Climatologist: Iowa in 25-year period of “volatile” weather
July 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson
A climatologist with Iowa State University Extension says regional weather patterns have entered an erratic period, but farmers can reap high rewards if they play the markets right. Climatologist Elwynn Taylor says over the last 140 years, there has tended to be 18 years of “benign” weather followed by 25 years of “volatile” weather. “The kind of thing that gives much greater risk to the production of crops,” Taylor says. “Some years might be great, but other years might be a disaster. Of course 1936 — the worst production year in the Midwest in the past century — was in the middle of one of those 25-year periods.”
The major droughts of 1983 and ’88 and the massive flooding in 1993 were in the last “volatile” weather cycle, according to Taylor. “It was extreme weather and we also had some years with record-high crop yields,” Taylor says. “….We can get very good years (and) very bad years during what we call the ‘extreme years’ that go on for a 25-year period, historically.” Plant breeders have developed seed varieties that can endure heat, excessive moisture and drought — and Taylor says the pressure is now on farmers to analyze weather patterns and figure out when to sell their crop.
“People that work in the selling and buying of crops find that their greatest income is in periods of greatest volatility — where prices are going up and down, they can take advantage of this,” Taylor says. “Our farmers can do the same thing.” Taylor says buying crop insurance and selling their crops at the right time will help farmers yield greater profits during this 25-year cycle of “extreme” weather than during the previous18-year period of “benign” weather.
Taylor spoke today (Tuesday) at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Economic Summit in Ames.