3 wild weather cards to watch

3 wild weather cards to watch

What’s the early word on the weather forecast for this summer? Farmer and meteorologist Eric Finkenbinder is betting on heat and rain.

“There will likely be enough rain chances to prevent drought. We seem to be in a favorable pattern of not experiencing drought. But tropical activity needs to be monitored this season,” he said at the recent Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Conference.

The National Weather Service released its forecast for temperatures and precipitation for May, June and July on Jan. 18, calling for good chances for above-normal temperatures and precipitation along the East Coast. take a look:

Map showing seasonal temperature forecasts in the United States for May, June, and July 2024

Nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to the weather, especially the long-term forecast. But Finkenbender said the ingredients are in place for that long-term view to be correct. Here are three wild cards he thinks producers should keep an eye on:

1. Boy to girl. It’s hard to believe that abnormal warming or cooling of Pacific waters — El Niño and La Niña, respectively — have an impact on local weather, but data shows that these phenomena affect weather everywhere.

Current forecast models show a rapid transition from the current El Niño to an El Niño pattern by spring, Finkenbender said. When La Niña forms, more hurricanes are likely to occur in the Atlantic Ocean.

El Niño generally means less hurricane development, but last year’s active hurricane season — 20 named storms, ranking fourth among most named storms since 1950 — was abnormal, Finkenbinder said.

One reason was weak prevailing winds from the west – westerly winds – that normally prevent storms from forming in an El Niño year.

2. Warm ocean water. On top of weak westerly winds, the Atlantic Ocean was warmer than normal last year. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, the ocean has seen record warmth, and so far, that trend continues this year, Finkenbinder said.

3. Bermuda High. However, the biggest factor in the recipe may be Bermuda’s high-pressure location in the Atlantic Ocean.

This semi-permanent high pressure usually settles around the western Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda, hence the name. But not last year. High pressure settled farther east, preventing many storms from hitting the East Coast, Finkenbender said. It’s good news.

The potential bad news is where high pressure settles this year, he said. If it re-establishes itself in the west, it could lead to hotter and wetter conditions along the East Coast because that would allow a lot of moisture to arrive north. It could then help cause hurricanes to make landfall later in the season.

“So, if we have record warm Atlantic waters, and we’re moving into La Niña… to me, those are two red flags,” Finkenbinder said. “That could bring a lot of wet weather our way. But for farmers, it could mean more pesticides and fungicides and other things.

Farmers’ point of view

Although weather forecasting is Finkenbinder’s main job — he’s the chief meteorologist at ABC27 News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — he still helps manage his family’s 800-acre, 50-cow beef business in Perry County, Pennsylvania.

This gives him a unique perspective on how a changing climate will impact farms, including his own.

“Last year, our farm had one of the best crops ever. 2022 was the worst ever, and what we are noticing is that storms are forming in clusters,” he said.

Chris Torres - A group of men gathered together in a conference room

As Canada has become warmer over the years, the strong cold fronts that originate there and typically break the lines of hot and humid weather have become less normal. Instead of the long lines of storms that used to form along those fronts, Finkenbinder said he’s seeing more storm clusters, meaning some farms are getting rain while others are not.

Winters are warmer and summers are hotter and longer, especially at night, he said.

“We’re not looking to break record highs. We’re looking to break record lows. It’s mainly warm nights,” Finkenbinder said. “Instead of having those 50- to 60-degree nights, we’re now in the upper 60s and 70s.” Low, and more nights are now in the 70s. Plants really like it; Weeds love it too.

He also sees warmer, drier springs, which is a good recipe for growing hay.

“I had two-thirds of the hay done on the farm before June 1 of last year, which we usually don’t start until June,” Finkenbinder said. “If we have some dry May days, we’ll get enough warmth. Grass maturation seems to happen a little sooner.

But warmer weather also brings more creatures. “My family owns some forests, and the amount of invasive species, and how quickly some desirable trees are being prevented from regenerating, is concerning,” he said.

Appearing on television several times a day, Finkenbinder became a local celebrity. But he said farming keeps him grounded, and he still tries to design forecasts for farmers when possible.

“I try to be very specific,” he said. “Most of the time it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I think farmers need to hear more than just the possibility of some storms or the possibility of rain. I try to give them a more timely forecast. When can we see rain? “And when it could end, and how much can we see. I think it’s just these little details that make a difference in our industry.”

When he goes out to do field work, there are other farmers there too.

“When I’m cutting hay and the local farmers see it, they jump on the tractors and try to cut the hay at the same time because they think, ‘Well, he must know something that we don’t know,'” Finkenbinder said. “So, they’ll try to get out of there.

“This is my 21st year in broadcasting. I can combine my agricultural background with what I currently do with meteorology, so it’s great.”

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