No, this is not going to be another global warming story, but if that were the intent of this writing it would be an easy case to make whether right or wrong. No, this article is about the extent of warm weather around the world right now and the implications on crop production both near and long term.
One of the failings we tend to have when it comes to weather related issues is a short memory. We react to what we feel — and it has been hot. However, it was just a few months ago that the entire Northern Hemisphere was affected by colder-than-usual weather, and April was the most anomalous of the cool months that began in January. More recently, most Northern Hemisphere crop areas have dealt with excessive heat at one time or another this summer; for places like northern Europe, North Africa and Pakistan it has been almost non-stop.
The heat relative to normal in each of these areas has been impressive with a very long stretch of 120-degree Fahrenheit days noted in Algeria and 90-degree days in Europe. Pakistan has reported only a few days cooler than 100 in recent weeks. It has not been the extreme readings that have been so impressive this summer, but the consistency of the warm weather.
The record-breaking hot summer of 2003 in Europe had many days over 100 degrees reaching far to the north in western and central Europe, but this year has only seen such temperatures once or twice. However, Europe’s temperatures consistently have been in the 80s and lower to a few middle 90s, and that relentless heat has affected many crops, especially since there was little to no meaningful rain during much of the warm period in July and early August. Soil moisture is about as low as this meteorologist has seen it in 39 years of work. Oh, there have been many short-term bouts of dryness in the continent, but this year’s low soil moisture has lasted a bit longer than some years. With that said, it has mostly been a northern Germany, Scandinavia and U.K. issue in recent weeks.
Other areas in Europe have dealt with some dryness, but places like France had good subsoil moisture for a large part of the early summer and only encountered serious restress in more recent weeks. Still, the shorter root system of wheat in Europe failed to carry crops through the growing season without losing some precious yield.
Dryness in Poland earlier this summer was also significant enough to harm small grain production, and an early-season dryness issue in Ukraine, southern Russia and Kazakhstan brought down production in those areas, as well. Summer crops have been affected as well, but assessing the impact of damage to corn and soybeans has not been completed successfully. Since many coarse grain and oilseeds are produced in southeastern Europe there is relatively good chance that production may not be as far down from expectations as small grains because of favorable weather in the Balkan Countries, Italy and southern France.
It is not unusual for Pakistan and northwestern India to be hot at times, but this is supposed to be the peak of the summer monsoon season. Rain, cloudiness and high humidity are normally dominating these areas during mid-summer and hold back temperatures. Not this year. Low humidity, abundant sunshine and warm to hot temperatures have prevailed since March and April in Pakistan and northwestern India. Daily highs have been running from 100 to 113 degrees nearly every day this summer and there is no sign of monsoonal rain reaching Pakistan this summer. Cotton, rice and sugarcane produced in Pakistan may still perform relatively well due to abundant irrigation, but the heat is likely to still have a negative impact on production.
The remainder of India’s weather has been a little better mixed this summer with a huge improvement in rainfall in the Ganges River Basin in the past few weeks after the area slipped down more than 40% of normal rainfall in June and early July. Now rainfall is much closer to normal and likely to continue falling abundantly to eventually make the summer wetter biased. In contrast, though, western India has been drying out recently and the trend will last for another week and perhaps two for some areas. The same is true in southern India, but that area can still receive significant rain in September and October supporting crops nicely.
China has had plenty of warm weather this summer, but temperatures have not been quite so anomalously warm that analysts have been reducing summer production. The first weekend in August caught some folks a little off-guard when extreme highs in Liaoning and Jilin reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but that was not-unheard of, and it was expected to be followed by abundant rain in the second weekend of the month. China’s overall crop situation remained favorably rated in recent weeks, despite rumors to the contrary.
Japan, much like Europe and Pakistan has been consistently hot this summer. Daily high temperatures in the 90s and over 100 degrees Fahrenheit have occurred in western Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu for much of the summer. That kind of heat is not common at all for that part of the world and rice may not perform as well as it should because of it. Of course, western Japan suffered from an extreme rain and flood event in mid-July, causing some of the worst agricultural damage in decades. That flood event was followed by the excessive heat that continues today with the only disruption being when Tropical Cyclone Jongdari moved through the region briefly in early August, but temperatures already have heated back up once again.
North America has not been left out of the heat. The Midwest and Great Plains had a very warm to hot May and June, but conditions in July trended a little cooler late in the month that brought average temperatures for the month down to near normal. August is beginning to heat up again in western North America and early in the second week of the month there will be quite a surge of heat in the western Canada Prairies in which temperatures will soar over 100. The heat there is not likely to last long, but it has been a long, hot, dry, summer in the Prairies, too, and production already has slipped lower for wheat and other small grains as well as canola.
The Southern Hemisphere has not been plagued by as much heat, but of course it is still mid-winter there. The odds were moderately high for a colder-than-usual winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but that has not been achieved, although there have been some significant cold shots the winter has not been nearly as harsh as expected.
Argentina wheat production areas are experiencing good weather conditions and Brazil’s wheat region just received a very important rain event to help support reproduction. South Africa’s Western Cape wheat region is in mostly good shape for the first time in about three years, but eastern crop areas in and around Free State are still struggling through another dry winter.
And then there is eastern Australia. Drought has been persistent for well over a year in Queensland and New South Wales, leaving wheat, barley and canola plantings well reduced over normal. The drought is likely to threaten potential problems in 2019 sorghum and cotton production because El Niño is going to begin developing soon leaving a limited amount of time to restore soil moisture before more drought evolves in associations with El Niño.