The weather pattern across the Southeast is quite different than last year. Many of us in eastern North Carolina remember how horrible the agricultural season was in summer 2011. Production was down on many crops. Corn stalks were stunted in the fields because of the lack of water and many lawns were brown.
So what is it about this year that makes it different? First, we've seen a change in the ocean currents in the Pacific. Last year we were talking about La Nina, which is colder than normal water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Now the water temperatures are moving to El Nino, which is warmer than normal water in the same location. El Nino is generally correlated with wetter weather in the Southeast. The El Nino tends to spread rainfall more uniformly throughout the year rather than at one time and that is usually good news for agricultural interests. Last year we had Hurricane Irene to thank for the drought-drenching rains across our area in late summer. Irene formed when the atmosphere contained many elements we find in the La Nina. Hurricanes are more apt to be problems in our area during La Nina years. In fact, one day of Irene rainfall made up for three months of summer drought. Unfortunately, it didn't help the crops and the lawns much because the rain came too late. Second, we've seen more moisture heading north from the Gulf of Mexico into our area. We've seen showery periods over the past few months and the long-range forecasts through the summer indicate a continuation of these conditions. If so, we would see normal rainfall for a nice change this summer. Also, let's hope we can keep away the hurricanes later this year.