El Nioisture could miss winter wheat areas in Texas

Nov 30, 2009
by DTN

El Ni o—the large-scale weather feature in the equatorial Pacific—is usually a widespread wintertime precipitation-producer in the southern Plains, and beneficial for winter wheat areas.

However, the persistent Northern Hemisphere storm track that has been in place for two years shows little sign of changing. That means El Ni o’s presence could be muted over Texas wheat areas in the 2009-2010 winter.

The more dicey 2009-2010 El Ni o pattern may also keep moisture supplies short in Argentina’s wheat areas, already reduced in size by devastating drought last year.

The result of these two significant effects is a U.S. wintertime wheat market weather factor of neutral due to the prospects for less than desirable production on both sides of the Pacific.

In a normal El Ni o event, the combination of warmer than normal equatorial Pacific temperatures and a west-to-east subtropical jet stream component results in more generous wintertime precipitation in the southern third of the U.S.—from south-central Kansas south through Texas, and east to Georgia and Florida. But this El Ni o is competing with a dominant North America storm track that shows little sign of budging.

Combination of effects “It’s likely that as we go into winter, you’re going to see a combination of effects,” said DTN Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino. “We’ll see an active storm track into the West Coast, but we also likely will see a return to colder weather in Canada. This active El Ni o storm track will not come in through central California, but rather through northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and then drop southeast toward the southcentral U.S. and lift out from there to the northeast.”

The storm track described by Palmerino is oriented farther north than a typical El Ni o storm track. Someone gets left out in this setup.

That “someone” is Texas. “Texas could actually be south of the storm track if this El Ni o pattern acts like it looks,” Palmerino said. “We would have too much drier air entering from the southwest for Texas to get much in the way of winter moisture, except for the northeastern portion. Central, west and south Texas could struggle.”

In 2009, the Texas wheat crop was starved for moisture from winter on through heading. The storm track suggested by Palmerino implies that such a situation could repeat itself. — DTN