Drought Will Be Hard to Get Rid of in 2024

Drought was a big part of the agriculture story in 2023. Drew Lerner, Senior Agricultural Meteorologist with World Weather Inc., says the 2023 story began three years ago.

“I think the routes in 2023 go back to 2020. We entered this particular solar cycle in 2020. It happens to be a very unique solar cycle. It’s a 22-year pattern. Once we got into the year 2020, we immediately went into La Niña, right? And the 22-year solar cycle and La Niña don’t get along well. We end up with a lot of dryness, and in 2020, we developed this North American drought that extended from Mexico clear up into Canada, and we’ve been dealing with it ever since.”

Lerner says parts of America are still dealing with drought almost four years later.

“We still have drought in all those same places. The drought in the U.S. is further to the east than it was in 2020 and 2021, so that’s where the route is. Of course, it’s been impacted by first La Niña and now El Niño, and we’re still dealing with the same issues. We thought maybe we would see a change with El Niño coming around but that so far hasn’t been the case.”

Despite some precipitation in parts of the Midwest, he says some areas in America will likely still have to deal with drought for another year.

“We have not turned the corner. We still have drought on the Drought Monitor right across a big part of the central U.S., and portions of the Plains and the Western Corn Belt are still dealing with that. The good news is that this is Autumn, and that should get cooler right? We’ve had a crazy warm Autumn so far, and that hasn’t helped our moisture profile much. But what we’re concerned with is that we’re not going to be able to generate a lot of moisture coming up from the Gulf of Mexico because the dominating weather pattern this winter will be very classic El Niño, which is a northwest flow, so the jet stream is going to be bringing cooler air once in a while and certainly not a lot of moisture.”

That Northwest flow means it’s going to be difficult to get rid of drought entirely in 2024.

“That means we’re gonna go through a big part of the winter without much relief in these drier-biased areas. And when we get into the spring, we’re still going to be dealing with the same kind of flow pattern for a while longer, and so we’ll end up still fighting moisture deficits in the spring. I think we’ll have a few-week period in the spring where we can get some better precipitation to occur before we go into the summer pattern. From what I’ve looked at so far, we’re going to see some more ridges in the middle of the country, a drier bias, warmer than normal temperatures, and all that.”