Spring 2013 Climate Outlook

A change in weather pattern brings an increased spring snow-melt flood risk and the hope to alleviate drought conditions for the growing season.

Since October 2013, temperatures across the Red River Valley have generally averaged close to normal. The warmest temperatures have been across the central portions of the basin with the coldest across the Upper Devils Lake Basin and along the International Border region of north central Minnesota. Departures generally range from 1 degree below to 1 degree above the median.

Departure from normal temperatures across North Dakota and Minnesota from October 1 2012 to February 20 2013. Image courtesy of the High Plains Regional Climate Center, Lincoln Nebraska. Click on image for a larger version.

Departure from normal precipitation across North Dakota and Minnesota from October 1 2012 to February 20 2013. Image courtesy of the High Plains Regional Climate Center, Lincoln Nebraska. Click on image for a larger version.

Precipitation has been extremely variable across the region. Generally above median precipitation has fallen, with much of it coming from several early and later season storms. Early to mid October 2012 saw the largest rainfalls and snowfalls across the Devils Lake and lower Red River basins. Recent storms have impacted the upper Red River Basin, with very heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions, particularly from the Moorhead / Fargo area south. A strip of normal to below normal precipitation extends from the northwest corner of Minnesota through the Grand Forks area on to the Valley City area. Portions of the west central Minnesota Lakes Country continue to experience below median precipitation as well.

Weather and Climate outlooks: Through the end of February temperatures are forecast to be close to seasonal averages with near median precipitation forecast.The latest 8 to 14 day outlook which goes through the first week of March calls for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. Ocean sea surface temperatures are near neutral in the equatorial Pacific yet have shown tremendous variability the past 9 months. Overall the temperatures are slightly cooler than average having fallen from late summer 2012 highs. While technically ENSO neutral, the atmosphere has begun to respond to the Oceanic cooling, which is in part responsible for the recent increase in storminess. Click here for an Ocean Time Series of the Sea Surface Temperatures from June 2012-February 20th 2013. The image shows the area along and 10 degrees north and south of the Equator, from 120 degrees East to 120 degrees West; this is generally from the Philippines to about 2,000 miles off the west coast of South America. This area is of particular interest to climate predictions, as changes in Sea Surface Temperatures can have significant impact to the U.S. and North American Region as a whole. The large area of warmer than average water during June, July and August 2012 (so annotated in red to the upper right) marked what was expected to be an El Nino. Beginning in late September 2012, cooler waters "up-welled" fromdeep in the Pacific. This is reflected in the blue colors that begin to show up on the graphic during late September and through October. A resurgence of warm water (oranges and red colors) appear in late October through much of November 2012. However, a dramatic cooling (blue colors) reappears in mid November 2012 and continues through February. This 'see/saw' pattern of warming and cooling is somewhat unusual and also has helped generate the recent storminess across the U.S.

The above is the Climate Prediction Center Outlooks for March, 2013.

The updated outlook for March calls for normal climatic variability in temperatures with an enhanced risk for above normal precipitation across the Red River Valley and Devils Lake Basin.

The above is the Climate Prediction Center Outlooks for March through May, 2013.

The climate outlook for March, April and May suggests that tremendous variability will continue to affect the climate system. Computer and statistical analysis suggest that there is an enhanced risk for one or two significant snow or rain event during the late winter into early spring. Overall we should see normal climatic variability in both temperatures and precipitation with an enhanced risk for above median precipitation east of the Red River Valley, over portions of north central Minnesota and the start of the Mississippi River drainage basin.

Drought Mitigation Potential:

What impacts will the snow-melt and predicted precipitation have on the drought in our region? It is important to remember that melting snow benefits the near term agricultural situation by moistening the top soils. As of February 21st, the soils are frozen to a depth of 3 feet. Much of the snow-melt will run off into the area river systems, hence the increase in the snow-melt flood risk. Long term modification to the drought will be determined by spring and summer rainfall.

US Drought Outlook for February 21 through May 31 2013. For more information visit the US Drought Monitor.

The Drought Outlook calls for "some improvement" in our area due to the snow-melt re-moistening the soils. At the present time the CPC summer outlook calls for an enhanced risk of above normal temperatures and normal climatic variability in precipitation. Historical [statistical] data suggests the summer seasons following a major drought tend to see more normal precipitation patterns, although the tendency is towards the lower side of median values.

The above is the CPC Outlook for the June - August time period.

The summer months of June through August have the likelihood that temperatures will be above median over a large portion of the county. For the Red River Valley region, precipitation is expected to exhibit normal climatic variability. Statistically speaking, summer seasons following a drought tend towards the drier side of normal.

For additional information please visit the NWS Grand Forks web site, or contact Mark Ewens Climate Services Focal Point at 701.795.5198 or email at Mark.Ewens@noaa.gov

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