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Long-range Weather Outlook

Brian Bledsoe offers his take on long-term weather outlook.

TV weathercaster and private consultant Brian Bledsoe was back by popular demand. Well-received at the last Range Beef Cow Symposium (RBCS) two years ago, the Colorado-based meteorologist was invited to speak again at the 2017 event convened Nov. 28-30 in Cheyenne, Wyo.

It’s not that Bledsoe tells farmers and ranchers what they would most like to hear. He shares his long-term weather expectations, whether favorable or foreboding, in hope that agricultural producers will prepare for what likely lies ahead.

Speaking to an audience consisting primarily of ranchers from the High Plains, Bledsoe said the tools of his trade suggest much of that region, during coming months, will be shy on precipitation.

Displaying maps representing various forecasting models, he commented on a particular image where, colored in blue, areas of the United States most likely to receive favorable moisture were shown — mainly the Northwest and upper Midwest.

“If you live in the blue, Yay!” cheered Bledsoe. “If you live in the brown, well, that sucks.”
Bledsoe was referring to large map portions colored in brown, indicating that dry conditions are expected in much of cow country, especially on the Western Plains and across the Southwest from Texas to southern California. Driving the forecast is the return of La Niña.

“Right now, the computer models are forecasting a continued weak to slightly moderate La Niña,” stated Bledsoe, referring to the weather-influencing cooling of equatorial Pacific Ocean waters.

While no two La Niña events are exactly alike, Bledsoe thinks this one is influencing a trend toward dry conditions that could persist through spring and into summer. Some variability is likely, but forecast models suggest “plenty of brown” on the U.S. map through much of the summer. On the Plains, he expects it to be driest in southern portions.

“The farther north you are, the less dry you’re likely to be. Notice I said ‘less dry,’” warned Bledsoe. “I’d be cautious about overextending myself if I were operating on the Plains. Dust off your drought plan — pun intended.”

Bledsoe said being “in the brown” might not be so bad when producers know that pretty dry conditions could last awhile — maybe even six to eight months — and use that information to advantage.

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