El Niño Winter Usually Equals Minimal Chance for Drought Following Season

Clint Thompson Weather

By Clint Thompson

A wet winter is expected across the Southeast with the current El Niño weather pattern. This usually leads to a minimal chance of a drought occurring next spring as a result … usually, believes Pam Knox, University of Georgia Extension Agricultural Climatologist.

“Typically, in a year following an El Niño winter, we do not have drought. Every year is different so you can never say for sure, but that’s typically less likely in the growing season after an El Niño winter,” Knox said.

Pam Knox

Rain Relief

Specialty crop producers are counting on increased rainfall over the next couple of months to alleviate some of the drought that is currently being experienced. It is especially concerning in North Alabama and North Georgia where areas are extremely dry or exceptionally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Rainfall was felt last weekend and is expected to start Friday and last through the weekend.

“We can hope that the rain we get is going to wipe out this drought. In northern parts of Georgia, it’s several inches before they’re really out of the drought. It’s going to take time,” Knox said. “Of course, you don’t want that all at once, either, because it’s just going to rinse off. We need to have these nice soaking rains that occur over a longer time period. I think we’re going to see that over the winter.

“If we have enough flowing rain that reaches down through the whole soil profile then we’ll have that deeper moisture to be available for the plants later in the year, too. I think we’re going to likely see quite a few storms that come over the course of the winter especially in South Georgia where the jet stream is likely to set up.”

There is also the potential impact of saturated conditions when producers are attempting to plant next year’s spring crop. But that’s a concern for another day.

“If we get as much rain over the winter as we could, it could be pretty wet going into the next growing season. That causes its own problems for people getting into the field,” Knox said. “That’s a long way away. There’s not much sense in worrying about that now but just something to keep in mind.”