NOAA Forecasts Drought to Persist and Expand in the U.S. West and High Plains

Nearly half the country is currently experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, which are expected to continue and expand through the Midwest, according to NOAA’S Spring Outlook released Thursday. 

Drier conditions in the Southwest U.S. due to La Niña and the failed 2020 summer monsoon have contributed to the intensification of what NOAA is calling “the most significant U.S. spring drought since 2013.” The NOAA also predicts the drought will “impact nearly 74 million people.”

Mary Erickson, the Deputy Director of the National Weather Service said, “The Southwest U.S., which is already experiencing widespread severe to exceptional drought, will remain the hardest hit region in the U.S., and the water supply will continue to be a concern this spring in these drought-affected areas. This is a major change from recent years where millions were impacted by severe flooding.” 

The NOAA reported that above average temperatures this spring and low soil moisture will allow drought conditions to worsen and expand across the southern and central Great Plains as well as southern Florida. In the northern Plains, existing drought could intensify if there are below average levels of spring precipitation. Drought improvement during the next few months is likely in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, New England and Hawaii. However, in drought-affected areas, rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat have already experienced adverse effects, which were exacerbated by February’s record low temperatures. 

The precipitation outlook suggests above-normal precipitation for parts of the Midwest, Great Lakes, the Mid-Atlantic, the Northeast and in Hawaii, while below-normal precipitation is forecast across the southern Plains and a large portion of the West. 

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