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The weather pattern known as La Nina has peaked in intensity and may start to fade, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“La Nina is going away,” Rippey said today during a presentation at a USDA forum in Arlington, Virginia. “We’re going back into neutral territory in spring and summer months. As we head into summer, the effect of La Nina should wane.”
La Ninas are usually indicated by a cooling of surface water in the Pacific Ocean that can intensify global weather patterns. They often are marked by drier-than-normal conditions in the southwest from late summer through winter.
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center expects the effects of La Nina to continue over the next few months even as the episode weakens, including dry conditions over the southern tier of the U.S.
Drought in the southwest, including much of Louisiana and Texas, may intensify, Michael J. Hayes, the director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, said during a panel discussion. In August, Texas A&M University estimated that the drought, the worst in the state’s history, had caused $5.2 billion in agricultural losses.
The recent November-through-January span was the sixth- warmest in recorded U.S. history, Rippey said. The four warmest have all taken place since 1998, while the other was 1933-1934, during the Dust Bowl.
This year’s mild winter has also led to dry conditions, and farmers may need to draw water from reserve reservoirs, Rippey said. There also may be wildfire conditions in particularly dry areas, such as eastern New Mexico and west Texas, he said. The Corn Belt in Ohio and Indiana should see ample precipitation through March as farmers prepare fields for planting, he said.
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