Southwest Climate Outlook March 2022

Date issued

Monthly/Seasonal Precipitation and Temperature: Feb precipitation was between much below average and average in Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 1a). Feb temperatures were mostly average to below average in Arizona and mostly below average to much below average in New Mexico (Fig. 1b). Winter (DJF) precipitation was mostly average to below average in Arizona, and mostly below average to much below average in New Mexico (Fig. 2a). Winter (DJF) temperatures were mostly above average to much above average across the Southwest (Fig. 2b). Water year precipitation is between average and much below average in most of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 3).

Drought: The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) in the Southwest is relatively stable since last month, with drought conditions still found across nearly the entire western United States (Fig. 4). Most of Arizona is classified as experiencing either abnormally dry conditions (D0) or in moderate drought (D1), with approximately 30-percent in higher drought categories (D2-3). Approximately 85-percent of New Mexico is classified as severe drought (D2) or worse, with 35-percent of the state classified in the higher drought categories (D3-D4). Long term accumulated precipitation deficits are a factor in these designations, but the relatively dry conditions over the cool season so far are also playing a large part.

Snowpack & Streamflow: As of Mar 1, snow water equivalent (SWE) is highly variable across the Southwest (Fig. 5), with SWE ranging from well below to well above median. Mar 1 streamflow forecasts are mostly below median in both the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins, with southern Arizona and parts of New Mexico showing the lowest probability of exceeding the 50% forecast threshold (Fig. 6). April 1 is peak snowpack in the higher country, so March precipitation and snowfall will be important to monitor. Most outlooks call for warm and mostly dry conditions in the remaining cool season, which is not unexpected in a La Niña winter (see seasonal outlooks).

Water Supply: Most of the reservoirs in Arizona and New Mexico are at or below the levels from this time last year, and below their long-term average (see Arizona and New Mexico reservoir storage).

ENSO Tracker: La Niña conditions are still present. Most outlooks call for a transition to neutral conditions sometime this summer, with some indications this might be a more gradual transition in mid-to-late summer. See ENSO tracker for more details.

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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