Southwest Climate Outlook August 2022

Date issued

Monthly/Seasonal Precipitation and Temperature: July precipitation was average to much above average in most of Arizona and between much below average and much above average in New Mexico (Fig. 1a). July temperatures were above average to much above average in Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 1b). Water year precipitation is below average or drier in much of Arizona and New Mexico, with northeast Arizona, and western and northern New Mexico, the notable exceptions (Fig. 2).

Drought: The Aug 9 U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) shows decreases in the severity of drought in Arizona and New Mexico following widespread monsoon activity. Despite the local improvement, drought conditions are still found across most of the southwestern United States (Fig. 3). Long-term accumulated precipitation deficits are a factor in these designations. Sustained monsoon activity helped reduce the most extreme drought characterizations but is not enough to reverse long-term drought conditions.

Water Supply: Most of the reservoirs in Arizona and New Mexico are at or below the values recorded at this time last year. Most are also below their long-term average (see reservoir storage for Arizona and New Mexico). The shortage declaration for the Colorado River in 2022 and low water levels in the Rio Grande highlight ongoing concerns about the intersection of long-term drought and water resource management.

Wildfire: Fire season to date has been well above average in New Mexico, and closer to average in Arizona. Monsoon activity tamped down but did not eliminate wildfire risk. The NIFC fire outlooks for September call for normal fire risk for Arizona and most of New Mexico (Fig. 4).

ENSO Tracker: ENSO remains at La Niña status according to most outlooks. The forecast consensus is generally that La Nina is likely to persist through fall and possibly into winter (see ENSO-tracker for details).

Monsoon: Monsoon precipitation has been widespread across the region (Fig. 5). Early storms in June boosted percent of normal, and recent activity brought much of the region to at or above average, calculated as a percent of the average seasonal total to date (Fig. 6). The persistence of La Nina could suppress eastern Pacific tropical storm activity, which could limit late-season monsoon events that are often supplemented or driven by surges in tropical moisture or even tropical storms that push inland.

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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