The state of the current El Niño Southern Oscillation is a hot topic among climate predictors. According to the latest ENSO model predictions, El Niño could show “rapid decay” this spring.
According to Kyle Tapley, senior agricultural meteorologist for MDA Weather Services, El Niñ could shift to moderate intensity by early spring and weak intensity by late spring. After that, there’s a notable shift towards a fast transition to La Niña, he says.
“There is still a large spread in the model solutions for the summer and fall months,” Tapley says. “While the vast majority of models show at least negative/neutral ENSO conditions developing by mid- to late-summer, several now show full-fledged La Niña conditions by the summer.”
NOAA says the overall chance of a La Nina event increases to 40% in Aug.-Oct. 2016. This could be significant because La Niña tends to bring “less favorable” growing conditions across North America during summer months – i.e. hotter, drier weather.
“The most significant impact of La Nina on agricultural commodities is in the grain sector,” according to a recent Commodity Compass report from three analysts at Societe Generale, including agriculture analyst Christopher Narayanan. “Dry weather conditions in the U.S. can threaten the development of corn, soybeans and wheat crops, and dry conditions in Argentina and southern Brazil can impact corn and soybeans.”
According to the Climate Prediction Center, a La Niña episode is only classified as such after the Oceanic Niño Index shows a -0.5˚C or more departure from normal for three consecutive months.
For Feb.-Apr. 2016, NOAA says precipitation odds are for a wetter-than-average Great Plains, Southwest and West, and a dryer-than-average Pacific Northwest and eastern Corn Belt. Expected temperatures during this time includes hotter-than-normal weather across the northern half of the United States, plus cooler-than-normal weather along the Gulf Coast into Texas and New Mexico.