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Decent growing season ahead?

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The Upper Midwest should see near-normal temperatures and precipitation in the upcoming growing season, a weather expert said.

Leon Osborne, president of Meridian Environmental Technology in Grand Forks, N.D., spoke March 15 at the 50th annual International Sugarbeet Institute in Grand Forks. The two-day trade show, which began March 14, was expected to draw about 3,000 to 4,000 people.

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Here's how Osborne, who speaks regularly at area farm shows and gatherings, assesses the 2012 growing season:

• April to mid-May: "Near-normal precipitation, near-normal temperatures.

• Mid-May through June: Above-normal precipitation, near-normal temperatures. It looks like we'll see the vast majority of precipitation for the summer, for the growing season, occur mid-May through, probably, the mid potion of June."

• July through mid-August: "Near-normal precipitation, near-normal temperatures. This looks pretty good."

• Late August through September: "Near-normal precipitation, but above-normal temperatures. ... We will continue to see a late growing season. That's kind of a trend we've seen over the recent past and there's no reason to think that will change in the near future. Because it does appear that has been part of a regional climate shift."

Overall, the growing season will bring both near-normal temperatures and precipitation, Osborne said.

Other predictions

Heavy rains have been common in the Upper Midwest in recent year.

But, "Those days are coming to a close. As we continue to dry the potholes, the amount of available moisture starts to drop," Osborne said. "Yeah, you'll still see the potential of a 3-inch rain every now and then; those things happen. But there are going to be more of the quarter-inch, half-inch types of rains."

Farmers should be wary of a spring freeze, he said.

There's a chance of a "significant frost, a freeze, probably into the second week of May," he said. "I think the chance of that occurring, though, is low. But there is a risk there; maybe 10 to 15 percent."

In beginning his presentation, Osborne joked that "I think it's best I fall on my sword" for his prediction in late 2011 that the first few months of 2012 would be exceptionally cold. The winter has turned out to be unusually mild.

Osborne said March 15 that the Arctic oscillation turned out to have a much bigger impact than experts anticipated. The Arctic oscillation, a sea-level pressure pattern between the North Atlantic and Arctic, unexpectedly turned positive, causing less frigid winter air to extend to the Upper Midwest.

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