March 27, 2013
Southwest Climate Outlook
Vol. 12 Issue 3
Photo: Pacifica Sommers
Photo Description: Despite below-average precipitation in many parts of the Southwest, the deserts are beginning to spring into color.
Drought: Central Arizona is the only region in the Southwest to experience drought improvement in the last 30 days; moderate to severe drought conditions still cover the majority of the region, with drought most intense in New Mexico.
Temperature: Rapid warming in March has led to temperatures that are more than 3 degrees F above average in many regions.
Precipitation: Most of Arizona and New Mexico experienced less than 70 percent of average precipitation in the last 30 days.
ENSO: Neutral conditions remain entrenched in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and are expected to continue through the summer and possibly into next year.
Climate Forecasts: Forecasts for the April–June period call for increased chances for above-average temperatures, in part based on recent trends, and below-average precipitation in northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico.
The Bottom Line: The 2012–2013 winter is nearing an end, and although it is several weeks premature to write this winter’s eulogy—early April storms do happen—it appears that Arizona and New Mexico will experience their third consecutive drier-than-average winter. Since January 1, less than 70 percent of average rain and snow fell in nearly all of Arizona except central regions. It was drier in New Mexico, where many areas received less than 50 percent of average precipitation. On March 8, one storm dropped substantial precipitation in Arizona but bypassed New Mexico. This storm helped improve drought conditions in central Arizona, which is now drought-free, but most of the Southwest remains classified with at least moderate drought. It has been about two years since the majority of Arizona was drought-free and about two-and-a-half years for New Mexico. Cold temperatures that helped sustain snowpacks in the mountains around the Southwest throughout much of the winter rapidly warmed in March, particularly in the last two weeks. March temperatures in Arizona, for example, were up to 6 degrees F above average, while temperature anomalies in New Mexico were only slightly lower. The warm conditions have eaten into snowpacks around the region. Nearly every basin in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah has below-average snowpacks, and many monitoring stations in Colorado are in the lowest fifth percentile of their historical records. Consequently, forecasts for watersheds around the region all call for below-average streamflows. This is particularly grim for the Pecos River and the Rio Grande in New Mexico, which already have low stores. Historically, the coming months are dry and windy, and there is some indication that temperatures may be warmer than average.
Read more >
In this issue…
Recent freeze events: Natural variability or weird weather?
Temperature’s Influence on Sudden Aspen Decline
U.S. Drought Monitor
AZ Drought Status
NM Drought Status
AZ Reservoir Volumes
NM Reservoir Volumes
Seasonal Drought Outlook
El Niño Status and Forecast
Download the PDF Version