Spring to offer little drought relief, NOAA says

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Odds favor above-average temperatures for much of America’s drought-parched regions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in its three-month U.S. Spring Outlook.

NOAA said this spring will offer little drought relief for hard-hit areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains. Additionally, NOAA says river flooding is likely to be worse than last year, with the most significant flood potential in North Dakota.

The just-completed winter season was the 20th warmest on record, with the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. at 34.3 F., 1.9 F above the 20th century average. NOAA says winter wast warmer than average for allstates east of the Rockies, with the largest departures from average along the East Coast. The states of Florida, Delaware and Vermont each had one of their ten warmest winters on record. Conversely, the Southwest was cooler than average, and near-average winter temperatures were reported in the Northwest.

The winter nationally-averaged precipitation total of 7.10 inches was 0.63-inches above the long-term average.

NOAA’s latest drought assessment for March 21 through June 30 calls for some improvement for the most intense drought areas of the central and southern Great Plains. However, “prospects for drought improvement decrease further south across the southern high Plains and Texas. Drought is forecast to persist for much of the West and expand across northern California and southern Oregon.”

During the past two months, NOAA says, major improvement occurred across Georgia and South Carolina where additional improvement is expected. Drought is forecast to persist or develop across the Florida peninsula but it will likely be short-lived as the rainy season typically begins during June.

According to NOAA’s drought outlook, 51 percent of the continental U.S. is in moderate to exceptional drought. That’s an improvement from last year when two-thirds of the U.S. was under at least moderate drought.

NOAA’s temperature and precipitation outlook calls for above-normal temperatures this spring across most of the continental U.S. Below-normal temperatures are expected for the Pacific Northwest and extreme northern Great Plains. Wetter-than-normal conditions are expected 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.

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