February 2, 2011 in City

Expected slow melt, rain should help crops, forecaster says

Slow melt, adequate rain should help wheat crop
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Keep your hat and gloves at the ready because cold weather will linger across the Inland Northwest throughout the rest of this winter and into spring.

Art Douglas, who farmers call “The Weatherman,” meted out his chilly forecast Tuesday. It included adequate rainfall that should help deliver another good wheat crop.

For the lake crowd and others who enjoy a hot summer, Douglas predicted disappointment.

The big wet winters of the past several years have been due to phenomenon called La Niña, where cold water gathers along the equator and creates weather patterns that normally deliver cold and snowy winters and cool wet springs.

Douglas, professor emeritus at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., gave his annual weather projections during the Pacific Northwest Farm Forum and Spokane Ag Expo.

Some farmers use his near- and long-term forecasts when deciding what to plant. Douglas has been presenting at Ag Expo for more than 30 years.

His predictions for the rest of winter and early spring mean mountain snowpack should melt slowly, providing irrigators and power producers with plenty of water.

There’s a good chance, however, that the opposite – an El Niño event – will develop in 2012 or 2013 and return warmer and drier conditions to the region.

While farmers across Eastern Washington and North Idaho can prepare for another good crop this year, so too can their competitors in Australia.

Rains have bolstered Australia’s wheat growing regions, and Douglas said it’s too early to tell if the Ukraine and other Black Sea wheat growing countries can escape a drought pattern that devastated their crops late last summer.

It was the fires and diminished crops from this region that helped make U.S. wheat so valuable last year.


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