An early and unusually warm spring has morphed into a dry start for this year’s corn and soybean crops, and the National Drought Monitor has shown progressively deteriorating conditions across much of the U.S. But meteorologists believe conditions could improve for the U.S. Corn Belt over the next two weeks. Meteorologists say the jet stream pattern suggests a favorable shift toward wetter conditions in the corn Belt the next two weeks.

Recent reports, however, show how quickly the crop is declining. USDA reported 66 percent of the U.S. corn crop was rated good or excellent in the week ended June 10, a decline from 72 percent earning those ratings the previous week, and 77 percent two weeks ago.

But early week rains have improved the short-term outlook. Kyle Tapley, meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather, told Reuters, “It was a little wetter than expected (Monday) in southern Illinois and Missouri with 0.25 inch to 1.00 inch of rain. The Midwest looks dry for a few days, but by Thursday and Friday there will be good rains in the north of 0.50 inch to 2.00 inches.”

Tapley also said the six- to 10-day outlook for the Midwest is positive, with above-average precipitation expected next week in the north, but the south and eastern Midwest will remain dry.

Meteorologists also believe the strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean could ease dry conditions in the U.S. later this summer.

Last week, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said there is a 50 percent likelihood that El Niño will develop, though conditions are still expected to be neutral between June and August. El Niño is a warming of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific. Last year’s U.S. drought was partially blamed on La Niña conditions, which is a cooling of those sea surface temperatures.

When a shift from La Niña to El Niño occurs, meteorologists say subnormal rainfall in the spring is likely in the Midwest. Recent observations have the Trade Winds weakening along the Equator which signals a building phase for El Niño. A developing El Niño is more likely to push drought conditions toward the west, away from the Corn Belt, allowing weak storm fronts into the Midwest grain growing region.

The CPC has already said they expect the Atlantic hurricane season, which began on Friday and runs through November 30, to be less active than last year. The El Niño phenomenon creates wind shear that makes it harder for nascent storms to develop into hurricanes in the Atlantic-Caribbean basin, but it also can produce drought in parts of South Asia and unseasonably wet conditions in western coastal areas of South America.