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Published February 23, 2011
February 2011 Climate Summary
Drought– Exceptionally dry weather over the past 30 days has caused short-term drought conditions to expand and intensify across much of the Southwest. Drought conditions have intensified from moderate to severe levels across much of southeastern Arizona and southern New Mexico due to the continued dry spell.
Temperature– Several cold snaps have caused temperatures to be well below average in the past 30 days. Temperatures were 4–10 degrees F below average in eastern New Mexico and 0–4 degrees F below average in eastern and southern Arizona.
Precipitation– Scant precipitation fell in the Southwest between January 18 and February 16. The western half of Arizona and New Mexico generally saw less than 25 percent of average precipitation, with large swaths receiving less than 2 percent of average.
ENSO– The current La Niña event has shown some recent signs of weakening but still is at moderate strength. It is expected to continue impacting the winter weather pattern across the Southwest for the remainder of the winter season.
Climate Forecasts– Forecasts, largely influenced by recent warming trends and the expectation of a persisting La Niña event, call for warmer-than-average temperatures across the Southwest through the winter and spring and drier-than-average conditions into early spring.
The Bottom Line– The influence of the La Niña event is evident this month, as it has been since the winter began. January was a historically dry month for New Mexico, ranking as the driest January on record. As a result, drought conditions expanded across the region, with severe drought creeping into southern portions of both New Mexico and Arizona. Along with extremely dry conditions, a series of Arctic cold blasts sent temperatures plummeting below freezing, bursting water pipes, freezing vegetation, and wreaking havoc on other temperature-sensitive things. The La Niña event is expected to continue for the next few months, and as a result dry conditions are forecasted through the remainder of the winter. There are signs, however, that the La Niña event is weakening.
Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Dan Ferguson, CLIMAS Program Director
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Gigi Owen, CLIMAS Assistant Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Swetish, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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