May Rains Leave Carolinas in Overall Good Condition

We’re here at the tail end of the month of May. It’s a good chance to take a look at some precipitation levels and also the temperatures where we stand right now. And Corey Davis, Assistant State Climatologist for North Carolina, joins me now to take a look at that and what a flip May was from April, huh?

“Yeah, Mike, we talked last week about just how much of a turnaround it was again for the entire month of April, parts of North and South Carolina only had about an inch of rain. We’ve been well above that for the month of May so far. And especially across North Carolina, we picked up some more good rain over the last week, especially in parts of northeastern North Carolina, these had been some of our driest areas coming out of April, and in the Williamston area, getting up toward Edenton, they had two to three inches of rain in the last week. So all that has helped take more of those dry conditions off of the map. And overall, we’re in a really good spot going into the summer, not much outstanding dryness left from the spring. The rivers and streams are all in good shape. The soil is really good shape, which I’m sure the farmers are happy about. So even though we did have that dry stretch back in April, there’s really not too many signs of that dryness left as we go into the summer.”

That is really, really good news for the farmers. And mentioning the moisture, I want to talk about the temperature as well. And there’s, there’s a measurement, I guess we could say that farmers look at when it comes to temperature, that really is a key ingredient to a when they plant, and how well things are going throughout the season. Tell us about that and where we are temperature wise, right now.

“That’s right, Mike, all through the growing season, a lot of farmers will track the growing degree days. This is calculated as the number of degrees on each day that you’re getting above a certain level. It varies based on the crop. But for a lot of crops, like corn 50 degrees as a typical threshold. So if you make it to an average temperature for the day of 70 degrees, then that’s 20 growing degree days that you’re putting in the bank. And we can look and see how these growing degree days accumulate throughout the season. And what we’re seeing now here at the end of May is that we are almost on record levels, especially in the Raleigh area in North Carolina, for accumulated growing degree days. So far this year, we are neck and neck with 2017 which we remember was another pretty early starting pretty warm spring that year, and we are well above the historical average. So again, you consider the warmer weather that we’ve had lately, along with that pretty regular rainfall that we’ve seen over the last month, and it has been a really good, really productive month for the farmers. And again, think back to where we were at the end of April. Some farmers had stopped planting altogether because they were so concerned about the lack of moisture they were seeing. And again, we have turned things around just over the course of one month.”

Yeah, it’s really looking good right now, so I don’t want to jinx it, so I’m gonna knock on wood, I’m gonna cross my fingers, rub a rabbit’s foot to keep this going. Are things looking promising? Are we gonna be able to continue this pattern?

“Well, I think again, we are in good shape going into the summertime. And we’ve talked over the last month about years, like 2007 and how we had a really bad drought developing at this time of the year back then. So again, we’ve avoided those issues so far. Looking ahead, there’s always the potential for summer droughts, especially as more of our rain starts coming from these pop up showers and thunderstorms. Inevitably, some places seems like they’ll miss out on some of that rainfall, and probably feel a little more of that dryness, especially as temperatures keep warming up over the next month or two. The other thing we’re watching closely this year is the tropics. That’s a big wild card in any year, but especially in this one, where we’re expecting an active Atlantic last week, the National Weather Service released their official forecast for the hurricane season, matching with the other forecasts that we’ve seen so far, looking at a lot of activity, potentially starting pretty early. And again, that could be a good a good thing for the farmers if they’re getting rain when they’ve recently had some dry weather, but also it could be too much of a good thing if you’re seeing heavy rain and flooding, especially later on in the growing season. So those are some of the hazards that we’ll watch for as the summer goes on. But again, right now, moisture levels are a good shape. Temperatures have been pretty cooperative, especially to get corn into a good spot here in the early summer.”

One of the things we’ve been talking about on SFN this week is the La Nina weather pattern kicking in, when it’s going to occur. What’s your take on that right now?

“Yeah, the El Nino that we had back over the winter last year is basically gone. And in fact, in the last few weeks, we’ve started seeing some cooler water bubble up in its place across the Pacific Ocean. It looks like that may be the first sign of a developing La Nina, but a lot of the forecasts right now are showing only a weak La Nina taking shape by later in the summer or early in the fall, so that may not impact us quite as much as if that were going to be a stronger La Nina developing, but it does still look like that will make for more favorable conditions across the Atlantic later on in the hurricane season. So again, peak of the season is mid September. It would not surprise me, from that peak of the season on through October or even November, if we’re just seeing storm after storm lots more activity late on in this hurricane season.”