ISSUES 2004 U.S. SPRING OUTLOOK;
March 19, 2004 — Following a highly variable winter, scientists from the NOAA National Weather Service expect drought concerns to continue in parts of the West, while less snow and warmer conditions in the upper Midwest foretell a lower than normal risk of snowmelt flooding this year. The predictions were made at a news conference held in Washington, D.C. today. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA spring 2004 precipitation outlook. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)
This spring NOAA scientists also expect long term precipitation deficits to decrease in parts of the northern and central Great Plains, while the hydrological drought or water supply deficits are predicted to persist over many areas in the West, especially in much of Arizona and New Mexico. Dry soils from up to five dry years will absorb snowmelt runoff and reduce recharge of reservoirs, many of which are well below normal levels as a result of this multi-year drought. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA spring 2004 temperature outlook. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)
Snowpack and snow water content have been running close to normal during this winter snow season in the Great Basin and Northwest, but continued improvement in water supplies throughout the West depends largely on snowfall continuing into spring. In many cases, the meltwater will not be enough to replenish depleted reservoirs.
Spring Flood Potential:
As much as 10 inches of water is stored in the snowpack in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper peninsula, leaving the area at risk for flooding if warm temperatures accompany rain. Finally, thick ice on rivers in northern New York and New England could lead to ice jam flood problems.
“Accurate weather forecasts are critical to successful suppression of wildfires and can mean life or death for firefighters,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service. “Particularly in the interior West and Southwest, where long-term drought conditions increase fire danger, the NOAA National Weather Service will provide meteorological support to wildland fire management agencies to protect property, and especially, lives.”
Set for Spring:
As it stands today, NOAA’s U.S. Drought Monitor has very limited drought depicted east of the Mississippi River. However, it is another story for many places in the West.
“Fifty percent of U.S. states west of the Mississippi River are in some phase of dryness or drought, with the worst occurring in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho and Montana,” said Johnson. “The series of winter storms seen in the Rockies since last autumn have not made up for the substantial precipitation deficits that extend back four or five years. Snowpack in the region this spring is generally improved from last year, providing hope for limited water supply improvements and better prospects for farmers and ranchers.” (Click NOAA image for larger view of drought monitor as of March 16, 2004. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)
periods of record cold and warmth, as a whole, the 2003-2004 winter season
(December through February) will go down in the record books as near average
for the nation,” said Tom
Karl, director of the NOAA
National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. “The Eastern
U.S. was cooler than average while warmer than average conditions affected
much of the rest of the country. While there were periods of unusually
heavy rain and snow in parts of the country, including above average precipitation
in some parts of the West, precipitation was near average for the contiguous
U.S.” (Click NOAA image for larger view of average jetstream
positions during the winter of 2003-2004. Click
here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit
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