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Published January 24, 2012
Seasonal Drought Outlook(through April)
Data Source(s): NOAA–Climate Prediction Center (CPC)
This summary is partially excerpted and edited from the January 19 Seasonal Drought Outlook technical discussion produced by the NOAA-Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and written by forecaster D. Miskus.
Widespread moderate to heavy snow fell in the high elevations of Arizona and New Mexico between mid-November and mid-December, while above-average precipitation soaked lower areas. As a result, snow water equivalent (SWE) and precipitation since the water year began on October 1 are above average. In recent weeks, however, little precipitation has fallen and both SWE and average precipitation has declined. Despite the early winter rain and snow across Arizona and New Mexico, forecast tools on all time scales favor a continuation of drier-than-average conditions, which is typical for a La Niña winter. In addition, the odds favor above-average February–April temperatures, especially in eastern sections of the Southwest. As a result, drought is forecast to persist, intensity, and develop across the Southwest (Figure 11). The CPC assigns a moderate confidence in this forecast.
Elsewhere, La Niña threw a curveball to parts of California and the Great Basin, which have been hit by an unexpected lack of early winter precipitation. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, SWE values were less than 15 percent of average as of January 16. Also, precipitation deficits have exceeded 4 inches across northern and central California during the past 30 days. Currently, moderate drought occupies a swath between central California, central Washington, and northwestern Nevada. Fortunately, short-term forecasts call for wet conditions, as do some of the longer-term forecasts. As a result, drought improvement is forecast for parts of Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada. The persistence of drought is favored across central California, and drought development is likely in southern sections of California and Nevada. The CPC assigns a moderate confidence in these forecasts.
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:
For soil moisture tools, visit:
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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