Some northern Indiana counties are already abnormally dry, and a Purdue climatologist is worried it will only get worse across the state as the summer progresses.
“[Reduced rainfall and hotter landscapes], combined with the need by plants to replace water lost through evaporation, is setting a classic scenario for a regional drought,” according to Dev Niyogi.
Associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa says that if La Niña conditions develop quickly and arrive with moderate intensity, drought conditions could be persistent across the Hoosier State by August. “Signature” impacts of La Niña include above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation, he says – a bad combination for the state’s grain producers.
At the same time, extended periods of dry conditions are no surprise to Indiana farmers, Niyogi adds. In 2015, heavy spring rains followed by dry summer conditions produced the smallest corn crop in Indiana since 2012, when a once-in-a-generation extreme drought devastated much of the Corn Belt. Last year’s soybean crop was mostly able to recover from dire weather, however.
“Droughts don’t always mean lowered yields,” Niyogi says. “The timing, intensity, duration and area covered matter.”
NOAA’s summer outlook is calling for typical summer precipitation across the Corn Belt, and elevated temperatures likely – especially in the eastern Corn Belt. Meantime, Bill Kirk, CEO of weathertrends360, says when the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation cycles are both in their warm phases (as they are now), the U.S. is at significantly higher risk for major summer droughts.
“Interestingly, when we line up very strong PDO, AMO and emerging La Niña, you end up with the kind of spring we just had - cool with normal to above normal rainfall,” he says. “But look what happens for summer - an epic change toward scorching heat, drought and dry weather.”