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Planalytics: 2015 Was Second Warmest Year on Record, Third Wettest


Source: Planalytics news release

Since 1895, the National Weather Service of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) has maintained weather records from across the country. Each month, they rank, by state, how warm or cold, wet or dry that period was against all previous years. This past week, NWS issued their final report for 2015 and – in an unusual twist – 2015 turned out to be one of the warmest and the wettest ever in the past 121 years.

Lookback 2015

-Nationally, the average temperature across the lower 48 states averaged 54.4° F, making 2015 the second warmest in history. Only 2012 was warmer.

-Every state had a yearly average temperature that was above to much above normal with Washington, Oregon, Montana and Florida recording their warmest ever.

-Precipitation in the January through December 2015 calendar year averaged 34.5 inches, trailing only 1973 and 1983 as the third wettest on record.

-While the interior of the country saw most states record wetter than normal conditions, especially Texas and Oklahoma, drought conditions prevailed in California.

Looking Back at Weather’s Impact on U.S. Agriculture in 2015

January and February brought a very cold trend to the interior of the country and eastern states. Although drier overall, more snow and ice episodes occurred as a result. Winter Wheat areas were challenged by a lack of appreciable moisture and increasing drought. The lack of consistent snow cover also produced winter kill in some areas.

Spring planting season saw strong regional differences. While planting came earlier than typical for producers in many Corn Belt states such as Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa, a cooler and considerably wetter trend affected growers from Texas northward across a broad area of the eastern Corn Belt. Parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio experienced delays of 2-3 weeks.

The early growing season saw considerable challenges due to weather. Specifically, a persistently wet pattern that initially brought record rainfall to Texas and Oklahoma in May extended north and east from Kansas to Ohio into the month of June.

Particularly hard hit was Missouri, which experienced significant delays in soybean planting and post-planting field work challenges given the very wet conditions. In the areas impacted most, replant and prevent plant acres were considerable; delays in wheat harvest were also widespread due to too wet fields.

Despite those early season challenges, the primary growing season was one of little weather-related stress during critical production stages.

Temperatures in the July-August corn pollination period averaged cooler than normal and along with adequate precipitation proved beneficial for corn and soybean yield projections. Elsewhere, western agriculture was strongly challenged by record heat and drought conditions for the fourth consecutive year.

Overall, the summer crop harvest season was warm – warmer to much warmer than typical – for nearly all growing regions. This was beneficial in finishing crops, particularly in those areas where late planting and replanting was prevalent. The drier trend, while providing some challenges to late stage development, allowed for little field work restriction.

By late December, the El Niño phenomenon that had continued to build in strength and influence throughout the year, reached its peak intensity, matching the 1997-98 episode as the strongest ever recorded. As a result, the optimistic moisture outlook for the parched western states came to fruition.

Frequent Pacific storms were the rule from mid-November to year-end that brought above normal rainfall and copious mountain snow. While still early in the winter season, 2015 ended with the West on track to have its best moisture accumulation in four years. While not totally reversing the epic drought, there is the potential to help replenish soil moisture and reservoirs ahead of the 2016 growing season.

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