Southwest Climate Outlook March 2014

Date issued

Drought: Drought is widespread in the Southwest. Severe and extreme drought cover about 57 and 65 percent of Arizona and New Mexico, respectively. Drought intensified in the last month, most notably in northern Arizona and New Mexico.

Precipitation: Only one storm in the past 30 days delivered substantial moisture to Arizona and New Mexico. That storm dropped rain and snow mostly at higher elevations around March 1, and drier-than-average conditions in the last 30 days remained the norm for most of both states. Precipitation in nearly all of Arizona and New Mexico since January 1 has been less than 50 percent of average.

Temperature: Temperatures in the last 30 days in the Southwest generally were between 2 and 6 degrees F warmer than average. Maximum temperatures were more above average than minimum temperatures. This winter has been one of the warmest on record for much of the Southwest.

Snowpack: Scant precipitation and warm conditions have caused below-average snowpacks in the Southwest. In Arizona, the largest snowpacks are in the San Francisco Peaks and measure 67 percent of average; conditions in all other basins are less than 10 percent of average. Snowpacks in all river basins in New Mexico measure less than 63 percent of average.

Water Supply: Total reservoir storage decreased by about 291,000 acre-feet in Arizona and increased by about 34,600 acre-feet in New Mexico in February. Storage stands at about 46 percent of capacity in Arizona and about 23 percent of capacity in New Mexico. Elephant Butte Reservoir in southern New Mexico gained about 27,800 acre-feet in February—increases are typical this time of year—but remains low, at 15 percent of capacity or 30 percent average.

ENSO: Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean are near average, reflecting ENSO-neutral conditions. The NOAA-Climate Prediction Center, however, has issued an El Niño Watch, which means that conditions are favorable for the development of an El Niño in the next six months.

Precipitation Forecasts: The NOAA-Climate Prediction Center is calling for equal chances for above-, below-, or near-average precipitation across nearly all of Arizona and New Mexico for the April–June period.

Temperature Forecasts: The NOAA-Climate Prediction Center forecasts high chances for above-average temperatures in the Southwest during the April–June period.

Streamflow Forecasts: The April–July streamflow forecasts issued on March 1 for the Colorado River call for flows into Lake Powell to be around 109 percent of average. March–July forecasts for the Salt, Verde, and Gila rivers, on the other hand, project well below-average flows. In New Mexico, the March-July forecast for the Rio Grande at Otowi Bridge is around 38 percent of average.

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.