A wet June is an unusual thing in Mississippi since it changes the rules of game in growing crops. We didn’t think much about it as the month of May passed with only a few days to get cotton planted because we knew June was coming and there would be plenty of time to get the rest of the soybeans in the ground, harvest the wheat, and get the double cropped beans planted.
We could not have been more wrong in our expectations, since the beans and cotton that were planted during the few good days in May have been forced to endure almost three weeks of almost daily rain.
Only a few localities have been spared the multiple double-digit rain totals since the first of June. Low lying fields have remained saturated, severely reducing stands in many cases and denying access by spraying equipment.
I am surprised that someone in the major media has not brought up the subject of El Nino, since this may be the driving force behind this major shift in weather as compared with recent years.
If you look at historic weather records for this part of the nation for the past half century you will find a significant slump in rainfall during the month of June, but occasionally there are years when this pattern is totally backwards. When weather shifts of this magnitude occur there is usually some obvious reason for it, and one of the few forces in nature capable of such influence on weather is what is meteorologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation. This phenomenon leads to two kinds of weather patterns, with one being El Nino and the other La Nina.
The Southern Oscillation is driven by the cyclic energy output of the Sun. This cycle repeats on a a fairly regular 22 year oscillation with the Sun reversing its magnetic polarity with each cycle. Sunspot numbers fluctuate during these cycles from low to high levels generally, with some cycles being much more active than others. The energy we receive follows the number of sunspots that can be observed on the surface of the Sun. We just came out of a very inactive cycle which was designated as Cycle 23.
This may sound a little redundant, but the Sun is now approaching its maximum output for Cycle 24, however the general level of energy produced by the sun during this cycle and the previous Cycle 23 are being described by solar oberservers as the lowest in our lifetime. Solar scholars tell us that we may be about to experience the lowest solar activity in more than a century.
So how does all this influence our weather here in the Southern U.S.?
With all the discussion about global warming or more recently climate change being tossed around it’s difficult to see through all the fog and get at the facts, but a correlation made by Landscheidt in 1998 showed that El Nino events usually arrived at about the same time as the maximum sunspot numbers. This suggests that even though there is a tremendous amount of confusing information out there the two phenomenon occur at about the same time. El Nino can develop at other times as well, but Landscheidt’s findings show that it occurs almost every time sunspots are at their maximum. I am happy to let academics debate the reasons.
It’s kind of like noticing that the milk in the fridge disappears every time a certain family member comes for a visit. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where the milk is going. Neither does it take one to figure out that El Nino usually arrives when sunspot numbers are at their maximum, which is now. And when El Nino arrives we normally have an increase in rainfall.
I hope our western neighbors are getting some much needed moisture from this, but for now we need a break to get some work done before this crop grows up in weeds.