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Spring forecast eyes drought, flooding

U.S. government forecasters said Friday that the long-term weather outlook for spring includes continuing drought in the West but a reduced risk of spring flooding in the upper Midwest.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The long-term weather outlook for spring includes continuing drought in the West but a reduced risk of spring flooding in the upper Midwest, the government said Friday.

“There is neither an El Nino nor La Nina in place; therefore, we expect a typical level of springtime variability in temperature and precipitation to occur in many areas of the nation,” said Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

El Nino and La Nina refer to unusual warming or cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, conditions which can have significant effects on weather in the United States.

“Specifically, NOAA meteorologists predict an enhanced likelihood for below-normal temperatures in the northern Great Plains and above-normal temperatures in Alaska, the Southwest and parts of the South, for April through June,” Lautenbacher said in a statement.

He added that above-normal precipitation is likely in the far Northwest and below normal likely in Texas, parts of surrounding states, and most of Louisiana and Florida.

The long-term moisture shortages are expected to decrease in parts of the northern and central Great Plains, while the drought is expected to persist over many areas in the West, especially in much of Arizona and New Mexico. Soils dried over five years will absorb snowmelt runoff and reduce recharge of reservoirs, many of which are well below normal levels as a result of this multiyear drought.

While snowpack and snow water content have been running close to normal during this winter snow season in the Great Basin and Northwest, continued improvement in water supplies throughout the West depends largely on snowfall continuing into spring.

In many cases, the meltwater will not be enough to replenish depleted reservoirs, the agency said.

However, while limited snowmelt is a problem in the West. it may be better news in the upper Midwest by reducing the change of flooding from melt runoff..

As much as 10 inches of water is stored in the snowpack in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper peninsula, though, leaving the area at risk for flooding if warm temperatures accompany rain.

In addition, thick ice on rivers in northern New York and New England could lead to ice jam flood problems.