The weather prediction for 2006 isn't much different than last year's pattern, reports Art Douglas. The Creighton University associate professor of atmospheric science presented his 29th consecutive annual forecast during the Cattle-Fax Outlook Seminar in Denver last month.

Douglas predicts increased drought in the Southwest, and increased hurricane activity in the Southeast. He sees late-winter temperatures dropping throughout the country — falling below normal through the Northern Rockies into the Northern Plains. By spring, the pattern will retreat to the north and west.

“The precipitation outlook for spring indicates the drought will intensify in the Southwest, with deteriorating moisture conditions,” Douglas says. “Persistent dry soils will help push spring temperatures back to above-normal levels in the Southern Plains by mid to late spring.”

Above normal precipitation is forecast from the Tennessee Valley into the eastern Ohio Valley and along the Canadian border from the Pacific Northwest to the western Great Lakes, Douglas says.

During the summer, the central and eastern sections of the Corn Belt will likely experience a warm, dry summer — very similar to last summer. Meanwhile, temperatures in the Southeast, Southwest, and a narrow belt along the southwest coast will be below average. However, precipitation in the Southwest should be greater than normal as the summertime ridge is displaced to the north and monsoons in Mexico penetrate deeper into that section of the U.S.

Douglas warns that if the spring ends up drier than the forecast, crops in the Midwest will need to be closely monitored.

“Also, the spring and summer forecast for the range country in the Southwest and Southern Plains suggests a very poor grass season,” Douglas adds. “Range conditions in the Northwest should be enhanced by current moisture levels and the forecast for a fairly normal, if not slightly wetter than normal, pattern for the next seven months.”