuckle.

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