Category Archives: Weather

Believe It or Not​,​ 5 US States Have Hottest Year on Record

2014 was quite a year across the globe for warm temperatures. At the stroke of midnight on the 31st of December, a number of US urban areas joined the record-setting festivities while not a single major urban area achieved record cold. The facts are, it’s been almost 30 years since a major US city had a record cold year. According to the folks over at Climate Central, 17 of the 125 largest metropolitan areas in the US had their hottest year on record. Interestingly, the record setting cities all sit to the west of the Rockies. The heat followed Interstate 5 from Seattle down through Portland, Sacramento and San Diego with detours to San Francisco, Fresno and Modesto before heading east to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Reno and Tucson. Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and El Paso are among other western metro areas also had their top 5 warmest years. Here are some more details from the year-end report.

  • Five states with record setting cities were Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
  • California has 10 of the 17 hottest cities in part because it’s such a huge urban state, but also because it has experienced some extreme heat over the year. the state was running about 2 degrees F above its previous hottest year, which is a huge margin when you consider most records are broken by tenths or hundredths of degrees.
  • The 17 metro areas that set records in 2014 have a population of 28.5 million, or about 9% of the US population.
  • Some metro areas, however, such as Kansas City, MO and Fayetville, AR did actually experience a top 10 coldest year, but most major cities east of the Mississippi River had just cool or near average temps. This of course, was due to that polar vortex that sat over the middle section of the nation for the first couple months of last year.
  • It’s been 29 years since any city in the US has seen a record cold year. The last metro area to feel the big chill was Kansas City, Mo., Spokane, WA., and Boise City, ID back in 1985.
  • When it comes to global record coldest year, you’d have to go back a century to 1909. Incidentally, that record was tied two years later on 1911. 

5 Possible Natural Black Swan Events To Monitor In 2015

As we constantly try and avoid the “unpredictable,” I thought I would throw out a few ideas and thoughts I’ve been hearing talked about in my travels. Obviously I have no idea if anything will come from the events, but they are certainly worth thinking about. As you know, I constantly talk about the “what ifs” pertaining to geopolitical risk, but these trends are more concerning in regard to weather and natural events.

  • El Niño – I can’t stress enough how much “weather” is impacted by El Niño patterns. As of this writing there’s still a 45% to 65% chance that a full-blown El Nino weather pattern will appear in 2015. To put it simply, this warm band of water in Pacific ocean could help push the global thermometer up further in many locations. The effects could mean many different things, most of which are highly unpredictable. The biggest fear would be a massive drought in Asia couple with intense rainfall and flooding in South America.
  • Blocking Deserts in China – I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but workers in China are busy planting the “Great Green Wall,” a massive belt of man-made forest that eventually will stretch nearly 2,800 miles across China, in an effort to block the growth of the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts and stem the massive dust storms they create. If the trees survive and do the job as envisioned, a similar green belt might be planted in Africa. How this so called “changing of the landscape” effects longer-term weather is still up to debate. Just understand there are some dramatic man-made changes to the landscape taking place. This sounds great in theory, but generally never works out so well in practical application.
  • Ocean Acidification – The oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide and it’s causing the pH levels to change. In a just published study by British Canadian and Swedish researchers they conclude that shrimp aren’t going to taste so good to humans in the near future. There’s also been recent evidence that mussel shells are becoming more brittle because of rising acidity. There is no question that our oceans are changing. The more important question is how close are we to the “tipping point”?
  • Water Shortages – We have discussed water shortages for the past several years and this year is no different. Expected water scarcity and problems with allocation will pose significant challenges to governments in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and northern China. I continue to believe we will see increased civil and political tensions in regions where water supplies are limited.
  • Earthquakes – To start with, lets make certain everyone understands I am a huge proponent of “fracking” and the benefits associated with US energy production and self-reliance. But at the same time we have to acknowledge some additional risk-factors that are being talked about in associat​ion. Study after study is showing an increasing risk of earthquakes along various fault lines. It’s not necessarily the fracking itself causing the concern, but rather the disposal of the millions of gallons of waste water being pumped into injection wells or disposal wells. The oil and gas industry has been grappling with the disposal piece of the puzzle for years. Several states are now starting to jump on the bandwagon and propose legislation that bans fracking in certain areas because of what they are seeing as increase earthquake risk. Regardless of if you agree or disagree this could eventually turn into more substantial headwinds for the energy industry.

Corn States In Question

With all of the talk about planting I thought it would be good to put together a little info-graphic on the states that remain in question.  I based the research on a simple average from the past two years of US corn production.  From my perspective here is the breakdown: 

  • MN – between 5.5 and 5.9 million acres still need to go in the ground.
  • SD – between 2.50 and 2.75 million acres still need to go in the ground.
  • WI – between 3.0 and 3.3 million acres still need to go in the ground.
  • ND – between 2.5 and 2.9 million acres still need to go in the ground.
  • MI – between 2.0 and 2.5 million acres still need to go in the ground.


Trading El Nino

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is saying six of seven weather models are showing Pacific ocean sea surface temps could exceed El Niño thresholds within the next 90-days. If history is any indication, an El Niño weather phenomena can trigger extreme weather patterns around the world, particularly droughts in South East Asia and Australia along with potential heavy flooding in parts of South America. Interesting to see commodity giant SocGen releasing research that shows nickel has been the best performer in past El Niño conditions, with zinc, coffee, cocoa, cotton and soybeans ALL displaying large price spikes during these periods. Bottom-line, the funds might try to make timing allocation adjustments into commodities that are most sensitive to El Niño weather patterns. Several sources suspect commodities coming out of Australia and Southeast Asia would be their first play, with commodities being affected by flood damage in South America not really becoming a major play until late 2014 or perhaps even early 2015. Keep in mind most El Niño’s don’t reach their full-strength until the Dec-Feb time period. Also keep in mind most El Niño summers here in the Midwest tend to be slightly cooler than normal with above average precipitation. In other words, here in the US it’s the La Niña years that present the most difficult growing conditions, whereas El Niño years have produced some of the best crops. South American production is an entirely different story and can be extremely hampered during El Niño weather patterns as can production in parts of Asia, Australia and India.

What About Soil Temps?

Weather traders continue to talk about delays in US plantings as soil temps still remain in the 30s across a large portion of the top corn producing areas. There is definitely some warmth coming in the weeks ahead for many producers, but as long as the 30-day forecast remains cool and the planters stay parked up north, the trade will remain nervous. Producers in the southern parts of the Midwest should be running at full-steam by mid next week. Personally, I don’t feel like the planting conditions are that much different than last year, at least as far as temps are concerned.  If you remember back, the Spring of 2013 was also cold and wet for many locations in the Midwest.  Large portions of crops in northeastern Iowa and southern Minnesota never did get in the ground.  The bigger difference is the overall precipitation profile, which has been drier than normal.  Bottom-line, nobody really wants to run the risk of planting corn into a late freeze.  Most of the corn belt has a final “freeze date” somewhere between April 15 and May 1. The northern part of the corn belt however could still see a late freeze into early or mid-May.  Bottom-line, if the producers up north in parts of MN, ND, SD, WI, MI can’t start planting until early-May, then the USDAs rule of thumb, where they like to see 80% planted by mid-May, will start to be more highly scrutinized. Remember, if the corn is planted late, the USDA has a tendency to lower their yield estimate. I should point out, there was a report recently circulating that Louisiana corn planting progress was only between 1-3%, compared to about 100% normally completed by the end of March.showmap