Posted July 22, 2015
From fishermen in Peru to wheat farmers in Kansas, a shifting weather pattern is the single largest influence on any crop. The rains that fell across the state in May brought new life to the wheat crop that was recently harvested and spotted delays during cutting. And, after years of drought conditions, farmers can reasonably expect more of that moisture to continue, thanks to the official El Niño pattern declared in April, according to Mary Knapp, state climatologist with Kansas State University.
Observing El Niño
The result of this warming was first documented in the 1880s by fisherman off the coast of Peru. The differing temperatures brought different sized fish, meaning warmer seas attracted small fish that could slip through nets intended for larger fish. As scientists learned more, these changing sea temperatures corresponded with barometric pressure anomalies and shifting wind patterns.
Only in the last 25 to 30 years, however, have researchers started associating this El Niño phenomenon with disruptions in global weather patterns, according to Knapp. This effort is now assisted by array buoys in the ocean that transmit data in real time.
Bueno for Kansas Farmers, Not for Competitors
Knapp said if the El Niño pattern persists, then most of Kansas will continue to receive more moisture throughout the rest of summer and into the winter. However, states further north like South Dakota and North Dakota are likely to see drier than average conditions.
While beneficial here in Kansas, Knapp explained that for competitors across the world, an El Niño can signal drier than normal conditions, especially for the Black Sea, China and Canada. Areas closer to the coast are impacted more by El Niño, Knapp said, making countries like Australia especially susceptible to these dry conditions.
But as Knapp explained, “No two El Niño’s behave in exactly the same manner.” As a result, these observations are trends, not guarantees.
Long Lasting Potential
Farmers recently harvested better than expected wheat in many fields thanks to that May moisture, even if the rain also brought foliar diseases and hail events in many places. And, with El Niño predicted to continue for the months ahead, Kansas farmers may see even more rain drops for next year’s crop. Either way, El Niño is a phenomenon to watch.
Check out NOAA’ s official El Niño portal at http://www.elnino.noaa.gov/ for more information and regular reports on El Niño conditions.
By Julia Debes