Meteorologist Art Douglas offered little hope of relief through spring for the dry spell gripping the majority of the US right now.

Douglas is a long-term weather forecaster and professor emeritus from Creighton University, and also serves as meteorologist for CattleFax. He presented his forecast for 2018 at the annual CattleFax outlook seminar during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in Phoenix.

Douglas explained the current droughty pattern derives from the La Nina phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which has put a lot of water with cold surface temperatures off the coast of South America and along the equator, creating a weak subtropical jet stream. In turn, that tends to bring little moisture up into the US.

This condition will remain through the spring, but after that the cold sea surface temperatures could begin to reverse and the La Nina pattern could end, he said.

Douglas mentioned two of the main models for La Nina and El Nino prediction show this potential for La Nina conditions to end. Of course, such a forecast suggests hay and forage prices could be higher this year in much of the country, and crop yields could be down a little. It also suggests some livestock producers will come up short of forage in pastures.

Douglas mentioned that as La Nina persists this spring, it should have several effects:

  • Drought and dry will continue in the Southwest and south-central US.
  • Drought concerns remain along the Gulf Coast and eastern states.
  • Spring planting in the Corn Belt will be affected by drier soils in the far west, but snow and wetter soils will persist from Iowa to Ohio.
  • The Northwest and parts of the northern Rockies may have the only reliable grazing into late spring and summer.
  • Little snow cover in the Plains states, together with soil dryness, means the Plains likely will stay dry and warm.