At October’s end a year ago, fields all over the Mid-South were saturated from weeks of torrential rains, which continued well into the winter.

At October’s end this year, much of the region was showing a rainfall deficit for the 10-month period. Fall pastures hadn’t had enough moisture to germinate seed, wheat was slowing coming up, and heavy soils were cracked like midsummer.

A strong El Niño, which heated up the equatorial Pacific Ocean, was blamed for triggering 2010’s monsoons; now, weather gurus say a La Niña, the opposite phenomenon that results from cooler Pacific temps, will influence this winter’s weather and bring warmer, drier than average weather to the Southwest, Southern Plains, Gulf Coast states, and the Southeast.

“This will likely exacerbate drought conditions in these areas,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists said in their October 21 forecast, noting that it has the potential “to bring weather extremes” to parts of the nation.”

“La Niña will strengthen and persist through the winter months,” says Mike Halpert, deputy director of the agency’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service (NWS).

At mid-October, the NWS was reporting 92 percent of the state of Mississippi experiencing abnormally dry, moderate drought, or severe drought conditions. Rainfall deficits ranged from 19.08 inches below normal at Greenville, Miss., to 9.3 inches below normal at Mississippi State University.

September was the third driest on record for Mississippi and January-September the 11th driest. September was the second driest on record for Louisiana, and January-September the 11th driest.

In its most recent seasonal assessment of drought, NOAA is predicting that drought will persist or intensify over much of the Mid-South, lower Southeast, and southwest Texas.