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The U.S. South Is About to Get a Big Heat Wave

(Bloomberg) — Different parts of the U.S. are set to see wildly disparate weather conditions next week, potentially rattling energy and agricultural markets.

A potentially record-setting heat wave will probably sweep through the South, raising energy demand and exacerbating drought conditions in the region. At the same time, difficult planting conditions may persist in the Midwest due to wet weather.

Temperatures in the south may be driven into the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celsius) and may go up to 100 degrees by Memorial Day weekend, according to Jim Rouiller, chief meteorologist at Energy Weather Group in Philadelphia. Such early-season heat is unusual and could raise power consumption for cooling requirements, he said.

“It is like Mother Nature flicked a switch,’’ Rouiller said. “This is something you usually see in mid to late summer.’’

The prolonged heat and dry air under a large high pressure system is threatening to worsen dry soil issues already stretching across parts of Alabama to North Carolina. That’s in contrast to the widespread cold and rain sweeping across the Midwest and Great Plains, hampering crop-planting efforts.

Corn seeding is off to its third-slowest start in 30 years because of the train of rain storms that have spread through the central U.S., Brad Rippey, a U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist, said Thursday. Soybean planting is lagging 20% behind the five-year average through May 12. Corn and wheat futures are heading for the biggest weekly gains ever for the July contracts.

The energized storm track between the southeastern heat and western cold has also raised the chances of widespread severe thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes throughout the Great Plains and Midwest through Tuesday, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Dry Soil

Meanwhile in the South, abnormally warm Atlantic waters off the coast helped build the high pressure across the region, which will dry out soil and help deflect passing storms to the north and west, according to Rouiller.

Just under 27% of the six southeastern states are abnormally dry, with drought affecting a little less than 5% of the region, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Once the soils dry out, it could create a self-sustaining situation of drought and higher temperatures that could stretch on for months. North Carolina is the largest egg, poultry and tobacco producer in the U.S. and second in turkeys and hogs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Georgia was the second-largest cotton grower.

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