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Expert predicts wet, cold winter and spring

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Expert predicts wet, cold winter and spring
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Our polar thermostat is out of whack, and that threatens to make the Northern Plains colder and wetter than usual this winter, spring and early summer, an area meteorologist says.

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"It does look like it will be a late planting season this year," Leon Osborne says.

But the summer and fall should bring favorable growing conditions for area farmers, he says.

Osborne, president and chief executive officer of Meridian Environmental Technology in Grand Forks, N.D., spoke Dec. 9 at the annual Prairie Grains Conference in Grand Forks.

The annual event, sponsored by several area agricultural organizations, drew about 700 people.

A switch in ocean currents caused more north polar ice to melt than usual this summer, creating an above-average amount of open water that has affected normal weather patterns, he says.

"It's really important to us to look at the Arctic region somewhat as a thermostat that tends to dictate what happens to our jet stream. Now, we've disrupted it from its normal position," leading to weather conditions "that are stormier than usual," Osborne says.

The jet stream is a current of fast-flowing air at high altitudes that plays an important role in weather formation.

La Niña, a weather phenomena involving cooling of tropical Pacific waters, also is likely to contribute to the anticipated cold winter, he says.

"We've set the stage for a very long and below-normal-temperature winter that's going to result in increased precipitation," Osborne says.

The stage also is set for "a late spring and potentially a wet spring," he says.

Area farmers aren't likely to enjoy again the fine planting weather of April 2010, he says.

"The opportunity of us repeating what we had last April is pretty slim," he says.

The wet spring likely will extend into early June. "But we think the rest of the summer is going to be really nice," he says.

The favorable weather should extend into the fall, continuing the recent trend of generally pleasant autumns, he says.

Given the strong possibility of heavy snows this winter, the Devils Lake (N.D.) Basin and the Red River Valley of western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota could face "major challenges" from flooding this spring, he says.

"It will be a very interesting snow melt this year," he says.

Osborne, who speaks at a number of area ag events, says his company will have more detailed predictions of 2011 weather available by late January.

Jonathan Knutson writes for Agweek, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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