Southwest Climate Outlook February 2020

Date issued

Monthly Precipitation and Temperature: January precipitation ranged from average to much below average in most of Arizona, while New Mexico was mostly average, but included areas that ranged from below average to above average (Fig. 1a). January temperatures were above average across nearly all of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 1b). The daily average temperature anomalies for Jan 1 – Feb 17 (Fig. 2) highlight the fluctuations at select stations around the region. Particularly notable was the cold snap in early February.

Water Year Precipitation and Temperature: Water year precipitation to date (since Oct 1) has been normal to above normal for much of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 3). The Four Corners region is a notable exception with below-normal precipitation, and with a swath of much above normal precipitation in eastern New Mexico. Temperatures over the same period were mostly normal to much above normal in Arizona, and below normal to much above normal in New Mexico (Fig. 4).

Snowpack & Water Supply: As of Feb 16, snow water equivalent (SWE) ranged between above and below median in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Colorado, while southern Utah was more consistently above median (Fig 5). Many of the reservoirs in the region are at or above the values recorded at this time last year, but most are below their long-term average (see Arizona and New Mexico reservoir storage).

Drought: The Feb 11 U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) maintains drought characterizations similar to last month in the Four Corners region while adding drought characterizations in central Nevada and California, as well as southeastern New Mexico (Fig. 6). A large pocket of “Moderate Drought” (D1) and “Severe Drought” (D2) remains centered on the Four Corners region, reflecting localized acute and accumulated precipitation deficits.

ENSO Tracker: The forecasts and outlooks continue to grapple with persistent warm waters in the western Pacific Ocean, but these forecasts also point to oceanic and atmospheric conditions that are generally consistent with an ENSO-neutral outlook for 2020 (see ENSO-tracker for details).

Precipitation and Temperature Forecast: The three-month outlook for March through May calls for slightly increased chances of below-normal precipitation in small pockets of California and eastern Arizona, and much of New Mexico, west Texas, and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands (Fig. 7, top). The three-month temperature outlook calls for increased chances of above-normal temperatures across most of the Southwest, with more increased chances in west Texas, southern New Mexico, and much of central Mexico (Fig. 7, bottom).

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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