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vDouglas: Weather outlooks shows continued El Niño around the world

Written by Saige

Art Douglas, Creighton University professor emeritus, noted several models have shown a peak in El Niño conditions, which shows a cooling into summer and neutral conditions by late summer and fall. 

Sea surface temperatures on Jan. 24 show some anomalies, but overall, surface temperatures indicate a classic El Niño, Douglas described in the CattleFax outlook on Jan. 31 at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show.

“This is an ideal situation for bringing storms into the West Coast,” Douglas said. “California’s already had rains and they’re getting ready for a long period of above-normal precipitation.”

“Southwest deserts will dry out as the main jet moves into the Northwest,” he continued. “After a cooler February, the United States will enjoy a relatively mild spring with a reduced threat of delayed planting.” 

Summer season

Looking forward to the summer months, a warm water pool along the equator continues a classic El Niño pattern, with above-normal temperatures from the Gulf of Alaska towards Baja. 

“This type of pattern is very favorable for precipitation throughout the southern tier of states and the southwestern United States,” Douglas mentioned. “I think we have a pretty good insurance policy that we’ll have good rains throughout the country.” 

As of Jan. 21, the vegetation index, which shows changes in vegetation growth from year to year, showed a remarkable improvement over last year, according to Douglas, who added that the index further confirms a classic El Niño pattern across the globe.

Drought

Over recent months, drought continues to contract, explained Douglas, who noted at this time last year, drought was widespread across the Southeast and Southern Plains, but today, it is concentrated in the Great Plains.

“As we start looking at the forecast, this is going to turn around, also,” he said. “We have a major storm track getting to hit the United States for the next three to four months.”

The vegetation health index echoes the trend, with rangeland conditions far exceeding last year’s. 

“Overall, things are really in good shape in the United States,” Douglas said.

Global picture

Around the world, Douglas also sees conditions that favor wet weather in Argentina, but dry weather in central Brazil. The pattern, he noted, will continue into March.

“Argentina has growing conditions that will be way above normal this year, much better than last year’s failed crop,” Douglas said. “In Brazil, crop conditions are below normal, so they will not have the record crop that they had last year. Brazil is seeing drought develop.”

“El Niño-induced drought is widespread across Australia, and this pattern should persist into the fall planting season,” he added, noting the country is missing out on its summer rainy season this year. “We have a lot of vegetation in Australia running at 10 percent of normal, which certainly impacts cattle production.” 

Overall, February through April will only continue to get worse, and Douglas said, “We have to get rid of El Niño before we have any chance of precipitation in Australia.”

“La Niña conditions are not forecast to develop by mid-year, so these dry areas are likely to persist,” Douglas said. 

Forecast

A subtropical jet is likely to move moisture to the United States, Douglas said.

“That cold water off the West Coast and then warm water right along the West Coast is going to favor a dip in the jet stream, which will help us have good storms,” he added, noting wet conditions should persist for the next several months. 

However, with a trough off the West Coast, Douglas said a ridge in the U.S. often develops in the U.S., which means warmer, slightly drier weather in the country.

“We’re going to have to watch these patterns,” he commented. 

For the spring, Douglas remarked the spring is likely to be mild, with slightly cooler conditions. 

Summer conditions depend on the future of El Niño, but La Niña conditions are not likely for at least the next eight months, said Douglas. 

“The residual warmth along the equator will lead to a wetter summer in the southern half of the United States,” he continues. “Warm waters off Mexico will favor an active monsoon in the Southwest. In turn, the enhanced summer monsoon will promote a strong ridge of high pressure along the Canadian border with warm, dry weather and spotty drought forecast for the Corn Belt by late summer.” 

“Warm temperatures, above-normal temperatures are going to continue into fall,” Douglas continued. “This El Niño isn’t going to go away. What we have now is what we’ll have into the summer.”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, summarized Douglas’ report from the 2019 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..