A new weather pattern has begun to form in the eastern Pacific that could have a significant impact on U.S. agriculture in the coming weeks. A breakdown in a blocking pattern is allowing Pacific storm systems to push toward California and across the central U.S. where it curves up the eastern seaboard. In the coming week, this new storm track, indicated by the dashed red arrow, will bring beneficial precipitation to many parched areas. That is the good news; the bad news is that the same storm track may bring too much wetness to other parts of the country that don’t need it.
California Rains Spread Further South
The first two to three weeks of February saw the northern third of drought stricken California receive beneficial rain amounts of 3 to 10+ inches. The same system caused snow to fall across the Sierra Nevada mountain range, while the southern two thirds of the California only received isolated showers…a tease at best. A temporary reprieve will occur next week when moderate to heavy rainfall and mountain snow will move across the central portions of the state, while some lighter amounts of precipitation could reach into the southern third of California as well. Not a drought breaker, but some improvement for an area that badly needs it.
Snow Likely for Plains Wheat
Much of the Central and Southern Plains hard red wheat areas lost their protective snow cover earlier this week due to warm temperatures and melting. Next week’s storm track will line up from central California across Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Moisture in the form of snow and a wintry mix will benefit dormant wheat that remains in a mostly parched state, despite a couple of moderate snow events over the last two weeks. This layer of protective snow cover for Nebraska and Kansas should limit the amount of winter kill when frigid Arctic low temperatures are expected to return by the end of the week.
Midwest Transportation Impacts
Earlier this week, warm air and rainfall arrived for snow covered portions of northern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and southern portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Flooding of rivers and streams across resulted due to the rain inducing melting and ice jams. The forecast storm track will add additional heavy snow and ice to the region and lead to a slowdown of barge traffic. At the same time, the additional snow cover may lead to more flood potential later in March.
Early Planting Areas of the Deep South
Recent storms have brought 2-4 inches of water equivalent to much of Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Streams and rivers across this region are at or near flood stage. The forecasted storm pattern for this coming week will offer another 1 to 3 inches of liquid as well as severe thunderstorms. Localized flooding will ensue, possibly leading to late planting across the region.