Jet stream impacts long-range weather forecast

One factor that makes Kansas weather unique is its location in the center of the United States. This makes forecasting the weather in Kansas a real challenge.

John Feldt, founder of Blue Water Outlook, gave a long-range weather forecast for the upcoming growing season during the Kansas Corn Symposium held Jan. 25 in Manhattan, Kansas.

“The weather in this part of the country is by far the most dramatic weather I have ever seen,” Feldt said.

To make a long-range forecast for the next growing season Feldt reviews weather conditions from last year, looks at past trends, reviews current conditions and consults climate models.

“Winter recharge, what we get right now and through the spring, is going to set the stage for our weather and crop conditions as we go forward,” Feldt said.

The No. 1 thing Feldt looks for as we go through winter and spring is a modest surplus of precipitation or soil moisture. Right now Kansas does not have this surplus. The central and southwest regions are experiencing extreme drought at this time.

Ocean temperatures drive long-term weather and our climate. Right now we are in a La Niña weather pattern driven by the unusually cold waters of equatorial Pacific.

“Most likely this is what is shaping our long-term weather trends at the current time,” Feldt said.

During a La Niña the southwest U.S., south central U.S. and parts of the southeast U.S. are usually dry, according to Feldt. Kansas is right on the dividing line between the active jet stream, which could affect the northeast part of the state and the strong signal for the dry conditions over the southwest part of the state.

“This is what makes it complicated for Kansas,” Feldt said “I think a good part of Kansas is in the dry signal area, but the northeast part of the state is closer to the jet stream and could have less of a chance for below normal precipitation.”

The qualifier for all of this is how long the La Niña will last. Weather models show that La Niña should start to wane by the summer months. La Niña is normally more of a winter and spring event. Feldt expects the La Niña to hang on longer than normal and impact the more of the growing season.

For the time being expect cold dry weather to continue in February and March.

Doug Rich can be reached at 785-749-5304 or [email protected].