NOAA issues spring flood and drought outlooks

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2013- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its three-month U.S. Spring Outlook today, stating that odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the continental United States, including drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains.

Spring promises little drought relief for most of these areas, as well as Florida, with below- average spring precipitation favored there, NOAA stated. Meanwhile, river flooding is likely to be worse than last year across the country, with the most significant flood potential in North Dakota.

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"This outlook reminds us of the climate diversity and weather extremes we experience in North America, where one state prepares for flooding while neighboring states are parched, with no drought relief in sight," said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

The U.S. Spring Outlook identifies the likelihood of spring flood risk and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought. The outlook is based on several factors, including current conditions of snowpack, drought, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, Pacific Ocean temperatures and consensus among climate forecast models.

According to NOAA's drought outlook, 51 percent of the continental U.S., primarily in the central and western regions, is in moderate to exceptional drought. However, this is an improvement over last year when two-thirds of the U.S. fell under at least moderate drought conditions, Furgione said during a teleconference today. 

Drought conditions are expected to persist with new drought development in California, the Southwest, the southern Rockies, Texas and Florida. The outlook favors some improvement in the Midwest, the northern and central Great Plains, Georgia, the Carolinas and northern Alaska.

Persistence of drought also poses the threat for wildfires, she added, particularly in upper Midwest states like Minnesota and northern Iowa. “We've already seen some fires break out in Oklahoma, where we had a significant threat last year,” she said.  

According to the Temperature and Precipitation Outlook, above-normal temperatures this spring are most likely across most of the continental U.S. and northern Alaska. Below-normal temperatures are favored for the Pacific Northwest and extreme northern Great Plains. For precipitation, odds favor wetter-than-normal conditions in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions. Drier-than-normal conditions are most likely in much of the West, the Rockies, parts of the Southwest, much of Texas, along the Gulf Coast and Florida. Hawaii has an enhanced chance of being cooler and drier than normal.  

The Spring Flood Risk poses a threat of moderate and major flooding in the Red River of the North between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, and the Souris River in North Dakota. Devils and Stump Lakes in northeast North Dakota have a 50 percent chance of rising approximately two feet, which would flood 20,000 acres of farmland and roadways.

The melting of late-season snow may cause minor to moderate flooding in the upper Mississippi River basin, including southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northern Missouri. The tributaries in the plains of the upper Missouri River basin, specifically along the Milk River in eastern Montana, the Big Sioux River in South Dakota and the Little Sioux River in Iowa may also see minor to moderate flooding. With significant frozen groundcover in these areas, spring flood risk is highly dependent on rainfall and the speed of the snowmelt, NOAA reported.

Areas along the middle Mississippi, lower Missouri and Ohio River basins have already experienced minor flooding this year and the threat of minor flooding will continue through the spring. These basins include portions of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, eastern Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Minor flooding also is possible for the lower Mississippi River basin and in the Southeast, including portions of Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.


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