Winter of 2014 could slow spring planting season several weeks

Authored by Jim Langham on Feb 28, 2014

Weather specialist Rick McCoy said that there are several concerns that are starting to come on the horizon for this spring’s planting season as a result of the brutal winter of 2014.
One of McCoy’s big concerns is the damage that could be occurring to area wheat fields as a result of the thawing and refreezing of the snow pack that occurred earlier last week.
“In many situations, there was enough thaw to put water on the fields, and then it almost instantly froze again,” said McCoy. “I know there are places out there right now where there are large sheets of ice covering the wheat. That is always an inherent danger in spring thaw, but due to the amount of water in the snow pack, it could even be greater this spring.”
Another major concern, said McCoy, that could be a hindrance to timely planting is the unusually cold soil temperatures and the tendency of the climate to warm up fast enough to raise soil temperatures for the normal planting periods.
McCoy said that information for Midwest farmers that has just come out of the Agriculture Department of Ohio State University in Columbus states that below normal soil temperatures could linger into April and possibly even May.
“The big challenge this spring will be below normal soil temperatures that could linger into May,” stated the university’s CORN Newsletter.
“Also the Great Lakes ice cover is very high, over 80 percent,” continued the newsletter information. “This means that Great Lakes water temperatures will lag with below normal readings well into spring. This will likely keep a northwest flow of colder air from Canada into the eastern corn and soybean belt into spring.
“We had forecast a colder than normal winter but the magnitude was significant enough that impacts to things like Great Lakes water temperatures are likely to keep the spring warm up in check,” stated the ag publication.
The newsletter noted that best historic years comparative to this year so far include 1962-63, 1978-79 and 1993-94. Other similar years include 1977-78, 1983-84 and 1985-86.
McCoy said that a big problem continues to lurk because there doesn’t appear to be any break in the extremely cold weather for much of the month of March. He noted that projected temperatures for next week include highs in the teens and low 20s and lows near zero or even slightly below zero, especially early in the week.
“Those temperatures are at least 20 degrees below normal,” said McCoy, who pointed out that for the first week in March, normal highs range in the low 40s and normal lows are in the low to mid 20s.
“These highs for the first part of the week are as low if not lower than our normal lows,” said McCoy.
McCoy said that the expanded forecast through much of March is calling for well below normal temperatures, especially in the Great Lakes Region.
While extended outlooks are calling for somewhat of a slowdown in precipitation, most moisture that falls for the first half of the month, in particular will fall as snow.
McCoy said that National Weather Service officials are especially watching an approaching low pressure for this weekend. While on Thursday night, officials had backed off on some of their earlier snow total projections, snowfall totals of 4-8 inches in the local area are still not out of the realm of possibility.
“This storm is still making us guess a little,” said McCoy. “People need to keep monitoring this. In addition, this storm is probably going to carry quite an ice storm with it. Right now it looks like that will occur in central and southern Indiana, with the local area staying mainly in snow.”

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