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NOAA spring forecast: Drought in the West will continue, much of U.S. to see above-average temperatures

Cattle ranchers innovate amid historic drought
Cattle ranchers innovate amid historic drought 02:53

Drought conditions from California to Mississippi are expected to continue or worsen this spring, while much of the U.S. experiences warmer-than-average temperatures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's U.S. Spring Outlook. The NOAA said 60% of the country is experiencing a drought — the largest drought coverage the U.S. has seen since 2013.

Based on short and long-range statistical and dynamic forecasts between March 17 and June 30, the agency forecasts below-normal precipitation in portions of the Central Great Basin, Southwest, Central and Southern Rockies and Central and Southern Great Plains, eastward to the Central Gulf Coast.

Dry conditions across the Southwest, Southern Plains and North to Central Plains will make for an elevated risk of wildfires, especially when accompanied with high winds. Drought conditions aren't expected to get better in the Southwest until the late summer monsoon rainfall begins, the NOAA forecasted.

Dry conditions combined with the forecasted above-normal temperatures for more than half of the country this spring will allow drought conditions to continue.

Severe exceptional drought conditions have persisted throughout the West since summer of 2020, said Jon Gottschalck, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center's chief of operational prediction branch. The drought conditions have expanded to the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley. And short-term drought has recently developed across North Carolina through parts of Florida, the NOAA said. 

Meanwhile, much of the eastern half of the country could see minor to moderate flooding this spring and above-normal ice breakup and flood potential is forecast in Alaska. 

"Due to late fall and winter precipitation, which saturated soils and increased streamflows, major flood risk potential is expected for the Red River of the North in North Dakota and moderate flood potential for the James River in South Dakota," director of NOAA's National Water Center Ed Clark said. 

The NOAA said melting snow throughout the West this spring is unlikely to cause flooding. 

According to the United States Drought Monitor, more than half of the country is currently experiencing a moderate drought, and 62% has been categorized as "abnormally dry." Approximately 112.8 million people in the country were affected by a drought during the week of March 9, and around 231.4 million acres of U.S. crops experienced drought conditions, the National Integrated Drought Information System reported

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