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Drought Drama in Midwest: Hurricane Dennis - 07.08.05

Farmers in the Midwest are praying for a miracle in the form of Hurricane Dennis


Hurricane tracks into the Midwest

The Corn Belt is drying up in the east and the farmers are praying for a long shot in Hurricane Dennis. In watching these scenarios for a few years now it seems that in order to really bring rains into the Corn Belt it takes a hit from a hurricane like Gilbert in 1988 (green arrow) to bring up a moisture plume strong enough to help. Gilbert was the strongest hurricane ever recorded and the longest-lived.

The track of Gilbert through Texas and then the long lived curve to the north provided the ample moisture for the eastern belt that kept the crop from tanking completely. The storm was moving fast when it hit far to the west on the Gulf Coast. The track and the momentum allowed it to curve into the Midwest and maintain force.

In contrast to this Ivan (light blue arrow) last year blustered on shore in the eastern Gulf Coast and then headed north into Alabama but the moisture plume from that storm was ineffective in the higher latitudes of the Midwest. The track was too far to the east and the storm faded fast and then turned south again lacking a transiting trough on the continent to help it move to the north. A hurricane approaching from the south is aided by the passage of a strong digging trough to the north. The low pressure in the trough is a tracking target for storms since it breaks through the steering ridges that guide these unpredictable storms eastward across the Atlantic.

This year the hurricane tracks so far are showing signs of being far enough west for storms transiting at a good rate west from the Caribbean, to penetrate into the Midwest when they make their curve. As a prelude, three out of the four named storms so far have tracked from the Gulf of Mexico almost due north into the Ozarks (dark blue arrow). There is a 72° eclipse tracking line this season going from the Yucatan to the eastern tip of Texas (turquoise 72° jet curve). The storms so far seem to be favoring this line.

This year has an eclipse grid analog similar to the year 1995 when the eclipse lines were in a comparable position and there were also lot of named storms that year. During that year there was one storm that made a track from the Caribbean to the Midwest bringing moisture. That was Hurricane Erin (pink arrow) started out to the north of the Dominican Republic. It crossed Florida, made a landfall in the Mississippi delta and then turned north into the eastern Corn Belt in the end of July.

Looking at hurricane influences in higher latitudes, in the last analysis it seem to take a lot for a hurricane to provide enough moisture to save a bad year of crops in the Midwest. I would guess that the odds are against it although I haven't done the analysis to be sure.

Hurricane Dennis (black arrow) may encounter a trough over the Midwest that is now transiting the eastern Gulf of Alaska. The ridging in the southern High Plains will not waver until some time around the 14th. That is six days from now. The coincidence of this trough moving across the Midwest just as the hurricane is moving up into the Gulf Coast is a long shot. The parched grain farmers in the eastern Corn Belt are pinning their hopes of a corn crop this year on this long shot and looking for an act of God in the timing.