The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has issued the updated climate outlook for February 2013, as well as the seasonal for February - April 2013. Based on the updated outlook, there will be a tendency for more frequent periods of below median temperatures and above median precipitation across much of the region. This may help alleviate or help improve drought conditions as we get into the spring snow-melt and early planting season.
Below is the Climate Outlook for February 2013, issued January 17 2013. A large section of the northern plains region is likely to see temperatures below the median values, with an enhanced risk for above median precipitation.
Below is the Climate Outlook for February - April 2013, issued January 17 2013. A large section of the northern plains region is likely to see temperatures below the median values, with an enhanced risk for above median precipitation.
Due to the enhanced risk for above median precipitation the next few months, the U.S. Drought Outlook suggests improvement is likely across a large portion of the region during the snow-melt season. This improvement, should it develop as forecast, will come from snow melting and the resultant re-moistening of the top soil. During the late fall of 2012 rains increased a little across the region, which allowed for some percolation and recharge of the soil moisture depleted by the 2012 drought.
Below is the January 15 2013 Drought Monitor for North Dakota and Minnesota showing the moderate to severe drought conditions that continue across the region. Additional information is available from the Local Drought Page of the Grand Forks NWS
The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The latest Drought Forecast is below, and it shows the areas that are expected to show improvement due to the anticipated increased precipitation this late winter and early spring season. As our improvement would come from snow-melt, the area will not see any significant changes until closer to the "normal" snow-melt period.
Much of the forecast improvement depends on 1) How much additional snow falls and the water content of the snow and 2) The rate of melt this spring. As the increase in snow that is forecast would likely occur with lower than median temperatures, the actual water content may not be as large as in a milder season. Ultimately the impacts on the drought will not be assessed until after the melt, and any spring rains, occur.
Beyond the spring, the CPC Outlooks suggest a return to warmer than median temperatures and a more normal pattern of precipitation. Depending on the exact distribution of precipitation, some areas will likely remain drier than the long term climatology which may help drought conditions redevelop this summer. There are too many unknowns at this time to make a definitive assessment of the summer 2013 drought potential.
For a technical discussion on the CPC Outlook click here. The main forcing mechanism of the upcoming late winter and early spring climate is a weak ENSO signal, along with the natural variability of the Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillations which can cause tremendous day to day and week to week variability.