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March 23, 2018   
NOAA Announces U.S. Spring Outlook  March 30, 2006

Just days after announcing that the winter of 2005/2006 was the fifth warmest on record, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration says it expects spring 2006 to remain dry and warm. NOAA, in partnership with the National Interagency Fire Center, announced that despite periodic precipitation, the spring outlook supports the potential for a significant wildfire season in the Southwest and central and southern Plains.

"Recent storms have eased the drought situation in many areas of the country, but the rain and snow arrived too late to offset the impacts from months of record dry weather across the Southwest, resulting in the continuing potential for a dangerous fire season," said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service.

Weak La NiŮa conditions, which developed this winter, contributed to significant drought concerns in the Southwest, central and southern Plains. "April through June is typically dry in the Southwest, so drought will very likely persist or even worsen until the thunderstorm season arrives this summer," said Ed O'Lenic, chief, forecast operations branch, NOAA Climate Prediction Center. "NOAA's outlook also indicates a continued drought concern for the southern and central Plains."

Rich Ochoa of the National Interagency Fire Centerís fire weather program says the programís forecast calls for an above-normal fire potential in Southern California, the Southwest, Southern Plains to Florida and a below-normal potential in the Northeastern U.S.

As of mid-March, nearly unprecedented dry weather, unseasonably high temperatures, and gusty winds have already contributed to more than 13,000 wildfires, scorching in excess of 930,000 acres nationally since Jan. 1, mainly in Texas and Oklahoma. This is well above the five-year average of 6,363 wildfires and 98,476 acres burned.

Currently, severe to extreme drought extends across the Southwest into the southern Plains and northward into Kansas. The U.S. Drought Monitor gives its highest drought rating, D4 (exceptional), to portions of southern Texas and eastern Oklahoma. Heavy rains including severe thunderstorms have eased short-term drought in Illinois, Iowa and southward into Arkansas, but ongoing drought concerns may linger. The recent heavy rains and flooding ended dryness concerns over most of Hawaii.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook calls for dry conditions persisting through June in the Southwest and the southern and central Plains, despite temporary improvement in some areas. Also, drought is expected to expand in Kansas and eastern Colorado. Some drought improvement is predicted for areas in the northern Rockies and northern Plains, as well as the Mississippi Valley and eastern Plains. Drought is expected to continue in North Carolina and possibly expand into portions of the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

For the nation as a whole, the U.S. Spring Outlook for April through June indicates below-normal precipitation for much of the central and southern Plains, as well as the Southeast and Gulf Coast. Above normal precipitation is favored across the northern Plains and Great Lakes region as well as Hawaii. The remainder of the country, including Alaska, has equal chances of above, near or below normal precipitation.

Meanwhile, above normal temperatures are indicated for the Southwest eastward into the Southeast and the northwest islands of Hawaii; below normal temperatures are likely for the northern Plains, northern Rockies and Washington State. Western Alaska and the panhandle may see above-normal temperatures. The remainder of the country has equal chances of above, near or below normal temperature.

An equal chance, either for temperature or precipitation, is predicted when there are no reliable and skillful signals on which to base the seasonal outlook.
"There is a silver lining in today's announcement," Johnson said. "NOAA's National Hydrologic Assessment does not indicate a widespread flooding potential this spring for the contiguous U.S." However, substantial snowpack in the West has produced areas of above average flood risk. Wet fall and near normal winter conditions have primed the Red River of the North, the boundary between North Dakota and Minnesota, for moderate to major flooding this spring. Also, recent heavy rains across the Ohio Valley region and southern Mississippi have caused flooding on rivers, increasing the risk for future flooding.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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