Springtime is the rainy season in the Midwest U.S., and spring rains this year are expected to put a modest dent in the most intense areas of drought in America's heartland over the next three months, according to NOAA's latest March 21 Seasonal Drought Outlook
. The forecast calls for much of Nebraska and Kansas to see improvements in the fierce drought, though drought is expected to expand southwestwards to include nearly all of California, Texas, and Arizona. The area of the contiguous U.S. covered by drought remained unchanged this week at 52%, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor
report. A winter-like storm that will track from Colorado eastwards during the next few days will dump 0.5" - 1" of precipitation across some of the most hard-hit drought areas of the Midwest, though these regions generally need 3 - 9"
of precipitation to end the drought. It's a good bet that drought will cause over $10 billion in U.S. agricultural losses for the third consecutive year this year.Figure 1.
It's getting to be a familiar sight: the weekly Drought Monitor showing a widespread area of significant drought over the majority of the U.S. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.Figure 2.
Predicted 7-day precipitation for the period ending Friday, March 29. Portions of the U.S. drought region from Colorado to MIssouri are predicted to receive as much as 1" of precipitation. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.Figure 3.
The amount of precipitation needed to bring the contiguous U.S. out of long-term drought conditions (raise the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI) above -0.5) shows that the core drought region in the Midwest needs 3 - 9 inches of precipitation to end the drought. The hydrological impacts of a drought, such as reservoir levels, groundwater levels, etc., take longer to develop and it takes longer to recover from them. Image credit: NOAA.Major spring flooding expected to be confined to North Dakota and Minnesota
NOAA issued their annual spring flood risk forecast
on Thursday, which calls for just one area of concern for major flooding, along the Red River of the North and Souris River in North Dakota and Minnesota. These areas experienced major to record flooding two years ago in the spring of 2011. Normal levels of minor to moderate spring flooding are expected in the middle Mississippi River and lower Missouri River basins, including portions of Kansas, Missouri, eastern Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. A heavy snowpack farther to the north over the Upper Mississippi River basin may cause more spring flooding than normal, if a sudden arrival of spring occurs, and the snowpack melts off quickly and the ground stays frozen, increasing runoff. The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model calls for a continuation of a winter-like pattern for the eastern half of the U.S., with no quick warm-up expected for the Upper Mississippi River basin during the next ten days. The winter-like spring conditions have not been popular out east, where Michael Gmoser, a prosecutor for Butler County, Ohio, demanded
that the famous prognosticating rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, be held accountable for his poor February 2 forecast of just three more weeks of winter. I think the fruit growers of Ohio and neighboring states will not be on board with this idea, as last year's week of 80°+ heat in March and subsequent frosts ruined local fruit crops, and this year's cold March guarantees a good fruit crop in 2013. Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt has a comparison
of just how remarkably different March 2012 and March 2013 have been.
A late-breaking development:
A Pennsylvania law firm has announced it will be defending Phil
, writing: Please be advised that Nurick Law Group, LLC proudly represents the interests of Phil Sowerby, a/k/a “Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby” a/k/a “Punxsutawney Phil” (hereinafter “Punxsutawney Phil”) his predecessors and progeny, for the purposes of this preposterous prosecution and persecution. Punxsutawney Phil provides (primarily Pennsylvanians) preeminent prognostication predicated on the position of his shadow."
Have a great weekend, everyone!