El Nino’s return is almost inevitable as ocean waters continue warming in the South Pacific. El Nino years are generally very hot and shouldn’t be confused with climate trends that are measured in much longer periods. Invariably, people will pin the imminent warm up on other factors unrelated to the impacts of El Nino.
Oscillations in ocean temperatures occur in cycles that have transpired since we first began noticing changes in sea temperatures in the 1800s. Some reports stretch back as far as the 1600s compliments of Spanish fishermen.
For reference, 2016 was one of the hottest years on record. That was an especially strong El Nino year. Temperatures across the region during that spring were above normal and precipitation trended above average in most locations, except parts of Nebraska and South Dakota. During the summer of 2016, temperatures were at to well above normal in most areas and precipitation was widespread and locally heavy. During the fall and winter of that year, temperatures stayed well above average, and the wetter pattern continued with a transition to above normal snowfall by November.
Of course, we can’t extrapolate any guarantees from history, but the season of 2016 does serve as an interesting comparison to the impending El Nino trend.
The latest 90-day forecast is suggesting near normal conditions across our region through July, with wetter and warmer weather anticipated across the eastern corn belt, southern plains, and eastern half of the country. That should be good news for most Midwest farmers as spring planting kicks into high gear.
Some areas of western Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas are still incredibly dry. Most of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin are experiencing favorable moisture conditions as planting begins.
Keep in mind, the next few months will likely be transitional as La Nina slowly fades and El Nino starts to expand.