NOAA issues spring outlook, predicts flooding in the usual places, more drought for Cali and the Southwest

NOAA predicts moderate flood potential in Midwest, elevated risk of ice jams; California and Southwest stuck with drought

March 20, 2014

According to NOAA’s Spring Outlook released today, rivers in half of the continental United States are at minor or moderate risk of exceeding flood levels this spring with the highest threat in the southern Great Lakes region due to above-average snowpack and a deep layer of frozen ground. Additionally, drought is expected to continue in California and the Southwest.

The continuation of winter weather, above-average snowpack, frozen ground and thick ice coverage on streams and rivers will delay spring flooding into April in the upper Midwest eastward to New England. The intensity of the flooding will depend on the rate of snow and ice melt, and future rainfall.

Continued well-below average temperatures this winter resulted in significant river ice formation and ice jams in locations further south than customary, flooding homes and businesses, and impacting river commerce. There is also an elevated risk of more ice jams this spring in the northern tier of the U.S. from Montana eastward to northern New England.

“This year’s spring flood potential is widespread and includes rivers in highly populated areas putting millions of Americans at risk,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director, NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Although widespread major river flooding is not expected, an abrupt warming or heavy rainfall event could lead to isolated major flooding.”

Spring Flood Risk

National Weather Service hydrologists predict moderate flooding in parts of southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan and portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa as a result of the current snowpack and the deep layer of frozen ground coupled with expected seasonal temperatures and rainfall. At risk are the Mississippi River and the Illinois River as well as many smaller rivers in these regions. Small streams and rivers in the lower Missouri basin in Missouri and eastern Kansas have already experienced minor flooding this year and the threat of moderate flooding will persist through the spring.


Credit: NOAA

There is a risk of moderate flooding along the Red River of the North between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, and along the Souris River below Minot, N.D. River ice, snowpack and significant frozen ground are factors in the flood risk for this area. Additionally, there is a risk of moderate flooding for western South Dakota because of current saturated soils.

Minor flooding is likely in the northern Rockies, parts of the Midwest, and the Great Lakes region. Minor flooding is also possible in the Northeast, the lower Mississippi River basin, and across the entire Southeast up to Virginia, including east Texas, and parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and the Florida panhandle. In these areas, spring flood risk is highly dependent on rainfall.

Drought Outlook

Significant and widespread drought conditions continue in California which experienced its warmest and third driest winter on record. Drought is expected to persist or intensify in California, Nevada, most of interior Oregon and Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, southeast Colorado, western Oklahoma, and most of west Texas because of below-average rain or snow this winter and the onset of the dry season in April. If the drought persists as predicted in the West and Southwest, it will likely result in an active wildfire season, continued stress on crops and livestock due to low water levels, and an expansion of water conservation measures. Drought removal expected for the Big Island of Hawaii.


Drought improvement is likely in Washington, southeast Idaho, extreme northern and coastal Oregon, western and central sections of Nebraska and Kansas, central Oklahoma, and the Midwest. Drought is not expected east of the Mississippi River during the next three months.

More information about drought can be found at, a clearinghouse of drought-related materials managed by NOAA including maps, tools, and information to help prepare for and mitigate the effects of drought.

Temperature and Precipitation Outlook

Below-normal temperatures this spring are favored for an area from Montana eastward across the northern Plains to the Great Lakes region, while warmer-than-normal temperatures are most likely for western sections of Washington and Oregon, California, the desert Southwest, the southern Plains, the Southeast and all of Alaska.


For precipitation, odds favor drier-than-normal conditions for the Alaska panhandle, western Washington and Oregon, California and parts of Nevada and Arizona. Hawaii is favored to be both warmer and wetter than normal this spring.


NOAA’s Spring Outlook (see our video) identifies areas at risk of spring flooding and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought from April through June. March 16-22 is National Flood Safety Awareness Week, NOAA encourages individuals to become weather-ready by ensuring you have real-time access to flood warnings via mobile devices, weather radio and local media, and avoiding areas that are under these warnings. Empowering people with the information they need to take action to protect life and property is key to NOAA’s effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

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March 20, 2014 8:55 am

Reading their Mission Statement @ the end of the article & I’ll realized that I think these people are living in an intellectual “La La Land”. How do they expect to be very good at anything, when such a varied number of scientific disciplines are involved? Why not concentrate on 1 or 2 & instead of trying to be an expert on so many?

March 20, 2014 9:01 am

Bobby, please try and keep up.
Omni Science is a tiny sub-branch of Climate Science!

erik sloneker
March 20, 2014 9:06 am

What does the Old Farmers Almanac say?

March 20, 2014 9:07 am

The flood predictions, due to record snow melt, is a no-brainer. Lack of rain in West Texas, ho-hum. And, where is the prediction of an El Nino, that appeared about two months ago?
No wonder private forecasting services make so much money….

March 20, 2014 9:10 am

I’m looking forward to their safely crafted but still wrong hurricane season outlook.

Bob Shapiro
March 20, 2014 9:16 am

I’m impressed! Except for a sideways reference to California’s warmest and 3rd driest winter, there were no obvious political statements in this report from NOAA. How refreshing!

Bob Shapiro
March 20, 2014 9:18 am

I’m impressed! Except for one sideways mention of California’s warmest and 3rd driest winter, there were no obvious political comments in this report from NOAA. How refreshing!

March 20, 2014 9:21 am

“Minor” risk of flooding in my area? Well, seeing as how they blew the temperature record, that’s understandable: they don’t realize how much unmelted snow is still on the ground (answer: a good 18-24″ above average for mid-March). We’re a thaw and one good rain storm from serious flooding.

March 20, 2014 9:38 am

I look at the Central North and see drought and flooding. One would think an opportunity exists for capturing some of that flood water to alleviate drought conditions.
But then, I live in California. We build bullet trains between backwater towns instead of reservoirs, and cry about drought/flooding all the time. I just assumed all the idiots lived here, leaving saner minds in the rest of the country. I guess we’re just all stupid.

Barbara Skolaut
March 20, 2014 9:43 am

“What does the Old Farmers Almanac say?”
I’m with you, Eric.
I can predict it’s going to flood where it’s always flooded, and going to be dry in California, where it’s usually dry. And I didn’t charge the feds for the (equally as likely) prediction.

March 20, 2014 9:49 am

erik sloneker says:
March 20, 2014 at 9:06 am
What does the Old Farmers Almanac say?
Nothing, the Old Farmers Almanac can’t talk.

March 20, 2014 9:54 am

@ Barbara Skolaut
“I can predict it’s going to flood where it’s always flooded, and going to be dry in California, where it’s usually dry. And I didn’t charge the feds for the (equally as likely) prediction.”
You didn’t get paid because you didn’t word it as a proper prophecy.
It shall flood where it flooded in the time of our ancestors. There shall be droughts where there were droughts in ages past.
So it is written, so it shall be.

March 20, 2014 10:03 am

Due to climate change, expect a flood of increasing meteor showers and greater chance of larger asteroids passing closer to the planet….this planet. END

March 20, 2014 10:22 am
March 20, 2014 10:35 am

Since NOAA is often wrong, for those of you living in the areas which they say will be dry I can do you a good discount on a line of lifejackets and buoyancy aids.
Is sarc necessary?

March 20, 2014 10:51 am

This is absolutely amazing… dog gave the same forecast

March 20, 2014 11:01 am

Re: “how did NOAA do with their winter outlook?”
Given the La Nada conditions, I was impressed by this graph:
“It’s a challenge to produce a long-term winter forecast without the climate pattern of an El Niño or a La Niña in place out in the Pacific because those climate patterns often strongly influence winter temperature and precipitation here in the United States,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Without this strong seasonal influence, winter weather is often affected by short-term climate patterns, such as the Arctic Oscillation, that are not predictable beyond a week or two. So it’s important to pay attention to your local daily weather forecast throughout the winter.”
Kudos to Mkie Halpert…that was dead bang.
But, in spite of this most excellent advice, they predicted the weather anyway.

March 20, 2014 11:22 am

NOAA predicts moderate flood potential in Midwest, elevated risk of ice jams;
It doesn’t take a supercomputer to predict that.
My brother predicted it just by living in the ice and snow.
More to the point, what good is “moderate flood potential” to anyone in harm’s way?
How high is the water supposed to get?
What year’s is this year likely to emulate?

March 20, 2014 11:28 am

It is evident that NOAA has put a lot of effort into message refinement in place of model improvements or program reform. How many inside-track consultants and staff years went in to that effort?

Tom J
March 20, 2014 11:30 am

‘Empowering people with the information they need to take action to protect life and property is key to NOAA’s effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation.’
C’mon, when was the last time that a government agency or bureaucrat ever existed to “empower people.” Fire that Communications Director.

Michael D
March 20, 2014 12:08 pm

Along the same lines, we can predict that North American temperatures will generally rise during the first half of the year, with cooling trends expected in the fall. Days are expected to get longer, peaking in June, followed by a shortening trend through to the end of the year. Solar illumination will follow a 24 hour cycle of alternating brightness and darkness.

March 20, 2014 12:21 pm

Meh, didn’t NOAA assign an E/C for warm/cold to much of the country this winter? How’d that work out?

March 20, 2014 12:38 pm

Still better than the British one. 😛

Crispin in Waterloo
March 20, 2014 12:40 pm

“For precipitation, odds favor drier-than-normal conditions for the Alaska panhandle…”
Does that mean 100″ instead of the usual 120″?

March 20, 2014 1:33 pm

Does anyone else think it’s funny that they chose the “green” areas of the US to call for minor flooding (except in the north, where there is lots of snow) and the “brown” areas are going to be in drought. It’s like they, um, looked at what’s normal, or something.

Retired Engineer
March 20, 2014 2:29 pm

re: Michael D:
Let me add a prediction – The sun will appear to rise in the east.
So it will flood where it floods, and be dry where it is dry.
We pay these folks?

March 20, 2014 2:29 pm

Blew last seasons hurricane forecast-
Busted the winter forecast-
Already missed the record cold March-

Frank Kotler
March 20, 2014 4:06 pm

Darker tonight, followed by a possibility of tomorrow.

March 21, 2014 7:39 am

Their “Drought Outlook” is kind of a laugh. Looks exactly like the current drought status.

March 21, 2014 10:30 am

Bob Shapiro says:
March 20, 2014 at 9:18 am
I’m impressed! Except for one sideways mention of California’s warmest and 3rd driest winter, there were no obvious political comments in this report from NOAA. How refreshing!
I noticed that NSIDC has also left the climate change spiel out of their last several reports. Their report reads much better that way, with a highlighting of observed natural changes stated in an objective manner.

March 21, 2014 10:40 am

I would forecast California and Oregon weather to be towards the cool side this summer. The cooler sst flows in the western North Pacific are going to push towards Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Brian H
March 22, 2014 2:40 am

NO Accurate Assumptions. Same old, same old.

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