June 12, 2024

More moisture, heat on tap for Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Farmers throughout Illinois might want the rain to take a break, but that might not happen anytime soon, according to the state climatologist.

“A lot of folks would probably say that’s enough for now, but Mother Nature is not going to listen,” said Trent Ford.

Illinois’ top weatherperson said the warmer, wetter pattern that settled in place at the start of May is likely to continue throughout the summer.

“For right now, the long-term outlook, taking us through summer, is looking more confident for above-normal temperatures and maybe above-normal precipitation,” he said.

The warmer-than-normal part of that outlook could provide some confidence for farmers who have been delayed getting into all or parts of their fields as rain persisted in April and into May throughout the state.

“Mild switches to warm as we move from April to May to June and above-normal temperatures, in June, are warm. That is what we are looking at now,” Ford said. “We can have these short-term fluctuations, but warmer than normal is the long-term trend here.”

That could be the cure for repeated heavy rains in May.

“If we do get the rain that we are expected to get, it could postpone further spring planting activity. So, having these above-normal temperatures in May and into June could jumpstart that emergence and crop growth, even if planting is not as timely as what folks always want,” Ford said.

Preliminary outlooks for the rest of the summer show the same warmer and wetter pattern continuing.

“When we look out beyond that, into the early summer period, June and the first part of July, we’re seeing the same kind of signals of warmer than normal conditions persisting and above-normal precipitation, which suggests kind of a stormy start to the summer and abundant amounts of moisture,” Ford said.

Later summer could see some dryness, but the state climatologist said long-range forecasts are giving mixed signals about a possible late summer drought.

“It’s switching to a bit drier than normal and maybe some drought development in some of the western areas, the Western Plains and maybe the western Corn Belt,” he said.

“We’ll have to see how these forecasts evolve, but for us there’s really been more of a mixed signal, not real strong signal of wetter or drier than normal. It is expected that above-normal temperatures remain throughout the entire summer.”

One well-known weather phenomenon that probably won’t be around this summer is El Niño. Ford said data indicates a shift into the neutral phase of the El Niño/La Niña cycle, with La Niña making a return in the fall.

“Very rarely would we carry one of those phases through the summer. We usually lose it then gain something back in the fall and that is what it is looking like,” he said.

But that El Niño to La Niña shift carries some characteristics of its own.

“If we look at historical analogs, years that we have similar set ups and what those produced, when we have an El Niño that is dying and shifting to La Niña, that has tended to produce warmer summers overall and, in general stormier summers, which could mean consistent rainfall,” Ford said.

“We also have to mention that any given year can’t be a good forecast for another year. Every year is different.”

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor