El Niño forecast weaker than earlier predicted

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Though nearly 70 percent of the state remains in drought, crops in many areas are doing well thanks to rains over the last month, according to reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel and the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Many AgriLife Extension county agents reported good or even excellent crop conditions, but the consensus was that more rain was needed soon to maintain growth and meet yield expectations.

“We’ve basically had a lot of good rain in areas that had been particularly hard hit by drought,” said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist, College Station. “But it takes a lot more than that to actually get them out of drought completely.”

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July tends to be the driest month for most of the state, he said, and currently there are no long-range forecasts predicting anything much different this year.

“For the time being, it looks like the best chances of (summer) rain are going to be in the north and northwest, which means the Panhandle may get some more relief,” he said.

But what’s needed to give real drought relief is enough rain to recharge the subsoil moisture profile and refill reservoirs and lakes, Nielsen-Gammon said. And the best chances of that come from an El Niño this fall.

El Niño refers to warmer-than-average ocean water temperatures off the Pacific coast of South America, he said. A moderate to strong El Niño usually means more moisture to parts of the Southwest and Southeast during the late fall and winter. El Niño, translates as “The Boy Child,” because it peaks about the time of Christmas.

This NASA satellite image of May 2 was the reason for predicting a very strong El Niño this year, which would have likely resulted in a very wet late fall and winter in Texas, according to Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist, College Station. “But the recent computer model forecasts are not so enthusiastic,” he said. (NASA graphic) In early May, NASA predicted a very strong El Niño, Nielsen-Gammon said. NASA based the prediction on satellite images showing patterns of temperature and ocean height that were similar to those of May 1997, a year of one of the strongest El Niño oscillations of the 20th century.

“But the recent computer model forecasts are not so enthusiastic,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “More likely, we’ll end up with a weak to moderately strong El Niño.”

This means much of Texas could still have a wetter than normal late fall and winter, just not as wet as it might be with a very strong El Niño, he said.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled summaries for the week of June 9 to 16 here

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife


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