If you believe in omens, 2008 may be the wrong year to grow dryland corn in the Midwest, says Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University Extension climatologist. He cites three indicators:
- A La Niña weather pattern is building in the Pacific Ocean's equatorial region, which indicates a 70% chance corn will yield below trend in the U.S. Corn Belt.
- History indicates the average time span between major droughts in the Midwest is about 19 years. The last major drought was 1988 -- 19 years ago.
- Ongoing drought in states like South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina. Of the 17 major droughts in the Midwest in the past 100 years, 16 were preceded by a major drought in the Southeast.
"We have no scientific evidence to think that all three factors will gang up on us next year to create a major drought, but these are certainly all factors that will put people on edge," Taylor says.
Ample soil-moisture levels, however, are a silver lining for dryland corn farmers come spring, he adds. The only question is how long soil moisture levels will stay plentiful to cope with a summer that may turn hotter than normal.
To learn more about potential weather concerns for Iowa, visit: www.extension.iastate.edu/weather.htm. For more info on Midwestern weather, visit: mrcc.sws.uiuc.edu/. And for more from the National Weather Service, visit: www.weather.gov/.