The spring flood outlook is notably above average in the Northern Plains and northern Midwest. (Missouri Basin River Forecast Center graphic)
For much of the Northern Plains and the western Midwest, spring 2020 looms as a season with a high threat of flooding for a second consecutive year. This, in turn, suggests planting difficulty and prevented planting again.
“The Upper Missouri basin runoff was more than twice the average in winter,” said B.J. Baule of the Michigan state climatology office in a spring forecast webinar Thursday. “And, the James River in North Dakota has been in flood stage for close to a year.”
Flood potential is heightened by a severe winter in this portion of the Corn Belt. Areas such as southern Illinois and southern Missouri recorded less than 1 inch of snow during the 2019-20 winter season. However, the northern states had snowfall that was well above normal, amounting to 150% to 175% of normal.
“Winter was severe north and mild south,” Baule said. “The Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Michigan, Wyoming and Montana were more severe.” Some areas in these states had extreme winters, due mostly to snow, he said.
For the spring, Michigan State Climatologist Jeff Andresen cited the prospect for above normal precipitation to keep the pressure on when it comes to flooding. “Spring has a warmer and wetter direction,” he said. “Empirically, a warmer and wetter pattern is less likely, but outlooks have been consistent with pushing in that direction.”
Regarding the flood risk, Andresen noted an elevated risk in the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio and Red River of the North basins. The highest flood threat is in the northern reaches due to snow cover and snowmelt amounts. “One of the conditional factors will be timing of the snowmelt — whether it’s relatively orderly and if we can sustain that,” Andresen said. “And, the precipitation pattern over the next several weeks will be just as important.”
USDA Midwest Climate Hub Director Dennis Todey sees delayed planting as highly likely in the northern U.S. crop areas at the least, with prevented planting entering the picture again.
“Northern areas are wettest. Those are going to be the biggest ones (wet problem areas) because they take longer to dry,” he said. “The Eastern Corn Belt is not as bad.”
Todey is also vigilant about how spring rain develops. It holds the key to whether flooding is as much of a problem as 2019. “There should be opportunities for planting,” Todey said. “How much more rain occurs and how frequent it occurs will be key.”
Source: Bryce Anderson, DTN