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What Will an El Niño Mean for Global Agriculture? -20 May 2014

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Tuesday 27th May 2014.
Sarah Mikesell - TheCropSite Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell
Senior Editor



What Will an El Niño Mean for Global Agriculture? 

Greetings! It was a beautiful Memorial Day weekend here in Chicago! It has been warming up and really feels like summer has decided to settle in for a while.

Along with the warmer temperatures, we’ve seen some severe storms coming through – one earlier in the week brought with it the biggest hail I have ever seen in-person - golf-ball sized and I really do have the pictures to prove it.

Expectations for an El Niño this summer are getting stronger with predictions now exceeding 65%. In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season. The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer.

El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

“Atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the tropical Pacific are already taking on some El Niño characteristics. Also, we are currently seeing strong trade winds and wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, and NOAA’s climate models predict these conditions will persist, in part because of El Niño,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office has forecasted a high likelihood of El Niño striking Southeast Asia in the middle of the year. The weather phenomenon is linked to dry spells in Southeast Asia.

A “very strong” El Niño year in 1997 led to a prolonged dry season in Singapore. NEA said annual rainfall in Singapore that year was about half of the long-term average and the annual average temperature was 1.4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

According to Malaysian news agency Bernama, El Niño could lead to a dry spell lasting about six months for the country.

Australia, which saw its hottest ever temperatures in 2013, is also expected to experience drought conditions as a result of the El Niño. However, many impacts depend on how El Niño affects the monsoons, which is hard to predict. Most El Niños weaken east Asian monsoons, but the Indian monsoon may survive.

An Indian monsoon failure would impact agricultural production severely as 60 per cent of farming is rain-fed.

As for North and South America, the impact is typically increases in seasonal rainfall. Predictions are estimating that the El Niño could develop by July or August.

The additional rainfall will no doubt be welcome in California, Texas and the southwest. But the wetter conditions may not end anytime soon; they could easily last nine to 18 months and come in the form of sleet and snow moving into the late fall and winter months.

Find me on Twitter @SarahMikesell

Have a great week!


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