While you’re checking fuzzy caterpillars to predict the weather, keep in mind the El Niño that began last summer is shaping up to be at least a moderate one this time around.

“Many model forecasts even suggest a strong El Niño,” says folks at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (CPC). “But current conditions and trends indicate El Niño will most likely peak at moderate strength.”

Moreover, CPC meteorologists explain, “Temperature and precipitation impacts over the United States are typically weak during the Northern Hemisphere summer and early fall, generally strengthening during the late fall and winter. El Niño can help to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean.”

That might be one reason Mother Nature has so far spared folks along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from more than tropical storms, with about a month left of this year’s peak hurricane season. The periodic weather phenomenon may also explain the desperately needed rains that finally arrived in parched areas of Texas.

Current CPC winter forecasts indicate the primary beneficiaries of above-normal winter moisture will be Texas and other Gulf Coast States (October/November to January); forecasts say these same states will continue to enjoy the chance for extra moisture from January to April, along with the southern part of Southwestern states.

For the week ending September 27, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service:

Corn – 90% of acreage reached the dent stage, which is 5% behind last year and 7% behind normal—a little more than a week behind. Denting was most active in the Great Lakes states and the Dakotas where above average temperatures aided crop development. 37% of the acreage has reached maturity, 12% behind last year and 35% behind the five-year average; more than two weeks behind. Despite active maturity rates during the week, delays of 42 points or more remained in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and North Dakota. 6% is harvested, 2% less than a year ago; 12% behind the five-year average. Harvest was most advanced in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. 68% is reported Good to Excellent, 7% more than a year ago.

Soybeans – Leaf drop had occurred on 63% of the nation’s acreage, 2% behind last year and 14% behind average. Although leaf drop was active across much of the growing region, overall progress remained behind normal in all estimating states. 5% has been harvested, 3% behind last year and 13% behind average. Harvest was underway in most states as the week ended, with the most progress seen in the Delta. 66% is rated as Good to Excellent, which is 9% more than at the same time last year.

Winter Wheat – 36% has been seeded, which is 1 point behind last year and 3% behind average. Seeding was most active in Colorado, Idaho, and Montana where mostly dry weather afforded producers more than 5.5 days suitable for fieldwork during the week. 13% has emerged, 1% more than last year, but 1% behind normal. Emergence was most advanced in Nebraska and Washington where 45% of the crop had emerged, well ahead of normal.

Spring Wheat – 94% has been harvested, which is 5% behind last year and 4% in back of the average pace. The pace was most active in Minnesota and North Dakota as producers hurried to finish harvest.

Barley – 95% is harvested, which is 2% in back of last year and 3% behind the average pace. Harvest in Montana has been delayed the longest of any state: 7 points, or over 2 weeks behind normal.

Sorghum – Sorghum coloring has reached 87% percent complete, 4% ahead of last year, but 2 points behind the five-year average. 45% has reached maturity, 4% behind last year and 14% behind the average. The most significant delays were evident in Illinois and Nebraska where overall progress was over three weeks and more than one week behind normal, respectively. 33% is in the bin, 2% less than last year and 6% less than average. 49% is rated Good to Excellent, 4% less than the same time a year ago.

Pasture – 48% of the nation’s pasture and range is still rated as Good or Excellent this summer, 7% more than at the same time last year. 22% is rated Poor or Very Poor, compared to 27% a year ago.

States with the worst pasture conditions—at least 40% of the acreage rated poor or worse—include: Arizona (67%); California (90%); Montana (48%); New Mexico (49%); Oregon (48%).

The lushest conditions—at least 40% rated good or better—exist in: Alabama (81%); Arkansas (74%); Colorado (50%); Florida (70%); Georgia (56%); Idaho (53%); Illinois (71%); Indiana (55%); Iowa (57%); Kansas (64%); Kentucky (62%); Louisiana (42%); Maine (48%); Maryland (67%); Mississippi (67%); Missouri (70%); Nebraska (73%); New York (59%); North Carolina (59%); North Dakota (57%); Ohio (54%); Oklahoma (56%); Pennsylvania (57%); South Carolina (41%); South Dakota (64%); Tennessee (75%); Utah (50%); Virginia (55%); West Virginia (40%); Wyoming (50%).