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Published February 23, 2011
Seasonal Drought Outlook(through May)
Data Source(s): NOAA-Climate Prediction Center (CPC)
This summary is excerpted and edited from the February 17 Seasonal Drought Outlook technical discussion produced by the NOAA–Climate Prediction Center and written by forecaster D. Miskus.
Drier-than-average conditions have affected much of Arizona and New Mexico since mid-December. No precipitation fell in January in many parts of both states, and New Mexico experienced its driest January on record, according the NOAA–Climate Prediction Center. By February 15, snow telemetry (SNOTEL) stations in southern and central Arizona and New Mexico were reporting 30 to 70 percent of average snow water content (SWC) in the snowpack. Looking forward, forecasts at all time ranges indicate increased chances for below-median precipitation and above-average temperatures. These forecasts are in part influenced by the La Niña event that is expected to continue and which typically brings drier and hotter weather to the region. As a result of scant precipitation so far this winter, a tendency for parched conditions during La Niña events, forecasts that call for below-median precipitation and above-average temperatures, and decreasing precipitation trends in recent decades, drought conditions are expected to persist and develop across much of Arizona and New Mexico and into southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado (Figure 11). However, drought expansion is not forecast for Southern California, as many locations there already have exceeded their average winter precipitation as a result of intense storms in December. The CPC assigns a high confidence for this forecast.
Elsewhere in the U.S., the La Niña event has and will continue to impact southern regions. The monthly and seasonal outlooks issued by the NOAA–Climate Prediction Center indicate the highest odds for below-median precipitation along the eastern two-thirds of the Gulf Coast. Drought is expected to persist or develop across most of the Southeast, except in northern sections of Mississippi and Alabama where initial conditions are wetter and the monthly precipitation outlook favors near- to above-median precipitation.
The delineated areas in the Seasonal Drought Outlook are defined subjectively and are based on expert assessment of numerous indicators, including the official precipitation outlooks, various medium- and short-range forecasts , models such as the 6-10 day and 8-14 day forecasts, soil moisture tools, and climatology.
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For medium- and short-range forecasts, visit:
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Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, Managing Editor, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Dollin, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
- Dave Dubois, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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