From drought to flooding to all that’s in between, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a little of everything this spring. The organization issued its three-month U.S. Spring Outlook on March 21.
The drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains are expected to continue. Meanwhile, the eastern Corn Belt can anticipate minor to moderate flood risks, with severe flooding possible in the Red River Valley. Overall river flooding is likely to be worse than it was last year, NOAA reports. NOAA looks at multiple weather factors, including snowpack, drought, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, Pacific Ocean temperatures and consensuses among climate forecast models.
"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," says Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. "We produce this outlook to help communities prepare for what’s likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather’s impacts on lives and livelihoods."
Flooding potential will be greatest in eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Late-season snow melt will also affect areas in the upper Mississippi River basin, including southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northern Missouri. Areas along the middle Mississippi, lower Missouri and Ohio River basins have already experienced some minor flooding this spring, a threat that will continue. Minor flooding is also possible in the lower Mississippi River basin and in the Southeast.
Meantime, above-normal temperatures later this spring are expected for most of the continental U.S. Also, 51% of the country is still suffering from moderate to exceptional drought. New drought development is expected in California, the Southwest, the southern Rockies, Texas and Florida. Drought relief is expected for the Midwest, the northern and central Great Plains, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Common spring weather such as flash floods and tornadoes often develops quickly, Furgione says.
"Weather can turn on a dime, so it’s important to stay tuned to the daily weather forecast," she says, adding that a good strategy is to hope for the best while preparing for the worst.