The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has released its Spring outlook for the 2023 season to cover the months of April, May and June. The outlooks discusses temperature and precipitation along with anticipated drought improvements or worsening conditions. Additionally, we are increasingly concerned for flooding this Spring - 44% of the U.S. is at risk for flooding.
We want to key in on the Northern Plains and Midwest flood outlook for this Spring. A busy winter season and healthy snowpack could mean the worst flood potential along the Upper Mississippi River in over 20 years - from the Twin Cities through Southeast Iowa. The North Central River Forecast Center anticipates one of the worst floods for this area since 2019. The flood risk for the Mississippi River through Missouri and Illinois is limited as there is little to no snowpack in place so any flood would come from future rain and snow events. Think of the snowpack as a reservoir of frozen water, indications are that for most of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota we have 3-5" of water that will need to melt out into rivers, creeks and streams this Spring. Ideal conditions would be for a slow melt of the snowpack, to gradually release the water into the ground and river system, however if we see more drastic warmups rapid melting is likely leading to catastrophic flooding in the area. Forecast models call for nearly half of the points in the North Central River Forecast to have a 50% or greater chance of moderate flooding this Spring.
"'Approximately 44% of the U.S. is at risk for flooding this spring,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center. “California’s historic snowpack, coupled with spring rain, is heightening the potential for spring floods.' Spring snowmelt will bring welcomed water supply benefits to much of California and the Great Basin. Reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin, such as Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are currently at record low water levels following years of drought."
The CPC has confidence in above average Spring temperatures in the southern tier of the country and along the eastern Seaboard. The darker colors correlate to the confidence in the forecast, not the extent of how above average we will be. This means that there is high confidence in above average temperatures for Texas, the I-10 and I-95 corridors with less confidence in above average temperatures through the Midwest and Lower Great Lakes. The CPC is also calling for below average temperatures in the Western U.S. (northern Nevada and Utah, southern Idaho, western Wyoming). There is also confidence in below average temperatures for the Dakotas and Minnesota in the Northern Plains over the next three months. The temperature outlook encompasses the seasonal average, but it is not saying that every day out of the next three months will be above or below average, but when taken all together, the trend of the season will depart from average. Everywhere we see the gray color is not anticipated to have temperatures stray too far from the norm.
The Precipitation Outlook from the CPC is built the same way as the temperature outlook - darker colors indicate higher confidence in above or below average conditions. The CPC is calling for drier than average conditions in the Southwest and Northwest this Spring, which is a trend away from the active winter we've had in these regions from a rain & snow perspective. Through the Midwest, Ohio Valley and Lower Great Lakes region, above average precipitation is anticipated this Spring.
The current drought outlook (March 14) shows extreme and exceptional levels of drought through the Central Plains - Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma as well as central Texas. There are worsening drought conditions in the Southeast compared to earlier in the winter. While the western U.S. has seen improvements in the drought conditions, particularly in Utah, this winter, there are still areas of moderate, severe and extreme drought conditions.
The Spring Drought Outlook calls for persistent drought for the Great Plains of eastern Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas with developing drought in New Mexico and the Northwest. This means we will likely see drought conditions expand through the central U.S. which follows the precipitation outlook of confidence in below average rain/snow this Spring. Drought should improve for Nebraska and the Dakotas along with Nevada and Utah where a wet pattern has already lead to vast improvements in the drought for the west (California) this winter season. Drought conditions should improve and be removed for Florida as a wetter forecast is expected through the Spring and eventually into the summer months.
Outlooks are just that, outlooks, and day to day weather conditions will vary leading to short term hazards. Use these outlooks to help you plan ahead, especially if you live in the Northern Plains near rivers, creeks and streams or if you are in the South - plan for a warmer than average Spring. Stay with WeatherNation for the latest conditions and forecasts, always streaming 24/7.