A La Nina in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which arises from cold water and tends to concentrate drought in the central and western U.S., was responsible for the 2012 drought and is lingering off the West Coast -- a phenomenon that could mean continued drought this spring and summer, according to Dr. Art Douglas.
It has shown the "classical La Nina pattern" that associated with drought in the Corn Belt and Plains, displacing moisture there into the eastern U.S., said Douglas, a meteorologist at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
It will continue at least through February, he said.
However, there is "a trigger of warm water in the western Pacific" that could resurface in the eastern Pacific this spring as an El Nino and "take the edge off the drought conditions in the middle of the country," he said.
Douglas spoke to the CattleFax market outlook at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention & Trade Show in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 8.
Douglas said he believes that an El Nino will reform.
He referred to 11 climate indices that have been developed over the last 62 years and said when the indices are inserted into a cluster map, 2013 falls between an El Nino and La Nina, suggesting that the Pacific is transitioning from the latter to the former.
He said this spring will be characterized by normal and slightly above normal precipitation and warm weather in the Midwest that will support early field work, although cooler and wetter weather in late spring may slow planting that remains to be done.
The Southwest will be dry and warm this spring.
He said this summer's outlook is a bit uncertain as the El Nino's strength is not yet known, but he said he does not suspect La Nina to return, which "holds promise" that the midwestern summer won't be dry and hot like it was last summer.
He said the central Plains and Southwest will be drier and warmer than normal this summer but will escape severe drought conditions.
Accordingly, he said the weather picture suggests that farmers can plant and harvest the record corn crop that livestock and poultry producers require to meet costs of production.
CattleFax marks its 45th year this year of providing market analysis and information for cattle producers.