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Published January 25, 2011
January 2011 Climate Summary
Drought– A dry start to the new year has done little to help drought conditions across the Southwest. Moderate drought conditions continue to persist across much of southern Arizona and New Mexico.
Temperature– Warmer-than-average conditions in New Mexico have occured since the water year began on October 1, while Arizona has been cooler than average.
Precipitation– Dry conditions, which are characteristic of La Niña winters, have been the norm in most of the Southwest, and many southern areas have received less than 50 percent of average precipitation. Copious rains drenched some northern regions in late December but provided only scant moisture for other parts of the region.
ENSO– Moderate to strong La Niña conditions continue to dominate much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. A large and cool pool of water beneath the sea surface in the eastern tropical Pacific suggests that the current moderate to strong event will persist in the next couple of months, and possibly longer.
Climate Forecasts– Forecasts, largely influenced by recent warming trends, call for temperatures to be warmer than average across the Southwest through the winter and early spring. Precipitation forecasts call for drier-than-average conditions into early spring, reflecting the historical effect of La Niña events in the region.
The Bottom Line– The moderate to strong La Niña event, which historically delivers scant rain to the region, has left a large hand print on the region, particularly southern Arizona and most of New Mexico where moderate drought conditions remain widespread. However, middle and late December storms drenched many parts of the West, including northwest Arizona, where short-term drought conditions have improved somewhat. With the expectation that the La Niña event will remain at its current strength for the next several months and possibly longer, precipitation forecasts call for below-average rain and snow. This could cause drought conditions to expand and intensify, and could prime the southwestern landscape for an active spring and early summer fire season.
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.
The CLIMAS Web site 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.... Read full disclaimer