Southwest Climate Outlook April 2022

Date issued

Monthly/Seasonal Precipitation and Temperature: Mar precipitation was between below average and above average in Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 1a). Mar temperatures were mostly above average in Arizona and mostly average in New Mexico (Fig. 1b). Jan-Mar precipitation was mostly below average to much below average in Arizona, and mostly average to below average in New Mexico (Fig. 2a). Jan-Mar temperatures were mostly average to above average in Arizona, and mostly average in New Mexico (Fig. 2b). Water year precipitation is between average and much below average in most of Arizona and New Mexico, with a majority of the region in the drier categories (Fig. 3).

Drought: The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) in the Southwest shows increases in categorical severity of drought characterizations in parts of Arizona and especially in eastern New Mexico (Fig. 4), and drought conditions are found across nearly the entire western United States. Long term accumulated precipitation deficits are a factor in these designations, but the relatively dry conditions over the water year to date are also playing their part in the drought.

Snowpack & Streamflow: Apr 1 snow water equivalent (SWE) was highly variable across the Southwest (Fig. 5), with SWE ranging from well below to well above median. Apr 1 streamflow forecasts are mostly below median in the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins, with southern Arizona and parts of New Mexico showing the lowest probability of exceeding the 50% threshold (Fig. 6). April 1 was peak snowpack in the higher country, and precipitation chances are waning, so these forecasts are unlikely to improve, but any late season snow or rainfall would be welcome, especially given the fire activity in New Mexico.

Water Supply: Most of the reservoirs in Arizona and New Mexico are at or below levels from this time last year. Most are also below their long-term average (see Arizona and New Mexico reservoir storage). The outlook for warm and dry conditions does not bode well for water storage recovery in the short term, and will continue to raise concerns about Lakes Mead and Powell for long term storage and regional sustainability.

Wildfire: Fire season is already underway in the Southwest. The NIFC fire outlooks for April, May, and June predict above normal fire risk for much of Arizona and most of New Mexico.

ENSO Tracker: ENSO remains at La Niña status according to most outlooks. Previously, the forecast consensus was on a transition to ENSO-neutral conditions by summer, but there are now some indications of the potential for La Nina to persist into Fall (see ENSO-tracker for details).

Published by the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), with support from University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, the Arizona State Climate Office, and the New Mexico State Climate office.

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