DENVER — Speaking at the Cattle-Fax outlook seminar during the Cattle Industry Convention, Creighton University professor Art Douglas, who provides the weather outlook for Cattle-Fax, outlined global trends and what to look for in U.S. weather this year.

Douglass says conditions in the Pacific Ocean shifted from a El Nino pattern to La Nina during 2010, and developed into the strongest La Nina since 1917, featuring cold ocean-surface temperatures. The pattern, he says, is likely to continue through the spring and summer of this year, bringing dry conditions to much of the continental U.S. A return to the El Nino pattern, and wetter conditions, is likely by spring of 2012, he said during the Feb. 4 seminar.

This winter’s cold and snow extending well into the southern United States, he says, suggests a climate pattern similar to that during the 1950s and 1960s.

Douglass says the current pattern indicates a good chance for hot and dry conditions this spring in the southwestern U.S., extending into the Plains and western Corn Belt. For this summer, high temperatures are likely across much of the nation’s heartland, with dryer-than-usual conditions across the Plains and Midwest.

Douglass also presented data and graphics illustrating trends in sunspot activity. Swings between high and low sunspot activity typically follow a 10- or 11-year pattern, but rather than increasing as expected, sunspot activity seems to be entering a long-term decline. If so, he says, lack of sunspot activity could indicate a long-term trend toward cooler global temperatures, similar to the “Little Ice Age” that occurred during the 17th and 18th centuries.