Southwest Climate Outlook January 2010

Date issued

January Climate Summary
Drought– Moderate to severe drought conditions remain across Arizona due to the exceptionally dry 2009 summer and fall. Dry conditions in December and the first half of January have expanded the abnormally dry drought status across central
and southern New Mexico. Recent storms, however, will likely improve subsequent drought conditions.
Temperature– New Mexico and the Colorado Plateau have been cooler than average, while warm conditions continue in southwestern Arizona.
Precipitation– Recent storms in January are following the typical El Niño circulation pattern, bringing wet conditions to the Southwest.
ENSO– El Niño conditions remained at moderate levels this past month with sea surface temperatures exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Weak to moderate El Niño conditions are expected to persist through the remainder of the winter and into early spring.
Climate Forecasts– Forecasts call for equal chances of above-, below-, and near-average temperatures through Arizona and western New Mexico into April. Precipitation forecasts suggest above-average precipitation for most of the Southwest
through May, mostly due to the current moderate-to-strong El Niño event.
The Bottom Line– A series of Pacific storms beginning on January 17 and lasting about five days drenched the Southwest, dropping record-setting snow and rain in many areas of Arizona and New Mexico. These storms interrupted what had been
a dry winter and finally reflected the influence of El Niño, which often causes the storm track to pass over the Southwest. Although the highlights in this issue do not reflect all of the precipitation that fell during late January, drought conditions will not be completely alleviated by one wave of storms. More winter precipitation will likely be on the way, as El Niño is forecasted to remain for at least a few more 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.

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