by Courtney Llewellyn

Bunzi was the goddess of rain in Kongo mythology; Horus, the god of weather in Egypt; Freyr, the Norse god of rain and sunshine; and Tohil, the Maya god of sun and rain. Ancient societies prayed to them for good things. Today, we have satellites and expert science to help us predict what the weather will bring.

At the 2022 Commodity Classic, John Baranick, ag meteorology lead with DTN, tried to answer the question “Will dry West-wet East repeat in ’22?” He first noted that dryness/drought has continued through winter in the West; the Northern Plains have been in and out of drought; the Southern Plains have seen the biggest impact, and drought is building there; and the Eastern corn belt saw good precipitation through the winter. (The first day of spring was March 20.)

“For long-range forecasts, we look at analog years, consider computer models and use our forecast experience,” Baranick explained. The spring prediction is being influenced in part (30%) by ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a recurring climate pattern involving changes in the temperature of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean), the lingering polar vortex, which will wane over the season (20%), sub-seasonal influences (soil moisture, snow cover, cloud cover, etc.) (30%) and weather trends (20%). He added that spring is the hardest season to predict.

“The biggest picture: We’re still looking at La Niña,” he said, which shifts the jet stream and results in more moisture in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. We’ve already gone through two winters with La Niña. Will we see a third? “Maybe, maybe not,” he said. Fortunately, the weather phenomenon doesn’t have a big impact on late spring/summer.

  • Spring Forecast – According to Baranick, spring (March – May) is expected to be warmer and wetter (with a colder spell/late frost in April). He predicted planting windows will be tighter this year. April will see normal precipitation, but there will likely be extra rain in May, which means soil won’t dry out quickly.

La Niña is likely heading toward a neutral state, so sub-seasonal factors will have a greater influence on weather patterns with time. Still, Baranick believes that for spring, the dry West/wet East situation will still be in play. Drought will probably continue in the Plains.

  • Summer Forecast – Summer (June – August) will be warmer than usual early on, and July and August will be very wet again for the East. In other regions, precipitation will be below normal. Spring rains may be needed to sustain crops in drier regions – and drought is likely to increase in the Plains. But confidence in this forecast is lower due to that neutral ENSO and reliance on sub-seasonal factors.
  • Autumn Forecast – Obviously, as this is more than half a year away (for September – November), this forecast is beyond computer models’ abilities to predict accurately. Baranick said it’s based more on analog years. And those analogs point to a wetter Eastern corn belt – which could mean a difficult harvest and winter wheat planting.

Autumn is looking average for temperatures; it may be warmer in October and wetter in September, but that will be balanced by drier October and November in the East. The drought in the Northern Plains and West will continue to be a problem. But there could be a period of good rain for the Central and Southern Plains. A lot of this depends on which way the ENSO will go. Ultimately, though, temperatures are too variable to determine if there will be an early frost risk.

Be aware that these are simply predictions from Baranick, and should not be taken as absolute truths for 2022 weather.