The 6-10 day temperature outlook
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Across the Corn Belt, sub-zero temperatures are maintaining stress on upper Midwestern livestock. Friday morning’s low temperatures fell below 0° as far south as northern Missouri and again plunged below -20° in parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas. In Moline, Illinois, at least an inch of snow has been on the ground at daybreak on 45 consecutive days (December 30 – February 12), the longest such streak since 2000-01. Early Friday, light snow is falling in several areas, including the Great Lakes region and portions of Nebraska and environs.

On the Plains, extreme cold across the northern half of the region is stressing livestock and threatening the health of winter wheat lacking a protective snow cover. Many wheat fields in northeastern Montana and the western Dakotas are bare or have only a patchy snow cover—and have been exposed to sub-zero temperatures for a week. Friday’s minimum temperatures locally fell below -30° on the northern Plains, where Great Falls, Montana, reported a preliminary low of -33°. Cold air (lows generally from 0 to 20°) has settled across the southern Plains, accompanied by patchy light snow.

In the South, rain stretches from southeastern Virginia and the Carolinas to the western Gulf Coast. Farther inland, however, from central Virginia to south-central Texas, wintry precipitation (patchy snow, sleet, and freezing rain) is resulting in locally hazardous travel conditions. In contrast, warmth continues across Florida.

In the West, a storm system crossing the Intermountain region is producing widespread, generally light rain and snow showers. Meanwhile, very cold air remains in place across the northern tier of the western U.S.

An impressive cold outbreak will continue nearly nationwide into next week, although Florida’s peninsula, the Desert Southwest, and much of California will escape below-normal temperatures. Following a weekend storm system across the central and southern Plains, temperatures could plunge to 0° or below as far south as central Texas. However, snow in advance of the coldest weather should help to insulate the central and southern Plains’ winter wheat crop. Farther north, some wheat fields in northeastern Montana and the western Dakotas are devoid of snow cover amid a protracted spell of sub-zero temperatures, increasing the risk of winterkill. As eastbound storm systems continue to traverse the boundary between lingering warmth across the Deep South and frigid air farther north, widespread wintry weather (snow, sleet, and freezing rain) will affect the West, central and southern Plains, mid-South, lower Midwest, and Northeast. Elsewhere, 5-day rainfall totals could reach 2 to 4 inches or more in the Southeast, excluding southern Florida.

Looking ahead, the 6- to 10-day outlook calls for the likelihood of colder-than-normal conditions nationwide, except for above-normal temperatures in southern Florida and near-normal temperatures in northern Maine and parts of California. Meanwhile, wetter-than-normal weather in the East and Northwest should contrast with below-normal precipitation across large sections of the Plains, Southwest, and upper Midwest.

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Greg Soulje, a professional meteorologist since 1985, offers national agricultural weather forecasts via "This Week in Agribusiness."

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