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Forecasters: Warm weather here to stay

By Greg Seaby, CNN
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Thu March 15, 2012
Zosia Sztykowski relaxes in Lafayette Park on a warm, sunny spring day in Washington, D.C.
Zosia Sztykowski relaxes in Lafayette Park on a warm, sunny spring day in Washington, D.C.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Above-normal temperatures forecast for most of U.S. this spring
  • Warm temperatures are already breaking records nationwide
  • Drought conditions will continue in the South and Southwest

Washington (CNN) -- Most Americans can put away winter coats and umbrellas and break out the short sleeves and sunglasses even though spring doesn't officially begin until next week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a 90-day weather outlook released Thursday, forecasters predict the unseasonably warm temperatures that have blanketed parts of the United States will continue into the summer, and much of the country will remain dry.

In fact, for the first time in four years, no area of the country will face a high risk of major flooding from April through June, due in large measure to a winter without much snow, forecasters said.

"We expect above-normal temperatures in the South and Eastern United States," said Ed O'Lenic, chief of operations at the Climate Prediction Center for NOAA's National Weather Service. He predicts temperatures could be half a degree to a degree and a half above normal in many parts of the country.

Above-normal temperatures are also predicted for the Southwest across Texas and the Gulf Coast, as well as the Atlantic Coast, the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region, according to NOAA. Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and southern Alaska will be below normal.

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The heat has been on early this spring and the mercury has already broken records across the country. Nationwide, 577 record temperatures were broken Wednesday, including 400 high temperatures, according to Laura Furgione, deputy director at the National Weather Service. The weather service forecasts warm weather to continue well into next week.

This is unwelcome news to parts of the South and West, where NOAA predicts the ongoing drought will persist and intensify through June.

"Drought is now encompassing parts of the West and Southwest, making conditions more favorable for wildfires," said David Brown, director of NOAA Southern Region Climate Services.

"If the drought persists as predicted, it will likely result in an active wildfire season, continued stress on crops and livestock due to low water levels and an expansion of water conservation measures," according to a NOAA statement.

That's a stark contrast to last year's flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

"What a difference a year makes," said Furgione. "We're not forecasting a repeat of recent historic and prolonged flooding in the central and northern U.S., and that is a relief. The severity of any flooding this year will be driven by rainfall more so than the melting of the current snowpack."

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