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Spring Outlook: California drought cut by half with more relief to come

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Moderate to major spring flooding predicted along upper Mississippi River from Minneapolis to St. Louis


Significant flooding is ongoing in the western U.S., especially in California, following another series of strong Pacific storms that battered the region and piled on to an already historic snowpack. According to NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook, the abnormally wet winter will further improve drought across much of the western U.S. as the snowpack melts in the coming months. Winter precipitation, combined with recent storms, wiped out exceptional and extreme drought in California for the first time since 2020, and is expected to further improve drought conditions this spring.

NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook highlights temperature, precipitation, drought and flood predictions for April through June to help the nation prepare for potential weather and climate threats to lives and livelihoods.

​“Climate change is driving both wet and dry extremes, as illustrated by NOAA’s observations and data that inform this seasonal outlook,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D.​​ “​Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law​ and Inflation Reduction Act, and in support of the Biden Administration's priority to tackle the climate crisis​, NOAA ​will invest significant resources ​to build a Climate-Ready Nation that gives communities tailored information about changing conditions so that residents and economies are protected."

Spring Outlook for drought, temperature and precipitation

On March 9, NOAA forecasters declared La Nina over. The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a climate pattern, based on changes in rainfall and sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, that influences temperature and precipitation around the world. La Nina occurs when ocean temperatures are cooler than normal and rainfall is reduced in the eastern to central Pacific Ocean.

“La Nina has finally ended after being in place nearly continuously for more than two years,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operational prediction branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. “ENSO-neutral — the transition period between El Nino and La Nina — is likely to continue into the early summer with elevated chances of El Nino developing thereafter. ENSO-neutral is factored into NOAA’s Spring Outlook.”

Moderate to exceptional drought coverage across the U.S. is at its lowest since August 2020 offsite linkand is likely to continue improving, or end entirely, across much of California and the Great Basin. The spring wet season is expected to improve drought conditions across parts of the northern and central Plains. Current drought conditions in Florida are expected to improve or go away during the next three months.

Areas of extreme to exceptional drought across parts of the southern High Plains are likely to persist through the spring season, with drought also expected to develop into parts of New Mexico. Across parts of the Northwest U.S. and northern Rockies, drought conditions are also expected to continue. Drought may develop into parts of Washington state.

Above-average temperatures are favored for much of the southern and eastern half of the U.S. For April through June, the greatest chance for above-average temperatures exists from the southern High Plains eastward to Florida, and northward along the East Coast. Above-average temperatures are also likely for Hawaii and northern parts of Alaska. Below-average temperatures are predicted for the central Great Basin and the northern Plains.

NOAA forecasters predict above-average precipitation this spring across the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, and into parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Below-average precipitation is most likely for the Southwest and parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Spring flood risk

There is a risk for flooding in most of the eastern half of the continental United States, including most of the Mississippi River Basin. Forecasters with the National Water Center, in concert with NWS River Forecast Centers, predict moderate to major flooding along the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to St. Louis, Missouri.

An above normal to record snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, combined with elevated soil moisture, increases the threat of spring flooding due to snowmelt, especially at high elevations.

"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.


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