Winter weather conditions have fluctuated wildly in the Heartland, a likely consequence of an ebbing El Niño. A powerful storm swept through the Great Plains last week, increasing field moisture in hard red winter wheat country and ending a long stretch of dryness.
High amplitude waves in the jet stream have promoted unseasonable warmth in the western United States but colder than average conditions in the Upper Midwest and Northeast in February. It has been a volatile winter with bitter cold waves followed by periods of spring-like warmth.
Slow growth in wheat has been possible in the southern Great Plains due to unusually mild winter temperatures recently. This was confirmed by remote sensing as satellite analysis on Feb. 18 showed widespread greenness Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Previously, field moisture had been rapidly declining from strong drying the past 30 days in both the southern Great Plains and Midwest soft wheat states Missouri, Illinois and Indiana in the Midwest. Bitterly cold weather developed in the Great Lakes and eastern Midwest in mid-February when temperatures plunged 8° to 12° Fahrenheit below average.
But summer-like warmth dominated the Midwest this past weekend, as maximum temperatures exceeded 70° F in Chicago. Unusually warm conditions dominated the Midwest at large, though but only for a very short time, as much colder air has settled in to start the new week.