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WEATHER: More of the same with a few twists

In spite of some of the usual "ups and downs," producers in the Northern Plains states should be able to expect "average" weather for the 2008 growing season, according to Leon Osborne, director of the Regional Weather Information Center and prof...

In spite of some of the usual "ups and downs," producers in the Northern Plains states should be able to expect "average" weather for the 2008 growing season, according to Leon Osborne, director of the Regional Weather Information Center and professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"If you looked from the central portion of North Dakota and South Dakota eastward, we're looking at conditions through the growing season about as close to the 30-year average as possible," he says of average daily temperatures and monthly precipitation totals.

He warns that this does not mean average weather each and every day, but that from mid-April to mid-October, weather will average out to what typically is seen in the long-term average.

"We will see much of the same blessings and curses that we expect over the long average, but the weather is not going to be the nemesis that it has been," he says.

To the west of this area, more of the same appears to be on the way.

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"The western half would be hard-pressed to start off as good as last year, but it will probably be close," he says. "However the dry conditions that have been here for the last 15 years aren't going away." The area "from eastern Montana all the way into western North Dakota is still going to be water challenged."

Farmers will want to be careful with their planting dates.

"The chances are greatly heightened this year for a late frost," he says. "There is more certainty this year than in the recent past."

After that, La Nina weather effects will drive much of the spring weather.

"We've had a very active north Pacific circulation and a more intense arctic circulation that's been more active than we've seen in the last 10 years," Osborne says. "That's meant the unusually cold and somewhat drier conditions."

He expects this to persist into the spring, with one caution: "It does give rise to the possibility, as we transition into spring and the pattern evolves into a springtime pattern, that abundant cool air will interact with air from the Gulf of Mexico. This should increase wet weather patterns."

As summer takes hold, the effects will shift to increasing temperatures.

"There are indications from some of the longer-range climate models that suggest nationwide we are looking at a warmer summer," he says. "That will be felt here, locally, and there are indications that while we're not going to turn excessively dry, we will see a dry-down across the Northern Plains."

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