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Published February 27, 2013
February Climate Summary
Drought: While slight improvements in short-term drought conditions occurred in parts of central Arizona, drought intensified in central New Mexico.
Temperature: Temperatures between January 22 and February 20 were within two degrees of average, except in eastern New Mexico, which was warmer than average.
Precipitation: Five winter storms blew through Arizona in the last 30 days, bringing above-average precipitation to many parts of the state. These storms, however, missed most of New Mexico.
ENSO: The current ENSO-neutral event is expected to remain through the spring.
Climate Forecasts: March–May forecasts call for above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in all of Arizona and New Mexico.
The Bottom Line: Five storms in the last month helped cut winter precipitation deficits, particularly in the higher elevations of Arizona. However, when viewed with a longer-term lens, dry conditions still remain the norm. This is particularly true for New Mexico, because recent storms have missed most of the state. Since January 1, for example, precipitation has been less than 70 percent of average in many parts of New Mexico and drier in central regions. Arizona has received slightly higher totals. Even with recent rain and snow, drought conditions remain widespread and intense in both states. Nearly 83 percent of Arizona and 98 percent of New Mexico are classified with moderate or more severe drought. Temperatures since January 1 have been between 3 and 6 degrees F below average in most of the higher elevations of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. This has helped keep snowpacks larger than they otherwise would be. Nonetheless, water contained in snowpacks, or SWE, is generally below average in the Southwest. Many monitoring stations in the Upper Colorado River Basin and Rio Grande headwaters report less than 80 percent of average SWE, fueling below-average spring streamflow forecasts for the region’s two largest rivers. It is looking increasingly unlikely that reservoirs on these and other rivers in the Southwest will get a boost from above-average precipitation, particularly since forecasts are calling for increased chances for below-average rain in coming months. Thin snowpacks coupled with potentially warm temperatures and dry conditions have resource managers concerned for an elevated risk of wildfires in the spring.
Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Dan Ferguson, CLIMAS Program Director
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Gigi Owen, CLIMAS Assistant Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Swetish, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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