El Nino is finally showing signs of weakening for the first time in four years.

El Nino has been dominating U.S. and South American weather for the last few months but there are some signs that the weather pattern may be changing.  Weather experts at the Water Street Solutions Edge Conference in Tucson, Arizona talked about what that means for farmers in 2024.

El Nino has held on longer than expected which has meant a warmer drier winter so far in the corn belt.  However, that pattern is starting to break down which is good news for grain producers but potentially bad news for cattle producers, especially feedlot operations.

El Nino is finally showing signs of weakening for the first time in four years.  Weather expert Eric Snodgrass says its plateaued and may stay that way for the rest of the winter.

Eric Snodgrass, Senior Science Fellow, Nutrien Ag Solutions, says, "We think that by March we’re going to see it collapse and go quickly back to neutral conditions which means by spring and summer we could be talking about no strong signal from the equatorial Pacific."

Kurt Hinz, Meteorologist, BAM Weather says that means no major break in the drought areas of the corn belt until spring.  "It is also common with El Ninos to get dry in the upper Midwest, the Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley and it's already been ongoing too as well.  So, I would say If this El Nino lasts a little bit longer that would be a risk as we’re going into the first half of the season. "

Snodgrass has looked at El Nino winters going back to 1960 to determine what that means for the U.S. planting season.  "We actually tended to have a little bit tighter planting windows in spring.  It tended to be cooler early and then warmer when we got into May."

Hinz says until El Nino fully fades the jet stream will also stay farther to the south bring moisture to the Central and Southern Plains.  That’s good news for the dry winter wheat and cotton areas, but bad news for cattle feeding areas who will see performance and weight gains wane with cold and mud in the feedlots.

Hinz says, "It’s the next five systems that are going to be going across the country that I think will start to eat away at the drought that’s tucked away in the Mid-South, that’s tucked away in parts of the corn belt and its definitely going to pack up some snow in the northwest." 

And both agree that even with spring precipitation it will take time for recharge subsoil moisture, so some areas will see lingering drought and be dependent on just in time rains like in 2023.