USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum featured a weather outlook for 2013 during the final session of the two-day event in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to the 2013 outlook—which was presented by National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Anthony Artusa—USDA meteorologists Brad Rippey and Eric Luebehusen recapped some of the key U.S. and Northern Hemisphere agricultural drought highlights, respectively, from the summer of 2012. In particular, the U.S. heartland suffered through its worst agricultural drought in a generation, with effects similar to those observed in 1988. Grain corn was the hardest-hit U.S. row crop, while the livestock sector was severely affected by a lack of feed due to drought-ravaged rangeland and pastures. Meanwhile, a hotter-, drier‐than‐normal summer impacted crops from southern Europe into central and eastern Russia. Hardest-hit crops included corn in Italy, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as spring wheat in Russia’s Siberia District.
The NWS’ Artusa pointed out that a 2013 growing-season forecast for the U.S. will be a difficult endeavor due to the lack of a strong climate signal from the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Without El Niño (warm water in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific) or La Niña (cold water), a key component of the forecast puzzle is missing. As a result, spring and summer precipitation patterns could be swayed by other, as-yet-unforeseen, factors. However, Artusa mentioned that the NWS and its forecast collaborators agreed that computer models suggest another unusually warm growing season in many key Northern Hemisphere crop production regions. Therefore, untimely heat could again adversely affect some Northern Hemisphere crops in 2013.
All three speakers are a part of a larger team of federal meteorologists who forecast and track agricultural weather developments. Several of the meteorologists are involved in publication of the Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, a joint USDA/NWS venture.