El Niño Is Coming

El Niño is likely to be a factor for agriculture in the U.S. this year. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say how much of a factor it will be.

In a June 26 webinar, “El Niño is Coming! Everything You Never Needed to Know About El Niño (and a few things you should),” Jeff Doran, Planalytics Sr. Business Meteorlogist says there’s a 70% likelihood that we will be shifting into El Niño, and in fact, may already be in the beginning phases. The question remains how long and how strong that El Niño pattern will be – and those factors have a significant impact on whether it will be a positive for agricultural markets.

What is El Niño?

El Niño is a sustained warming of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. La Niña occurs when those temperatures are in a cooler phase.

El Niño conditions exist when those average sea surface temperatures are at least 0.5°F warmer than normal temperatures for five consecutive three-month periods.

While growers and farmers in the drought-stricken West are looking to El Niño and its cooler air temperatures and increased precipitation as salvation after several hot dry years, it’s important to note that El Niño is not really a “black or white” event.

“Not all El Niños are alike,” Doran says. “The intensity of El Niño will be the major determinant in temperatures and precipitation amounts regionally in the U.S.”

El Niño events can be classified as weak (average sea surface temperatures > 0.5°F above normal), moderate (> 1°F above normal) or strong (>1.5°F above normal). The last El Niño period, from approximately August 2009 to May 2010, was classified as strong. We experienced La Nina conditions from 2010 to 2012, Doran says.

A strong El Niño weather pattern with its more moderate temperatures and increased precipitation would be beneficial for U.S. agriculture, particularly in the West. Image courtesy of Planalytics.
A strong El Niño weather pattern with its more moderate temperatures and increased precipitation would be beneficial for U.S. agriculture, particularly in the West. Image courtesy of Planalytics.

El Niño’s Effect On Agriculture

More moderate temperatures across the board can be expected with El Niño.

“That’s pretty decent news for agribusiness because we’ll see less extreme heat,” Doran says.

There are more significant differences in precipitation depending on the strength of an El Niño, however. With weak conditions, we shouldn’t expect to see precipitation much above normal levels. A moderate to strong classification, however, means much more chance for increased precipitation in the Midwest and West.

“A weak El Niño is not what we want,” Doran says. “That means cooler conditions than normal in the north. We won’t see more moisture in West, and some will shift to the Southeast.”

A moderate El Niño would be better for the corn belt with more moisture in the Midwest.

“We would like to be in a strong El Niño scenario,” Doran says. “That’s where the West will benefit.”

During the winter timeframe from December to March, we would likely see the most benefit with an increased snowpack which is critical for providing moisture to the West throughout the rest of the year.”

Some metrics aren’t pointing as strongly toward El Niño to this point. With an El Niño, easterly trade winds weaken, and that hasn’t happened yet. Two other measurements, the Southern Oscillation Index and the Indian Ocean Dipole, also aren’t indicating an El Niño, although those conditions can change quickly, he says.

Doran puts the probability that we officially see El Niño conditions this year at 70%. “We are seeing considerable sea surface warming over last the last three months,” Doran says. “We can’t tell where we’ll be right now. We’re cautiously optimistic, though.”

 

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories
CitrusFarm Bureau Supports Bill To Halt Controversial WOTUS Rule
April 21, 2015
 Legislation would force EPA and the U.S. Army of Engineers to withdraw Waters of the United States proposal. Read More
CitrusRecord Number Of Organic Producers In U.S.
April 21, 2015
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services says domestic production has increased by 250% across all markets since 2002. Read More
Captain Citrus running through an orange grove
CitrusFlorida Citrus Gaining Leverage For Next Growth Spurt
April 21, 2015
Amid the battles, moments of real and sustainable hope have emerged this season. Read More
citrus black spot symptoms
Insect & Disease UpdateCitrus Black Spot Rears Its Ugly Head Again In Southwest Florida
April 20, 2015
Recent confirmed findings of the fungal malady forces USDA-APHIS to expand regulated area. Read More
Natalie Parkell and Kevin Osburn of Vertical Horizon Farms
CitrusSmall Family Farms Can Survive [Opinion]
April 17, 2015
It is reassuring amid the corporate climate the agriculture industry has experienced in more recent times that there is still room for the little guy, and — more importantly — a need. Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusMore Social Commentators Changing Their Views On GMO Crops
April 15, 2015
Could public opinion be swayed by evolving narration on genetic modification? Read More
CitrusFlorida Agriculture Rings Up Record $4.2 Billion In International Sales
April 13, 2015
Accomplishment represents third year in a row that Sunshine State exports have topped the $4 billion mark. Read More
The Latest
Havana, Cuba view
CitrusRenewed Relations With Cuba A Concern For Florida Growe…
April 23, 2015
It might be said Sunshine State producers are worried if wider trade is opened as the potential for competing winter crops is real. Read More
CitrusFarm Bureau Supports Bill To Halt Controversial WOTUS R…
April 21, 2015
 Legislation would force EPA and the U.S. Army of Engineers to withdraw Waters of the United States proposal. Read More
CitrusRecord Number Of Organic Producers In U.S.
April 21, 2015
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services says domestic production has increased by 250% across all markets since 2002. Read More
Captain Citrus running through an orange grove
CitrusFlorida Citrus Gaining Leverage For Next Growth Spurt
April 21, 2015
Amid the battles, moments of real and sustainable hope have emerged this season. Read More
Natalie Parkell and Kevin Osburn of Vertical Horizon Farms
CitrusSmall Family Farms Can Survive [Opinion]
April 17, 2015
It is reassuring amid the corporate climate the agriculture industry has experienced in more recent times that there is still room for the little guy, and — more importantly — a need. Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusMore Social Commentators Changing Their Views On GMO Cr…
April 15, 2015
Could public opinion be swayed by evolving narration on genetic modification? Read More
CitrusFlorida Agriculture Rings Up Record $4.2 Billion In Int…
April 13, 2015
Accomplishment represents third year in a row that Sunshine State exports have topped the $4 billion mark. Read More
Florida citrus packinghouse
CitrusLatest Florida Orange Crop Outlook Puts Brakes On Downw…
April 9, 2015
Updated numbers from USDA reveal count continuing to hover just above the 100 million box mark. Read More
CitrusForecasters Predict Historically Weak Atlantic Hurrican…
April 9, 2015
Extended range outlook cites El Niño as culprit in what could be one of the least active seasons in recent memory. Read More
One World Challenge Wall
CitrusToday’s Youth Set To Sustain The World [Opinion]
April 9, 2015
A select group of University of Florida students are thinking of innovative ways to meet the challenges of supporting 9+ billion people on Earth by 2050. Read More
Summer Foley, Miss Florida Citrus 2015
Citrus6 Questions With Miss Florida Citrus 2015
April 7, 2015
Pageant's much-anticipated comeback brings with it a breath of fresh air. Read More
non-gmo label leafy greens
CitrusNational Farmers Union Supports Mandatory GMO Labeling
April 3, 2015
Organization calls on Congress for unified standards to bridge several pending labeling proposals. Read More
CitrusRainfall Relief Welcomed Across South Florida
April 3, 2015
Below-average precipitation for the region during March helps lower high water levels from what has been a rather wet Dry Season. Read More
CitrusEPA Says It Is Unlikely To Approve New Neonicotinoid Ou…
April 3, 2015
The agency is waiting until new bee data has been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete. Read More
FFVA Emerging Leaders Class 4 visits Tallahassee
CitrusMarch On Tallahassee A Fruitful Exercise For Florida…
April 2, 2015
Road trip to the state capital beneficial for Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association's board of directors and Class 4 of its Emerging Leader Development Program. Read More
CitrusCalifornia Snowpack Is Virtually Gone
April 2, 2015
With the lowest water content since 1950, the governor orders first-ever mandatory water reductions in cities and towns, and growers face tighter regulations. Read More
CitrusMake Every Day Ag Day
March 31, 2015
Another National Ag Day came and went on March 18. Did you do anything to promote it this year? Even Read More
Laboratory beakers
CitrusGrowing Demand For Magnesium Nitrate Spurs TradeMark Ni…
March 30, 2015
Via enhancements made to its manufacturing plant, Florida company is able to provide more of its product to various fertilizer distributors and retailers throughout the country. Read More