U.S. spring weather outlook? Just ‘typical’


WASHINGTON – If you’re looking at the United States as a whole, spring weather is expected to be “typical” – not too hot, not too cold; not too wet, not too dry.

April-June outlook. “There is neither an El Niño nor La Niña in place,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

“We expect a typical level of springtime variability in temperature and precipitation to occur in many areas of the nation.”

Following a highly variable winter, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service expect drought concerns to continue in parts of the West.

Hot spots. Specifically, weather service meteorologists predict below-normal temperatures in the northern Great Plains and above-normal temperatures in Alaska, the Southwest and parts of the South, for April through June.

Above-normal precipitation is likely in the far Northwest and below normal likely in Texas, parts of surrounding states, and most of Louisiana and Florida.

Drought remains. Scientists also expect long-term precipitation deficits to decrease this spring in parts of the northern and central Great Plains.

In the West, however, they expect the drought to continue, 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.

Stage set for spring. Weather officials said the tropical Pacific Ocean featured neither El Niño nor La Niña during this past winter, which meant the jet stream and its associated weather conditions were highly variable.

Yet, the 2003-2004 winter weather pattern did improve drought conditions in many locations.

The weather service cautions that improvement does not mean total relief.

As it stands today, the U.S. Drought Monitor has limited drought depicted east of the Mississippi River. It’s 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 retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the National Weather Service.

“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.”

Winter also just ‘average.’ “Despite 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 agency’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

The eastern United States was cooler than average while warmer-than-average conditions affected much of the rest of the country.

There were periods of unusually heavy rain and snow in parts of the country, including above average precipitation in some parts of the West, but precipitation was near average for the contiguous United States.


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