Corn Belt crop experts: Pray for snow
El Nino, a warming of Pacific waters, often leads to wetter weather in the U.S. Midwest. La Nina, a cooling of the waters, can have the opposite effect.
Climate experts say the El Nino/La Nina outlook is currently "neutral" based on data from the National Weather Service and other government forecasts.
"We do not have any clear signal that's telling us whether it could be wetter or drier or near normal precipitation. That's the same for temperature," said John Eise, climate services program manager for the National Weather Service. "When you're looking out that far, going out a month or three months, it depends very strongly on whether we are in an El Nino or La Nina. Right now we are between the two."
The next El Nino-La Nina outlook from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center will be released Jan. 10.
Taylor said a return of La Nina, which the U.S. experienced in 2012, could be devastating: a return of abnormally high temperatures and diminished rains.
"We can be concerned with this dryness but we could have the same setup as 2001, 2003, 2007 that followed major drought years in western Nebraska where it turned exceptionally wet in the spring, reduced irrigation demands. We still carried a high hydrological drought, but agriculturally we were at yield trend or above trend," Dutcher said.
For the moment, however, the worries remain. Freezing temperatures hitting much of the Midwest this week will prevent any moisture from permeating the soil.
"Even if we got normal precipitation through the winter that would not necessarily take care of the drought west of the Mississippi River. It's pretty tough now," Eise said.
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