The Midwest should see a drier fall and an average winter, according to a climate scientist at the University of Missouri.

Tony Lupo, chair of the MU Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Science at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, expects a weak La Niña period to persist through the autumn. This fall pattern will tend to steer storms following the jet stream west and north of the Midwest. A predicted shift later this year to a more neutral La Niña-El Niño pattern will bring the winter jet stream to a more typical route, giving the Midwest an average winter.

Lupo and his fellow scientists base their La Niña prediction on sea surface temperature trends in the Pacific Ocean.

With the jet stream’s autumn track, the Midwest from the Rockies to Illinois and Texas to the Dakotas will be mostly on the dry and warm side, Lupo said. “It should be generally quite pleasant,” he continued. “The weather should be particularly good for farmers to get their crops harvested.”

If La Niña weakens, as expected, Midwest weather patterns should begin to resemble historic norms.

“Most areas may see the colder weather come earlier than last year, when we were under the influence of La Niña,” Lupo said. “Also, we should see a normal amount of snow. Last year, the Midwest had little snow well into the winter and then we got a lot of snow late. I expect a more normal distribution of snow this year.”

Randall Miles, soil scientist at MU, said any additional moisture in the Midwest would be welcomed. He said most areas are still in deficit condition due to lingering drought conditions impacting Nebraska, northern Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois. Western Kansas and much of Texas are in severe drought conditions.

But Lupo doesn’t think we’ll have an early frost this year. “August was very warm at the end, and that momentum seems to be continuing into September,” he said.

A return of normal rainfall this winter will help recharge soil moisture for next year’s crops.

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