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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Drought Expected To ‘Persist Or Intensify’ In The West

Drought conditions will cover much of the U.S this spring, especially in the West, including California, where dry conditions are expected "to persist or intensify," according to a National Drought Early Warning Outlook report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Drought conditions will cover much of the U.S this spring, especially in the West, including California, where dry conditions are expected "to persist or intensify," according to a National Drought Early Warning Outlook report.

Special Feature Drought Outlook

Climate Prediction Center seasonal drought outlook through May 31, 2012.

NOAA researchers predict that most of the United States will have higher-than-usual temperatures over the next three months and the Southeast will have below-normal precipitation. Climate experts said the outlook raises the prospect of more wildfires, stunted crop growth and low river levels.

Mounting research suggests extreme weather patterns such as drought are being driven by climate change.

Currently, 56 percent of the continental U.S. is covered by some form of drought. That's an improvement from last summer, when the drought covered two-thirds of the nation.

A smaller-than-average snowpack in the southern Rockies in Colorado has added to concerns that there won't be enough water flowing down streams and rivers this spring to replenish reservoirs. But snowpack levels could still improve in the next two months.

Climate monitoring and response efforts to the drought might be complicated if deep spending cuts under a federal budget "sequester" go into effect in a week, contributors to the outlook said.

The Associated Press contributed to the information in this report.

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