What can those in agriculture expect from the weather the next few months?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is placing a large swath of the contiguous U.S. in the “warmer than average” category this spring after considering a blend of computer modeling, historical trends and the potential of tropical rainfall patterns that can affect U.S. weather.

“We’re calling for most of the southern and eastern halves of the U.S. to have above-normal temperatures this spring,” explains Anthony Artusa, NOAA meteorologist.

Above Average. NOAA’s assessment for weather through May includes zero areas where below-average temperatures are expected, although Artusa notes the Pacific Northwest and parts of California, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, the Dakotas and Minnesota have been designated “equal chance” in the NOAA forecast. That means there’s not enough information to predict above- or below-normal temperatures.

Will the spring forecast bring favorable planting weather, or will it muddy fields with excessive rainfall? Artusa’s answer: “It depends on where you live.”

In the Southwest, farmers might have drier-than-normal conditions. In a band stretching from the Pacific Northwest through the northern Great Plains all the way to the Great Lakes, farmers might see wetter-than-normal conditions this spring.

Drought Relief. The latest U.S. seasonal drought outlook from NOAA, valid through May 31, predicts drought removal in several areas, including large portions of Arkansas, Oklahoma and southern Missouri; the Southeast; the Northeast; and southern California.

“Overall, the drought footprint across the U.S. is the smallest it’s been since 2011,” notes Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

In the areas where drought still lingers, climatologists are keeping a wary eye on the situation. Gary McManus, associate state climatologist for Oklahoma, suggests the state could still be “primed” for a serious drought. “When you have above-normal temperatures, you need more rainfall or it will allow the drought to intensify,” he says.

Beyond spring, weather prediction models remain murkier. El Niño conditions could return as early as July, according to some models, but that’s hardly a lock, Artusa says.