With water standing in fields and even flooding in large portions of the Corn Belt, a possible drought is hard to accept. “Even though this spring is too wet, don’t think that we’re immune to drought,” says Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University climatologist. “The sum of factors indicate that 2008 may be an extreme year.”
Long-term Taylor says the next 16 years could see increasingly harsh weather. The current weather pattern is not favorable so far this year, he notes, “and widespread Corn Belt drought is likely.” Taylor points out that the last 17 droughts all started in the Southeast, which is what’s currently happening. Also, the historical average separating major droughts is 19 years. The last major Corn Belt drought occurred in 1988.
Several bias factors affect the 2008 weather pattern, including La Niña. Considered on its own merits, La Nina presents a 72 percent chance of this year's corn crop producing a below trend yields. However, La Niña is fading and the risk has declined, Taylor says. Other risk factors are this year's cool, wet spring as well as last year's drought in the Southeast.
“We’ve never had a record high harvest when we had a cool, wet spring,” Taylor says.
Another climatological factor is the Benner Cycle, which Taylor says also is signaling that it's time for another drought. “We’re due,” he warns.