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NOAA sees above-average spring moisture for parts of Plains, Midwest

Agriculture.com Staff 03/15/2007 @ 8:32am

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this week highlighted near-term flooding in portions of the Midwest and Ohio Valley and continued drought in the Southwest as areas of concern from April through June in the agency's 2007 Spring Outlook.

"NOAA's National Hydrologic Assessment indicates a flooding potential this spring for southeast Colorado," says Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service, in an NOAA report. "The soil moisture is high, due to the melting of an above normal snowpack, which resulted from record snowfall in December and January."

The upper Midwest is currently in the middle of its snowmelt. Warmer-than-normal temperatures in recent weeks have increased the risk of flooding due to ice jams over portions of eastern South Dakota, eastern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. In addition, high soil moisture over northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania and extreme southwestern New York state could lead to flooding if additional heavy precipitation occurs.

Scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center said that precipitation during the December 2006-February 2007 U.S. winter season was above-average in much of the center of the nation. Meanwhile, large sections of the East, Southeast and West were drier than average.

Contrarily, much of southern California just experienced its driest fall and winter in more than a century.

"With the dry season fast approaching, there are major concerns that drought conditions will not only fail to improve but actually worsen in coming months," says Doug Lecomte, drought specialist for the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. "The outlook for any significant drought improvement from now through spring looks grim for not only southern California but for much of the Southwest as well."

In addition, Florida is approaching its dry season. Abnormally dry winter weather over the southern half of the peninsula has brought fire danger indices to abnormally high conditions.

"The National Interagency Fire Center's Seasonal Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for February through June 2007 calls for the potential for significant wildfire activity to be higher than normal this spring over portions of the southern tier of states and northern Minnesota," said Tom Wordell, Wildland National Interagency Fire Center fire analyst.

As of March 13, there have been approximately 9,748 wildfires encompassing 137,554 acres. This is 112% of the average number of fires, and 63% of average total acreage to date.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook calls for drought conditions persisting or intensifying through June over much of the Southwest, potentially spreading into portions of Utah and western Colorado. Drought conditions also are expected to persist across peninsular Florida. Some improvement is predicted over the extreme northern Plains as well as portions of Texas and Oklahoma.

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