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Iowa temperatures not likely to affect planting dates

In Iowa this year, above normal temperatures are more likely in the next few months.

There is also an increased chance for above normal moisture in the northwest part of the state, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

Iowa State Extension Climatologist Elwynn Taylor said two conflicting climate patterns are present that could influence Iowa weather this spring.

A strong Chinook pattern, was evident this winter with warm and dry air coming from the west, Taylor explained.

As the Chinook pattern moved east past the Rocky Mountains, the air warmed as it decreased in altitude, causing warm, dry conditions.

The strength of the Chinook this year made conditions warmer and drier than usual and pushed these conditions farther east, Taylor said.

At the same time, moisture in January, evidenced by fog, signals a possible growing influence from the Bermuda High Pressure, Taylor said.

This high-pressure system east of Florida is responsible for sending moisture from the Gulf up to the Midwest, he explained.

Upwards of 80 percent of Iowa’s moisture comes from the Gulf of Mexico.

So moisture in January would also suggest that the Bermuda High Pressure may be getting an early start and could mean a wet spring, Taylor said.

“Without the Bermuda High Pressure, this would not be the bread basket of the nation,” Taylor said.

There are more climatic conditions to watch this spring.

El Niño conditions are currently neutral, but the telltale signs of an El Niño, are present.

Taylor said the best way to gauge Iowa planting season conditions this spring is to watch Arkansas, as Iowa typically sees similar weather about 30 days later.

Conditions in Arkansas have been dry but are looking about normal now, Taylor said. Spring is the only period where this observation works.

Current soil moisture is in good shape for most of Iowa.

Currently, six or more counties in west central Iowa do have slightly below normal soil moisture.

“Soil temps have been on the not cold side,” Taylor said. “The soil did not freeze anywhere in the state to 4 feet. It reached to 2 feet in most places.”