Weather Outlook for the 2016 Growing Season

“The effect of the current El Niño weather pattern will likely result in a spring that is milder – warmer and drier than normal,” according to Dr. Jeff Andresen, Professor of Geography at Michigan State University and the state climatologist. Dr. Andresen was in Centreville on Tuesday, April 19th to give a presentation on his predictions about the weather for the 2016 growing season based on several models that he has studied.

El Niño is a complex climatic pattern that typically brings warmer weather to many parts of the U.S. during the winter—El Niño is Spanish for “the Christ child” as the warmer weather typically occurs near Christmas time—and is caused by unusually warm surface waters near the equator in the Pacific Ocean. According to Dr. Andresen, the El Niño event that began this past fall is the third strongest in history (tied with the one in 2012). It has also resulted in record-setting warm weather in February and March. This unusually warm weather has resulted in essentially a lack of ice cover on the Great Lakes currently, and Lake Michigan is 3-4 degrees warmer than normal. “This could impact the temperature buffering effect that we experience in western Michigan,” said Dr. Andresen, resulting in warmer spring temperatures.

Fortunately, a look at the history of El Niño events over the past few decades shows that crop yields, corn in particular, are not negatively impacted during an El Niño year. The only year in recent history when yields were significantly affected was in 1983, and that was more due to the timing of precipitation events and the onset of hot, dry weather, creating the “perfect storm” for crops that year. Dr. Andresen said that, if the models hold true, we should expect warmer than normal temperatures in the spring in southwest Michigan with near-normal precipitation, and the temperatures should moderate as the season progresses.

His presentation kicked off a series of Tuesday morning meetings entitled the IPM Breakfast Series which is organized by the MSU Extension field crops team in southwest Michigan. The meetings will run through the end of June and will be held at the Royal Café in Centreville beginning at 7:00 AM. Each meeting will include an update of the major field crops grown in the region, including an integrated pest management (IPM) report, followed by a presentation from a guest speaker on a topic important to crop production. Participants can order breakfast and eat during the meeting. The speaker for April 26th will be Dr. Dean Baas from MSU Extension who will be addressing the topic, “Terminating Cover Crops – How’s, When’s and What-if’s.” For more information on this breakfast meeting series, contact Eric Anderson at the MSU Extension Centreville office (269-467-5511).

Submitted by Eric Anderson, MSU Extension

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