Three-month projection

Information released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration supports an earlier forecast indicating a moderate chance for spring flooding in Northwest Missouri.

The agency of the U.S. Commerce Department unveiled the flooding outlook last month, a closely observed report in the aftermath of widespread damage caused by high water along the Missouri River in 2019.

Thursday’s climate briefing by NOAA reinforced those probabilities, showing higher chances for above-average precipitation in May through July in an area roughly that of the watershed of the Missouri River.

“I can’t stray too far outside my lane into the hydrology aspect of it, but certainly there are some similarities that are borne out in the forecast this year versus last year,” Steve Baxter, meteorologist for the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, said.

He added that despite these similarities in weather patterns, last year’s flooding developed through a number of factors.

“We are not, emphasis not, forecasting the type of amplitude that we saw last year, because that type of event requires a lot more going on than what we can diagnose just looking at low-frequency climate factors,” Baxter said.

Damage ran into the multi-billions of dollars from the 2019 flood, the losses not only in Northwest Missouri but in many states touched by the Missouri River. Some of the most productive farmland in Missouri spent much of last year under water, tens of thousands of acres in Holt County alone.

The spring flood forecast map showed almost all of Northwest Missouri and much of Northeast Kansas in a zone of moderate flooding, defined by the agency as “some inundation of structures and roads” and “some evacuations of people (and property) to higher elevations.”

The outlook said, in part, “Moderate flooding is anticipated in the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and Missouri River basins, as well as the lower Mississippi River basin and its tributaries.”

In Thursday’s report, the data showed the Northwest Missouri region in an area of likely average temperatures through July and up to a 50% probability of above-average precipitation. The drought projections did not show any area within hundreds of miles of the region.

The briefing on Thursday also cited global trends related to climate.

“March 2020 was the second warmest March on record,” Deke Arndt, of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said during a conference call. This data stood within the context of 141 years of keeping records.

“That temperature over land and that temperature over the ocean were all the second warmest on record, all behind March 2016.”

The quarterly temperature readings made it a 99.9% likelihood that 2020 will be among the top five warmest years ever recorded, the scientists said.

Maps also showed that Buchanan County experienced in March an “above average” maximum temperature (based on 126 years of recorded averages) and a “much above average” minimum temperature.

Ken Newton can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.