Possible flooding in eastern United States; drought lessens in the West
March is always a confusing month, weather-wise, and this year was no exception. As Earth’s atmosphere teeters from winter to spring, wild swings in the weather are typical across the country.
And for people who live in the eastern half of the United States, the recent cold (and snow for the northeast) has been a bit of a shock; the three “winter” months of December through February were exceptionally mild and mostly snowless, overall. In fact, it was among the two warmest winters on record in eight states from Massachusetts to Kentucky, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported last week.
Meanwhile, Californians wonder if a months-long siege of rain and snow will ever end.
In the near term, for at least the next week, cold weather is likely across most of the country. And in waterlogged California, another atmospheric river storm is forecast for next week.
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What is the expected temperature in the spring?
But what will the next three months bring? On Thursday, federal scientists released their national weather forecasts for the spring months of April, May and June. Here’s what they expect:
- Much of the southern and eastern United States: A warmer than average spring, according to NOAA experts. The greatest chance of above average temperatures is from the southern High Plains east of Florida and north along the eastern seaboard.
- South level of the nation: With the heat will come the risk of wildfires this spring, said Jon Gottschalck, forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The biggest concern now is the Florida Peninsula,” he said, adding that throughout the spring, the potential for fire weather remains high in the south-central high plains.
- Northern Plains and parts of the Wild West: The winter cold is expected to last a bit longer, NOAA said. Regions are expected to experience cooler than average temperatures from April to June.
What about rain and snow?
NOAA forecasters predict “above-average precipitation this spring in the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, and parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.”
Below-average rainfall is very likely for the Southwest and parts of the Pacific Northwest, NOAA said.
The rest of the nation, including most of waterlogged California, has what NOAA calls “equal chances” of above- and below-normal rainfall.
(NOAA’s climate forecast for precipitation does not specify whether it will fall as rain or snow.)
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Forecasting spring floods and drought
There is a risk of flooding across much of the eastern half of the country, including much of the Mississippi River Basin, NOAA said. Specifically, forecasters are predicting “moderate to major flooding” along the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to St. Louis.
An above-normal to record snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, combined with high soil moisture, increases the threat of spring flooding from snowmelt, especially at high elevations.
“About 44% of the United States is at risk of flooding this spring,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center. “California’s historic snowpack, coupled with spring rains, increases the potential for spring flooding.”
However, spring snowmelt will bring welcome benefits to water supplies for much of California and the Great Basin, NOAA said. Reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin, such as Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are at record water levels after years of drought.
Finally, on the subject of drought, the colossal amounts of winter rain and snowfall in the West, particularly in California, have seriously aggravated the country’s drought. “Moderate to exceptional drought coverage in the United States is at its lowest since August 2020 and is expected to continue to improve, or end completely, across much of California and the Great Basin,” NOAA reported. .
Additionally, the spring wet season is expected to alleviate drought in the northern and central plains.
But the drought is expected to persist or possibly worsen in the southern High Plains, northwest and northern Rockies, according to NOAA.