Wet & warm spring ahead

Weather outlook | Spring 2020
BY BRAD RIPPEY
Three-month outlook precipitation probability from the National Weather Service

The National Weather Service’s updated spring outlook continues to highlight the likelihood of wet weather across large sections of the northern Plains and from the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic Coast. Soils have remained wet in many of these areas through the winter, heightening the risk of spring flooding — especially if stormy weather continues during the next several weeks.  Already, significant flooding has occurred in 2020 across parts of the South, particularly in the lower Mississippi Valley and neighboring basins, such as the Pearl River in Mississippi and Louisiana.  

Farther north, an extensive snow cover has existed since Thanksgiving from the Red River Valley into the upper Great Lakes states. In that region, saturated soils, melting snow and spring rainfall could combine to spark major flooding from the eastern Dakotas into the upper Mississippi Valley. Spring fieldwork delays have already been observed in wetter sections of the South, and planting delays could become a concern in the Midwest if a wet spring develops as expected.

From a temperature perspective, spring warmth is likely across much of the western, southern and eastern United States. Spring arrived several weeks early across the South, based on phenological reports of plants leafing out and blooming. The Deep South faces the greatest likelihood of experiencing above-normal spring temperatures. Despite expectations for an overall warm Southern spring, producers will need to be cognizant of the fact that even a normal spring freeze could harm fruit crops that have exhibited accelerated development in recent weeks. Such Southeastern freezes in 2007 and 2017 caused billions of dollars in agricultural losses, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. Farther north, below-average spring temperatures are the most likely outcome across portions of the northern Plains.

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