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Heavy precipitation events are on the rise, but slow and steady is how to escape a drought. Take a look at NOAA's video for more.

Tweetable Fact

Drought to floods in less than one year. Take a look at this extreme swing across the Midwest

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  • In less than one year, there has been a dramatic shift from severe drought to flooding across many areas in the Midwest.

  • Here is a look at four different locations, showing their extreme swing in streamflow from near record low levels last August to above flood levels this May.

  • The combination of a very wet spring (one of the wettest on record in some locations) and multiple rounds of recent heavy rain from severe storms has pushed rivers to flood levels.

  • Heavy precipitation events, like those seen a few times over the last two weeks, are on the rise across the country.

Click here for a high-resolution version

Over the past two weeks, severe storms have ripped across the Midwest and Plains, producing round after round of deadly tornadoes and heavy rain. From Minnesota down to Arkansas and Oklahoma, these are the same places that were suffering from one of the worst droughts in history last summer.

The map above shows how dramatic this shift from drought to flood has been across the region. We looked at four locations – two on the Mississippi River, one on the Iowa River, and one on the Raccoon River at Des Moines, IA – to show how much higher stream flow is now than it was just 10 months ago. While year-to-year changes aren’t unusual, this swing has been much more extreme than normal. For example, the Iowa River at Iowa City was running at 8 percent of normal last August. Thanks to the wettest spring in Iowa's 141 years of recordkeeping, the river has flowed at almost double the normal volume for all of May.

There is at least one upside to all this rain, drought is finally disappearing across the Midwest. As recently as October 9, 2012, 100 percent Iowa was in a state of severe drought or worse. The percentage today: zero.

Extreme swings like these may be linked to a warming climate. More heat can mean more severe summer droughts — but it also means the atmosphere can hold more moisture, increasing the odds of heavy precipitation and flooding when that moisture eventually comes back down. In fact, heavy precipitation events have been on the rise across the entire country, as indicated in the graphic below. This data comes from the National Climate Assessment that was released in draft form back in January, They classify heavy precipitation events as those in the 99th percentile - or top 1 percent of all events.

Click here for a high-resolution version

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