Some parts of Iowa have endured three summers of drought, and wonder if it’ll end this year. Mark Svoboda is an analyst at the national Drought Mitigation Center and he says it’s hardest to predict weather for regions like ours that are far inland. He says an El Nino tells southern California to expect heavy rains but it doesn’t signal any clear pattern in South Dakota, Iowa, or Nebraska — and he says while La Nina “perks up our radar” for drought in summer, it’s not an assurance that will follow. Svoboda says while it’s easy to watch weather trends cross the ocean, there are more variables in landlocked areas that make forecasting more difficult. He says notwithstanding any El Nino or La Nina, drought can occur and understanding all the variables is a tough chore for the prediction people. Unlike comets or sunspot cycles, Svoboda says flood and drought seasons don’t follow a predictable pattern in time.They can’t be that specific, although it’s somewhat cyclical in nature. Here on the plains, Svoboda says we look for weather hints in our “source region,” the direction where both storms and snowmelt originate. That’s the Rocky Mountains from Canada and Montana clear down to Mexico, and the oceans, both Pacific and Atlantic, even the Indian Ocean, are sending moisture into the atmosphere that eventually will “dump” onto the country’s interior in the form of snow or rain. With the Pacific Northwest at a standstill after days of snow, rain and ice, Svoboda concedes our source region’s getting precip that could replenish atmospheric moisture and end the drought. He admits to “cautious optimism,” noting that the start of last winter brought good snow, but there are still months of winter ahead and “you don’t erase a five-year drought with a half-a-season of good snow.” Svoboda says it’ll take two or three years of good rain and snowfall levels to put an end to the effects of the multi-year drought.