Spring forecast show continued high temperatures, potential for flooding across U.S.
On March 16, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) issued its 2017 Spring Outlook, and they reported, “Much of the lower 48 experienced one of the warmest winters on record, with the southwest and eastern half of the nation leading the way.”
The Spring Outlook is part of the suite of tools that NOAA prepares to help state and local government and citizens prepare for potential weather events.
The year was the second warmest February and sixth warmest winter on record.
A short-lived La Niña, about five months long, led to colder-than-average conditions in the Pacific Northwest, but beyond that, the effects were limited.
NOAA predicted above normal temperatures for the southwest corner of the state of Wyoming, and those temperatures were largely realized, but the northern half of the state saw below normal temperatures.
Additionally, the above-median forecasted precipitation was also largely observed in the state this winter.
Mike Halpert of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center said, “The April to June temperature outlooks suggests this pattern will continue.”
“For the next three months, on average, above-average temperatures are predicted,” Tom Graziano, director of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction, said. “No areas in the U.S. are favored to see below-average temperatures.”
“Climate models, statistical tools and our expert opinion don’t tell us much about what to expect for precipitation this spring over much of the country,” Halpert added. “However, above-median precipitation is favored through the Gulf Coast and Northern Plains.”
Models indicate that northeastern Wyoming is forecasted to receive above-normal precipitation, as well. However, drought in that region is predicted to continue over the next month.
“Odds favor wetter-than-average conditions for the northern Rockies and Northern Plains,” NOAA commented.
Seasonal moderate to heavy rainfall will increase flood potential in the Midwest and Southeast. Coupled with extreme winter snows in parts of the U.S., namely the Northern Plains, Graziano added that the risk of moderate to major flooding is elevated.
“Some areas in the West carry minor or moderate risk of flooding,” Halpert commented. “Snow is also a factor to New England’s risk of flooding.”
Graziano said that flooding is akin to the last several years. He noted that flooding in Northern Plains appears similar to 2013.
In central and southeast Idaho, extending into southwest Wyoming, the Snake River Basin is expected to see moderate flooding, said Graziano.
“For those in northern North Dakota or in the Snake River basin in Idaho, prepare for moderate to major flooding this spring,” said Graziano. “Snowpack is heavy in the West and Northern Plains, and if our long-term warm-up coincides with spring rains, already saturated soils will not be able to absorb the increased water, which would lead to increased runoff and potential flooding.”
The period from December 2016 to February 2017 brought significant rain and snow to sections of the United States. This period was the wettest on record to Nevada and Wyoming, Graziano commented.
“Rapid snowmelt from rain storms on top of snowpack has already caused flooding at lower elevations of this region,” he explained. “How long the flooding could last and how intense it will be depends on future precipitation and temperatures.”
“It floods somewhere in the U.S. every day of the year,” said NOAA Operational Prediction Branch Chief Jon Gottschalck.
“Extreme weather events often lead to minor flooding,” Halpert commented. “Citizens are encouraged to monitor their local forecasts to be weather-ready and climate smart.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.