Iowa State extension climatologist speaks at Nebrasaka

Iowa State University Extension Climatologist Elwynn Taylor speaks at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln on March 29, 2017

April 7, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. — Elwynn Taylor, extension climatologist at Iowa State University visited the University of Nebraska—Lincoln on March 29 to share his analysis of weather influence on the Midwest. He spoke about how to use weather and climate data to market crops and manage agricultural production risk. 

Taylor began his career as a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Alabama. He was educated in botany at Utah State University and completed his doctoral studies at Washington University in St. Louis in 1970, before moving to Iowa in 1979.

According to Taylor, many farmers are eager to figure out what more they can do to manage risk than use crop insurance as a risk management tool. 

“Climate risk to agriculture is increasing and will be greater I think, in the coming 20 years than in the past 20. This makes the management of risk become much more important,” Taylor said. “Uncertainty doesn’t have numbers.  Risk always has numbers, and so it is manageable. As soon as it has numbers, it is not an uncertainty anymore, it’s a potential risk.”

According to Taylor, it is important to choose the insurance that is best for the given situation, whether that be insuring the acres based on proven yield or going with the country average. Additionally, producers can consult the “risk wheel” to calculate how the amount of profit at risk to sell. For example, if there’s a 60 percent chance it’ll be a lower price, sell 60 percent of it.

Taylor is widely recognized for his clear explanations of the complexities of long-term weather variability. He has published more than 200 articles reporting his research on the impacts of weather conditions, and his voice is well known from his regular Midwest radio broadcasts of crop-weather and other educational information. His explanations of Global Warming, Ozone Depletion, the El Niño, and other weather events and how they impact life and our economy are highly regarded.

 Farmers make their money from the volatility of yield. Taylor proposes a cycle of 18 years of consistent yields, followed by a 25-year period of volatile yields if the weather keeps doing what it has done in Midwest. In 2012, the U.S. entered year one of the 25 year period of volatile yields. After studying tree rings, Taylor found he exact pattern of 18 consistent followed by 25 years of volatile tree growth. He went as far back into history as he could go – that took him all the way back to the year 1200. 

Taylor's analysis shows that across the corn belt, there is double the amount of rainy days, and 20 percent more precipitation per year. The average storm today produces a smaller amount of moisture falling than in the 1890s. The corn belt has increased in precipitation since 1950. It was in the year 1950 that people started to question how often a flood plain would reach a certain amount of precipitation. Since there are more days of precipitation, more precipitation is received, which affects stream flow. Across the Midwest there is a 10 percent increase in precipitation, which means about a double the amount of water going down rivers.

To watch a recording of Taylor’s presentation, visit

Natalie Jones
Student Reporter
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources