Drought Outlook: Good News, Bad News

Weather,drought analyst says spring precipitation may be normal, but then it may turn dry again across much of the Dakotas.

Published on: Dec 6, 2012

It may start raining across the Dakotas this spring -- at least enough to get the crops started -- but there's a strong chance that drought will return in the summer, especially in South Dakota and southern North Dakota, says Drew Lerner, of World Weather, Inc. He spoke at the recent Northern Ag Expo in Fargo, N.D

According to Lerner, a ridge of high pressure forms over the Great Plains each summer. The size and intensity of ridge depends, in part, on how dry the soil is across the Great Plains. The drier it is, the bigger the ridge.

He says the current weather pattern is similar to the 1934 drought. The following spring, storms from the Gulf of Mexico dropped enough rain in the eastern Cornbelt to end the drought there. But less rain fell the further west and north you went, setting up conditions for a larger, stronger ridge of high pressure over the Great Plains. Summers storms from the west were pushed north over the ridge as they traveled from west to east.

A thunderstorm builds up on the horizon, promising to promising to be bring rain. Will it be a rare sight again in 2013?
A thunderstorm builds up on the horizon, promising to promising to be bring rain. Will it be a rare sight again in 2013?

If that same pattern occurs this year, the summer will likely be dry across South Dakota and southern and central North Dakota. Northern North Dakota may get more rain because it may be on the northern edge of the ridge where storms will be pushed along by the jet stream.

Price, not drought worries
John McGillicuddy, an Iowa City, Iowa, crop consultant who frequently talks about how to maximize corn yield, says isn't worried about another drought.

He's worried about what the price of corn will be if the U.S. produces a 15 billion bushel crop. He also spoke at the Northern Ag Expo.

Technology and corn growing practices have changed so much if the entire U.S. had a good growing year, the crop would probably exceed 15 billion bushels and that might push prices down to about $3 per bushel.

"It's not a question of if it will happen, but whether it will be this year, next year or the year after," he said.

Price, not weather, is the next big risk that corn growers will have to manage, he predicted.

Farmers weathering 2012 are learning plenty about everything from crop insurance to seed genetics as parched conditions reshape farm business across the country. Consider our 5-part approach to moving ahead after the toughest drought since the 1930s.