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Snodgrass: Changing climate impacts ag

Eric Snodgrass speaks with farmers Wednesday near Lexington / CIFN photo.

A shifting climate is impacting production agriculture and will likely continue to do so.

That’s the finding of Eric Snodgrass of Agrible and professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois. Snodgrass was the speaker at the Brandt Consolidated agronomy meeting Wednesday at the Lexington Research Farm.

Snodgrass reported a slight decrease in the June-August maximum temperatures since 1948. When it comes to overall temperatures, there has been an increase since the 1940’s and the biggest changes are warmer overnight lows.

“That is a trend I will be watching closely throughout the rest of my career in ag meteorology,” Snodgrass said.

We have seen a nine-day increase in the length of our frost and freeze season and the last time a major frost devastated the Corn Belt was 1974. Snodgrass said Illinois farmers stand to benefit in a major way from these patterns.

“You are going to benefit from these changes for quite some time.”

According to Snodgrass, the Midwest is resilient but other places in the country aren’t. This area still averages around 40 inches of rain per year but the delivery of it has been variable in recent years.

“We are getting more big events followed by dry spells,” Snodgrass noted.

Even though have been seeing more rainfall each year since 1948, drought years like 2012 can still happen.

This has been a very interesting year from a weather standpoint with a long-lasting polar vortex event which lasted over two months, giving us plenty of cold air. The whole weather pattern shifted in May and growers began planting like never before. Then, dry weather moved in. Tropical Storm Alberto brought much needed rain at the end of May.

Snodgrass admits there is uncertainty for the rest of the 2018 hurricane season. This could be a year that is below average, but one storm could make all the difference for precipitation. There is currently nothing in the tropics to be concerned over as a massive dome of high pressure sits over the nation.

The forecast is relatively dry for the next week with the European weather model showing the next weather system moving south of Illinois. This area is drier than normal but that could change with some weekend rain systems. Snodgrass believes the somewhat cool and calm weather could continue for the first part of August.

“We are seeing a broad ridge stretch across much of the country.”

The warmth is expected to return by mid-August but will only result in temperatures a few degrees above average. This means 87-90 degrees instead of the upper 90’s.

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