The U.S. faces a better than 50% chance of hotter-than-average temperatures this summer, said Anthony Artusa, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center meteorologist, at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in mid-February.
"We expect normal conditions to continue this spring," he said. But by midsummer, "the slight edge may go to a warm event."
NOAA’s forecast through May shows slightly above-normal temperatures for most of the South, high temperatures in California and Arizona and cooler-than-normal temperatures for the Great Lakes.
The agency’s three-month precipitation forecast shows average rainfall in most of the U.S., with the exception of the Gulf Coast and the Coastal Northwest, which should have below-normal rainfall.
Artusa’s outlook shows the drought in California and parts of the Southwest will intensify through May, but the current drought conditions in the Midwest are likely to disappear.
Of the continental U.S., nearly 36% remains in drought, including parts of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, said Brad Rippey, a USDA agricultural meteorologist, who joined Artusa on the panel.
California’s hopes for mitigating extreme drought conditions hinge on a "Miracle March" with strong rains. Rippey predicted California farmers will first protect their investment in tree crops, rather than annual crops such as lettuce or hay.