Early Frost Forecast for the Northern Corn Belt - Sept. 9, 2011

Early Frost Forecast for the Northern Corn Belt - Sept. 9, 2011

Sept. 9, 2011; updated Sept. 13

Temperatures to Dip Sept. 15-16

U.S. temperature forecast for Sept. 15

Weather models for Sept. 15 (above) and Sept. 16 (below) indicate areas in the northern Corn Belt will likely see a frost or freeze on these days.  Frost/freeze areas are indicated by the blue gradient lines. The green areas indicate atmospheric moisture.  (For easier viewing, see larger versions:  Sept. 15 and Sept. 16)

US map of Sept. 16 temperature forecast

Sept. 13 Update: 

The National Weather Service at North Platte is showing the potential for patchy frost for western and north central Nebraska late Wednesday into Thursday with lows into the mid 30s.  Northwest Iowa is also expected to see scattered frosts. Most susceptible would be river valleys and the usual areas that deal with cold air drainage and always see the first freezing temperatures of the fall.

Outside Nebraska the NWS Central Region Headquarters now includes a freeze warning for the western 3/4 of North Dakota, the eastern 1/4 of South Dakota, southern 1/2 of Minnesota (except southeast corner), and the northwestern two tiers of counties in Iowa.

A frost advisory has been issued for the northern half of Minnesota and eastern fourth of North Dakota, and north central Iowa (north two tier of counties). The freezing temperatures are projected to force advisories for Thursday morning across most of Wisconsin and upper Michigan, with Wisconsin, and most of Michigan for Friday morning.

Sept. 9

Numerical weather models are indicating the potential for frost (29-32°F) and/or hard freeze conditions (below 28°F) to develop across the northern Corn Belt Sept. 14-16. The models have been consistent with this cold air push for the past three days which gives me a high degree of confidence that the event will occur.

Figures 1 and 2 are forecasted thickness levels for the surface to the 500 mb (jet stream) level for the mornings of Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. The 540 contour interval is usually associated with 32°F temperature at 4 feet above the surface, while the 534 contour typically indicates temperatures of 26°F.

These models do not account for heat stored in the soil surface or within crop canopies. At this time of year it is necessary to adjust for stored heat, so the 540 contour usually points to lows around 35°F and the 534 contour signals lows around 29°F.

For the morning of Sept. 15, Figure 1 indicates hard freeze conditions for northeastern Minnesota, the northern half of Wisconsin, and the northern peninsula and northern half of the southern peninsula of Michigan. Scattered frost to freeze conditions are currently projected for extreme eastern North Dakota southeastward through southern Michigan.

For the morning of Sept. 16, Figure 2 indicates scattered frost to freeze conditions for most of Michigan, northern Ohio, northern New York, and northern Pennsylvania. Hard freeze conditions are projected for southeastern Ontario — most of the agricultural grain crops are grown in this Canadian province.

Because of the spring planting delays due to excessive moisture and below normal May temperatures, a considerable amount of acreage in the frost/freeze forecast area has not reached physiological maturity. Many of these areas need to see normal temperatures into early October to escape significant damage.

Even if the freeze doesn’t occur, crop maturity will grind to a halt as daily highs from Sept. 14 to Sept. 22 will struggle to reach the lower 60s.

Visit the National Weather Service's Central Region Headquarters to view freeze and flood advisories as conditions change.

Al Dutcher
Extension State Climatologist