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Climatologist studies early freeze possibilities

With crops running one to three weeks behind normal, many farmers are hoping for an extended summer and a late freeze.

Al Dutcher, state climatologist in Nebraska, says current weather models indicate freezing temperatures could drop as far south as the U.S./Canadian border by early- to mid-September.

“Sometime within the first 10 to 15 days of the month-right around the 8th right now-seems to be when that cold air reaches the Canadian border,” says Dutcher, “but it doesn’t draw it any farther southward.”

What happens after that is less certain, but Dutcher says areas of the cornbelt that show the most significant likelihood of freeze damage include the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.  “I think our biggest fear is if we see any type of freezing conditions-especially 28 degrees or below before we get to the end of September-we’re going to see a large swath of the Upper Midwest and portions of the central Corn Belt take some significant hits on their yield production.”

Dutcher says the other variable in the weather picture is the strength of the El Nino weather event.  Since 1950, five of the seven times an El Nino event has immediately followed a La Nina event-as is happening this year-the average freeze fell after the mean freeze date.

Dutcher says current statistics indicate only a 30 percent chance of a hard freeze before projected crop maturity in Nebraska. 

Al Dutcher (8 min MP3)

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