By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy

Climate change is likely to impact or exacerbate extreme weather events related to El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). According to The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “ENSO is a periodic fluctuation in sea surface temperature (El Niño) and the air pressure of the overlying atmosphere (Southern Oscillation) across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.” Farmers may want to consider ENSO-related, more intense or extended periods of warm, cold, wet, or dry extremes when making decisions on crop insurance, marketing choices related to storage or contracting, and operational plans like planting.

NOAA has developed an interactive tool, “Risk of Seasonal Climate Extremes in the U.S. Related to ENSO,” that American farmers can use to consider the risk of more extreme ENSO-driven weather events. The tool allows the user to evaluate risk of temperature and precipitation extremes at different times of year. After identifying the type of ENSO event (El Nino or La Nina), the weather variable to evaluate, and the three-month period to monitor, the change in risk of extreme events is plotted over a map of the United States. Farmers can look to the map to assess the changing risk of more extreme ENSO-driven weather events in their region.

Have you experienced stronger ENSO-related weather events on your farm or ranch? Have they interfered with operations, or have you made management decisions to adapt to them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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