Southwest Climate Outlook February 2012

Date issued

February 2012 Climate Summary

Drought: Warm and dry weather has caused short-term drought conditions to intensify across much of Arizona and persist in New Mexico.

Temperature: Warm temperatures have reigned in the last 30 days, largely because high pressure has dominated and few winter storms have traversed the region.

Precipitation: Several winter storms dipped into the Four Corners region before wafting northeast through Colorado in the last 30 days. While this storm track delivered wetter–than-average conditions to the Four Corners, it left most of Arizona and New Mexico very dry.

ENSO: The La Niña event is expected to continue for the next several months. The official forecast indicates a 74 percent chance that La Niña will continue during the February–April period, but chances for its continuation thereafter precipitously decline.

Climate Forecasts: March–May forecasts call for above-average temperatures and below-average rain and snow.

The Bottom Line: January and the first half of February have been dry and warm, conditions often associated with a La Niña event. The rain and snow that soaked the region in December—modestly improving drought—was relatively short-lived; drought is once again on the march. Snowpack conditions in all of Arizona and most of New Mexico are below average, as are those in the Upper Colorado River and Rio Grande basins. As a result, there is a 50-50 chance that spring inflow into Lake Powell will be about 64 percent of the 1971–2000 average; chances for above-average flows are small. Last winter’s exceptionally high streamflows, however, increased combined storage in Lakes Mead and Powell by about 2 million acre-feet more than average and will help buffer below-average flows in the Colorado River this year. More dry weather is expected to continue as forecasts call for the continuation of La Niña for at least the next several months.

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.

Disclaimer. This packet contains official and non-official forecasts, as well as other information. While we make every effort to verify this information, please understand that we do not warrant the accuracy of any of these materials. The user assumes the entire risk related to the use of this data. CLIMAS, UA Cooperative Extension, and the State Climate Office at Arizona State University (ASU) disclaim any and all warranties, whether expressed or implied, including (without limitation) any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. In no event will CLIMAS, UA Cooperative Extension, and the State Climate Office at ASU or The University of Arizona be liable to you or to any third party for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, special or exemplary damages or lost profit resulting from any use or misuse of this data.