Winter Wheat Belt Rainfall

Here is what this past week’s rainfall across the winter wheat belt looked like. Given the much warmer than average weather the last two weeks, the wheat is way ahead of schedule. This makes it much more vulnerable to a late-season hard freeze. That said, the wheat around Wichita looks great. 

Demand on Agriculture

According to Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman, agriculture will have to produce in the next 30 years as much as it has produced in the last 10,000 in order to feed our world!

Kansas Commodity Presentation

I would like to thank Greg Agaki and WIBW Radio today for inviting me to participate in their commodity forum where we discussed issues of importance to agriculture.

Question and Answer Time

Other speakers included U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman. Secretary Rodman made an interesting point: That  agriculture will have to produce over the next 30 years as much as it produced in the last 10,000!

Multiple flashes fired when Senator Moran took the stage.


Wheat Belt Precipitation Update

Moisture conditions generally continue to improve in the winter wheat belt, but in most areas west of U.S. 81 quite a bit more rain is needed to catch up after the deficits of 2011.

Here is a map of precipitation the last 90 days:

90-Day Precipitation from the NWS

And, here is a percent of normal map:

The precipitation outlook the next two weeks is relatively good for the region.

More Concern About Global Cooling

Is the first decade+ of the 21st century the warmest in the past 100 years (as per Peter Gleick’s argument)?  Yes, but the very small positive trend is not consistent with the expectation of 0.2C/decade provided by the IPCC AR4.  In terms of anticipating temperature change in the coming decades, the AGW dominated prediction of 0.2C/decade does not seem like a good bet, particularly with the prospect of reduced solar radiation.                             —- Dr. Judith Curry, Climate Scientist

WattsUpWithThat has run two recent articles pertaining to the threat of global cooling. Based on my research, significant cooling would be far worse for humanity than warming.

The first article, by Dr. Nicola Scafetta, discusses the linking of solar-lunar cycles to earth’s temperature.

IPCC's 2007 forecast. The upper and lower bound of the of the green is the "95% confidence" interval (i.e., IPCC is 95% confident the monthly temperatures will fall within the green band). The blue is the sun-moon cycle forecast.

The IPCC’s forecast is failing miserably. Only 16% of the months since 2007 are within the green band when 95% are supposed to be within it. All of the misses are on the cold side. If the IPCC is too warm at four years then they are likely too warm at 40 years.

The second forecast is by David Archibald who forecast the solar slowdown far before it happened. It is downright frightening. Major cooling will cut world agriculture production.

David Archibald's forecast of the shifting corn belt as a result of global cooling induced by the sunspot cycle.

Finally, there is a third forecast of cooling, available here.

As I have said before, I have no idea whether the forecasts of cooling, warming, or status quo will be correct. I am confident the IPCC’s 2007 and, especially, 2004 forecasts are too warm.

Wider Drought Perspective

Reader asked for it, here it is. The map below is precipitation the last 60 days. Green = 2-4″ and red = 20″ (!) or more.

Yes, the drought continues to be quite severe in south Texas, New Mexico, and southeast Louisiana (the latter is getting rain right now).

Here is a map of percentage of normal precipitation the last 60 days. Scale at right.

Much-Needed Moisture

Here is a map of precipitation (rain and the moisture contained in the snow) from the recent storm. Badly, badly needed moisture west of I-135 north of Wichita and west of I-35 south of Wichita.

click to enlarge

Wheat farmers are rejoicing in most areas.

Below is the 60-day percent of normal map for the winter wheat belt. While the severe drought continues in the southern Rockies, the green through blue and violet colors indicates improvement with at least 125% of normal rainfall.

Wet in Wichita

Sixty-four hundredths of an inch of rain (up until noon) of a forecast two inches of much-need rain has fallen in Wichita today. With the slow rate of rainfall, wheat farmers are rejoicing.

Photo taken at noon looking east down Douglas Street.

Weather: The All-Purpose Excuse

This time from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about their terrible track record forecasting recent corn crops:

USDA officials blame unpredictable weather for recent errant production forecasts. They say the figures are snapshots that change based on fresh information, such as damage caused by heat waves or changes in consumption patterns.

This is nonsense. Between satellites aloft which monitor crop condition and newer radar-based precipitation estimates calibrated by rain gauges, the ability to monitor weather conditions has never been better.

Weather science continues to make tremendous strides. It is past time for weather to cease being the “all purpose excuse.”

News From Science

This is, apparently, a serious news story:

SAN LUIS VALLEY — If aphids measured more than a quarter of an inch and had a pair of thumbs, the Valley’s human population would not have survived summer 2011.

Details here.

Thank You, FCC Services

It was my pleasure to address the meeting of Farm Credit Services at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kansas City today.

The topic was An Atmospheric Scientist’s View of Global Warming. There was a lively Q&A after the talk.

Mindy and I had a great time meeting everyone!

Update on Winter Wheat Belt Rain

Here is what the storm looks like now:

I have marked with red arrows the leading edge of the storm. The yellow “L” is the low pressure center still well off the coast.

The National Weather Service’s meteorologist-created (as opposed to pure computer model) forecast of rainfall amounts has now increased and they have scooted the axis of heaviest rainfall farther east.

Click to enlarge

The one point of disagreement I have with this forecast is that I believe it is under-forecasting the amount of rain near the Kansas-Oklahoma border. The models have been quite consistent forecasting amounts near 5″ in an area bordered by Dodge City – Pratt – Woodward. 

Has the forecast of rain been moving the wheat market? Yes. From Dow Jones, here are wheat prices from the last few days. I have put an arrow when we first started forecasting this rainstorm. Note: This is not a blog about commodities. I have only covered this because of the potential wider importance of this event given the extreme drought.
Wheat has dropped 45¢/bushel since the forecast of rain was posted.
I received a question as to the possibility of tornadoes with this weather system. They are possible, but it is not an ideal situation. The NWS Prediction Center has forecast a slight risk of tornadoes or severe thunderstorms (large hail or damaging straight-line winds) two days:


An active weather pattern to say the least.  

Latest on Wheat Belt Rain

The computer models have been trending toward heavier amounts and the main precipitation band a bit farther east — right over the heart of the winter wheat belt. Let’s review:

Japanese Model

From’s Professional site
Legend below European model

European Model

United States’ Medium Range Model

National Weather Service GFS model

The foreign models were run from data as of 7am Central time this morning. The U.S. model was run from data at 1pm.  Interestingly, the U.S. 7am version had a 10″ rain area between Pratt, KS and Woodward, OK. That seems a little extreme but clearly, the models today have trended upward in the amount of rain forecast.

If there is any bad news here, the worst of the drought is along and west of U.S. Highway 83 (McCook, NE – Garden City, KS – Amarillo) and, if the European and U.S. forecasts are correct, that area will only receive light to moderate amounts.

New Meaning to "World Wide Web"

Well, this is interesting.

Take a look at the points of origin of readers of my stories about the rain in the U.S. winter wheat belt. While the U.S. has the most readers, there is significant readership in nations that purchase winter wheat (Russia, China) and produce spring and winter wheat (Canada, Brazil, Australia).

Welcome overseas readers! Please feel free to look around while you are here. By the way, if you are interested in weather, please check out my book, Warnings in hardcover and ebook.

A Weather Situation That Will Move Markets

I do not do commodities nor do I focus on those markets. However, the impending major rain event over the winter wheat belt will almost certainly move markets this week.


Unlike most crops, winter wheat is planted in the autumn. In fact, wheat planting should have been in full force by now but it has been delayed by the extreme drought. Wheat “emergence” (i.e., when the seed sprouts and a shoot can been seen above the ground) is well behind. For example, in Oklahoma 8% of the wheat has usually emerged by this point. Unfortunately, none has so far.

So, the forecast rain will be welcome and preliminary indications are that it will be substantial.

Last night’s run of the European forecast model (today’s precipitation output is not available) showed widespread 4 to 5.5″ rainfall from the Texas Big Bend to Great Bend, Kansas.

From AccuWeather’s Professional web site. Click to enlarge. Scale below. 

This morning’s Japanese model run also shows substantial rains over the next nine days:

The U.S. medium-range model shows lesser amounts of rainfall during the same period, but it is still substantial:

So, if these forecasts are anywhere near correct, this will be enough rain to get the crop into the ground and have it emerge. There are indications that there will be additional rain over the area between the 10th and 17th. Let’s hope so.

ADDITION:  The forecasts have been remarkably consistent. Compare the forecasts above to the one I posted Friday afternoon.

Here is a satellite image at 4pm CDT of the storm as it approaches the Northwest. It will take a turn to the southeast after it moves across the coast.

Signs of Hope?

For much of 2011, the upper atmospheric weather pattern has looked like this:

A high pressure center covering the central and western United States.

Since yesterday both the European (shown here) and U.S. extended range computer models shows a low coming into the central United States:

ten day ECMWF model valid Friday, October 7

The low, centered near Reno, is what will cause the early start of the rainy season in California and will bring rain to much of the West. There is a chance — just a chance — that some desperately needed rain may occur from Texas to Kansas.

However, the U.S. extended-range model (from 10 to 15 days) shows the western system rapidly weakening and moving farther north.

Given 2012 winter wheat planting that is occurring now, these model forecasts have the potential to move markets, so I decided to comment on them even though, at this point, it is only educated speculation as to whether significant rain may fall in the winter wheat belt.

Can the World Continue Feed Itself?

“Politicians,” Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says, “do not understand that between the food market and the energy market, there is a close link.” That link is the calorie.
The energy stored in a bushel of corn can fuel a car or feed a person. And increasingly, thanks to ethanol mandates and subsidies in the U.S. and biofuel incentives in Europe, crops formerly grown for food or livestock feed are being grown for fuel. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent estimate predicts that this year, for the first time, American farmers will harvest more corn for ethanol than for feed. In Europe some 50% of the rapeseed crop is going into biofuel production, according to Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, while “world-wide about 18% of sugar is being used for biofuel today.”
In one sense, this is a remarkable achievement—five decades ago, when the global population was half what it is today, catastrophists like Paul Ehrlich were warning that the world faced mass starvation on a biblical scale. Today, with nearly seven billion mouths to feed, we produce so much food that we think nothing of burning tons of it for fuel.
Or at least we think nothing of it in the West. If the price of our breakfast cereal goes up because we’re diverting agricultural production to ethanol or biodiesel, it’s an annoyance. But if the price of corn or flour doubles or triples in the Third World, where according to Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe people “are spending 80% of [their] disposable income on food,” hundreds of millions of people go hungry. Sometimes, as in the Middle East earlier this year, they revolt.
“What we call today the Arab Spring,” Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says over lunch at Nestle’s world headquarters, “really started as a protest against ever-increasing food prices.”

An important interview in The Wall Street Journal

As if the Record Drought Wasn’t Problem Enough

The last three weeks, I have written almost exclusively about weather and weather-related topics. With so many new readers, I wish to point out that one of the goals of this blog is to talk about applications of science.

As world supplies shrink relative to demand, the Wall Street Journal has the story of

Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.
The discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.
Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann’s discovery that western corn rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields have evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto’s corn plant could encourage some farmers to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by competitors of the St. Louis crop biotechnology giant, and to return to spraying harsher synthetic insecticides on their fields.

This is potentially a big deal. With ethanol-driven demand for corn and the severe drought on the southwest side of the corn belt, we need every bushel we can raise.