Sizzling July temperatures shatter records
Even with the record-setting month we’ve left behind, conditions are far from the levels experienced during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
“In terms of percent area of country affected by drought (as measured by the Palmer Drought Index), the 1930's Dust Bowl decade is the worst drought on record by spatial area," Richard Heim, a meteorologist and drought expert with NOAA's National Climactic Data Center, said. Read more here.
Though August is already proving to be cooler – and wetter – for many areas in the Midwest and Great Plains, there is another glimmer of hope: the return of El Niño. NOAA’s Dr. Klaus Wolter says that six variables – sea-level air pressure, components of the surface winds, sea-surface temperatures, surface air temperatures and cloudiness – indicates that drought-easing El Niño may soon be here.
As Stu Ellis wrote in his FarmGate blog, “a change in the weather will soon be happening, with the announcement that El Niño meteorological conditions have been confirmed in the Equatorial Pacific. Such a climatic change will bring improvements to Corn Belt weather that will be more conducive to rebuilding soil moisture this winter and better growing season moisture in 2012.”
With just 23 percent of corn in good to excellent condition, the welcomed relief may have come too late. Much of the nation’s corn crop pollinated during the hot and dry weather, slashing its potential yield. The USDA will release its first crop production estimated on August 10, and they will likely be aggressive in lowering the yield. Even so, there is uncertainty over harvest acreage since many corn fields have already been chopped for livestock feed.