With energy traders prepared to close the book on winter 2006-2007 weather, attention will now turn to what kind of spring is in store for the United States. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 2007 Spring Outlook, April through June is expected to bring above-normal temperatures across a wide area of the country, from the West through the Plains and into the Southeast, while below-normal temperatures are likely for southwest California and Hawaii. The government forecasting firm said the remainder of the country, including the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and the tip of the Pacific Northwest, have equal chances of above-, near- or below-normal temperatures.

NOAA also highlighted near-term flooding in portions of the Midwest and Ohio Valley and continued drought in the Southwest as areas of concern from April through June in the agency’s outlook.

“NOAA’s National Hydrologic Assessment indicates a flooding potential this spring for southeast Colorado,” said David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service. “The soil moisture is high due to the melting of an above-normal snowpack, which resulted from record snowfall in December and January.”

He noted that the upper Midwest is currently in the middle of its snowmelt. Warmer than normal temperatures in recent weeks have increased the risk of flooding due to ice jams over portions of eastern South Dakota, eastern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. In addition, high soil moisture over northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania and extreme southwestern New York state could lead to flooding if additional heavy precipitation occurs.

On the hydropower front, scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center said that precipitation during the December 2006-February 2007 U.S. winter season was above average in much of the center of the nation. Meanwhile, large sections of the East, Southeast and West were drier than average.

Much of southern California just experienced its driest fall and winter in more than a century. “With the dry season fast approaching, there are major concerns that drought conditions will not only fail to improve but actually worsen in coming months,” said Doug Lecomte, drought specialist for the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. “The outlook for any significant drought improvement from now through spring looks grim for not only southern California but for much of the Southwest as well.”

NOAA said Florida is approaching its dry season. Abnormally dry winter weather over the southern half of the peninsula has brought fire danger indices to abnormally high conditions.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook calls for drought conditions persisting or intensifying through June over much of the Southwest, potentially spreading into portions of Utah and western Colorado. Drought conditions also are expected to persist across peninsular Florida. However, some improvement is predicted over the extreme northern Plains as well as portions of Texas and Oklahoma.

For the nation as a whole, the outlook calls for increased chances of below-normal precipitation during the spring from the central Rockies into much of Nevada and the southern half of California, as well as Louisiana, eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma. The remainder of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, has equal chances of above-, near- or below-normal precipitation.

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