May 26, 2017

Why Rains and Flooding Are Plaguing America

Arkansas
Missouri
North Carolina
USA
by
Brian K. Sullivan
,
Bloomberg
Photo: Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Photo: Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

To understand why heavy rains and widespread flooding have plagued the U.S. this spring, go to the Pacific Ocean.

Last winter, a pool of cool water set up next to a warm patch across the northern Pacific, said Paul Pastelok, lead long range forecaster at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “This led to an avenue for storms that came off the East Asian coast. Instead of dying out, they traveled along that avenue and maintained their strength.” It’s the same phenomenon that delivered a warm winter and ended California’s unprecedented drought.

The consequences have been far-reaching and fatal in some cases. The Midwest and Great Plains have attracted most of the headlines with at least 12 people killed by severe flooding. Rivers crested at record levels in Arkansas and Missouri while thousands of acres of farmland ended up under water. Flooding has hit North Carolina as well.

“Some areas have nearly doubled their normal rainfall for the season,” said Pastelok.

April was the second wettest on record across the 48 contiguous states, the National Centers for Environmental Information said. And more rain is coming -- two to three inches from Texas to Maine in the next seven days, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Changes in the atmosphere in one part of the world that affect the weather elsewhere are known by scientists as teleconnections, which happened here. The end result was a conveyor belt of rain that’s drenched California and led to heavy downpours across the central and eastern U.S. throughout the spring.