Explaining the Weather

Explaining the Weather

Dr. Aaron Wilson, OSU Climatologist gave a summary of current and future weather conditions.Dr. Wilson explained the difference between weather, which is current day to day events, and climate, which is long-term weather events over time. It’s like a man taking a dog for a walk. The dog is all over the place which is like our current weather, changing constantly. However the man is like our climate, he is walking in a certain direction while the dog follows erratically along.

Dr. Wilson reviewed the 2023 past weather conditions and made predictions for the upcoming 2024 year. Overall, 2023 was warmer than normal, about 2-30F above normal. It was the 4th warmest year since 1895 and the 49th driest year, about 4 inches below normal precipitation. Last winter was warm, followed by a cold spring. June was hot and dry but the rest of the year had variable weather that was cooler than normal during the day but with warmer nights.

On rainfall, it was lacking most of the year, but not for everyone. Rainfall was quite variable across the region. Most of Northwest Ohio had drought like conditions, although isolated pockets had excess rain. In the winter of 2023, most of western Ohio had 2.5 inches more rainfall than normal and about 2-3 inches of rain in March. May was cool (cold) and dry followed by a hot dry June with 75% of Ohio experiencing drought like conditions. That means most crops got off to a slow start with much lower growing degree days (GDD’s). There were only about 10 summer rainfall events, with a couple of big rain events (August).

That means crops matured slowly. Smoke from Canada accounted for about 9-12% of the slower growth. Most of the slow growth came from North and Northeast winds that brought cooler temperatures and drier air and 3-9% less daily light. Southwest winds generally bring warmer temperatures and moist air. The lower GDD’s translated into slower growth and higher moisture in the crop harvested. That slowed down grain harvest. Some areas got some light fall showers, other areas were dry.

For the long-term climate, Dr. Wilson expects to see warmer winters, especially at night. He noted that about 95% of the USA land mass is much warmer over the last 40 years (since 1980’s). Ohio is about 10F warmer on average for the whole year since 1980. We may see less extremely hot days, but much warmer nights, especially in the winter and summer. Although we may expect wetter years over to come in the future, we can also expect more droughts in the middle of the summer. Future years may see wet springs, very dry summers, followed by wet fall and winter weather.

In the future, expect more rainfall events over 1 inch with fewer small rainfall events 0.5-1.0 inch rains. Major flood events generally occur with a probability 1 event on average every 100 years. Dr. Wilson expects that probability to increase to 1 in 20 years to possibly a probability of 1 major flood event every 5 years. With the land mass in the USA warming, expect higher evaporation and higher precipitation. As oceans warm up slightly, that means higher overall precipitations.

Dr. Wilson is predicting more extreme weather events in the next 25 years. If average temperatures increase 3-50F, that could mean 20% higher precipitation (currently 36 inches/year increasing to 43 inches/year). We may see more days above 900F. Wet winters and wet springs followed by dry summers. Irrigation may become much more common but farmers will have to develop strategies for storing the excess water. Dr. Wilson says to expect more pests like weeds, insects, and disease. With less cold freezing temperatures in the winter, more pests survive. On insects, more fall army worm, slugs, and corn earworm. Expect the growing season to be longer with 28 more days of frost-free weather. However, expect to lose 5 days in the spring to get crops planted (to0 wet) and another 5 days in the fall to crops harvested (too wet).

Currently, the USA is in an El Nino cycle meaning usually hotter and drier summers. The current El Nino maybe waning to be replaced by La Nina events which typically bring in moisture to the Midwest. Overall, Dr. Wilson expects a warmer wetter spring and summer for our area. To combat more rain and warmer or hotter temperatures, conservation practices like no-till and cover crops can keep the soil in place and keep moisture recycling, both in the air, and in the soil for long-term storage. For farmers, the weather and climate is something to always talk about because it effect crop yields.