Weather guru predicts normal winter

Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Art Douglas looks at the screen as he delivers his forecast to members of the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention Nov. 18 in Spokane's Davenport Hotel.

Drought looms for many wheat-growing areas of world

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Pacific Northwest farmers can expect a normal winter and a dry summer.

Weatherman Art Douglas presented his forecast during the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention Nov. 18 in Spokane.

Douglas said continuing La Niña conditions this winter could potentially turn into El Niño conditions next summer. That means there won't be excess moisture this winter.

Precipitation levels are about 105 percent of normal, he said.

"Not a heavy, snowy winter like you've had the last couple of winters, but still at least decent moisture to keep things going," Douglas said. "More importantly, also relatively mild conditions in the Pacific Northwest, helping the crop."

In the spring, the region's temperature will be slightly cooler than normal, by roughly a degree, and normal levels of moisture.

"Sure, not the great year you had last year, but definitely not a problem in terms of moisture content," Douglas told farmers.

During the summer, temperatures will be normal. The scenario will be similar to last year, with a cool start to the summer, warming toward the end.

Summer precipitation will begin to dip below normal levels.

"You might start wet in June and end up being quite dry in July and August," Douglas said. "This is still a very good forecast in the sense it suggests you're going to have good harvest conditions as you get toward the middle and the end of the summer of 2012."

Farmers elsewhere may not be as lucky, he said.

Drought conditions will continue in southwest Kansas and Texas' wheat-producing regions.

Australia is receiving a lot of rain earlier than normal. If an El Niño develops, it could turn dry in its wheat production areas in the southeast and southwest.

The Black Sea region of Asia is a key competitor for U.S. with low-priced, lesser-quality wheat, but Douglas said severe droughts from two years ago are developing again. Ukraine and Southern Russia are quite dry with more snow cover than last year. It's a situation with a poor crop along the Black Sea and indications for cold winter conditions.

Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Czechoslovakia will be much drier than last year.

"Europe is a real question mark for the next six months based on how dry it is right now," he said.

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