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Published June 27, 2012
June 2012 Climate Summary
Drought: Dry conditions that began in late December have continued, and drought has intensified in Arizona and New Mexico in the last 30 days.
Temperature: Eastern New Mexico was more than 3 degrees F warmer than average in the last 30 days, while temperatures across most of Arizona were at least 1 degree F above average.
Precipitation: Most of Arizona and the western half of New Mexico received less than 5 percent of average rain in the last 30 days.
ENSO: Althought ENSO-neutral conditions are in full swing, the Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Niño Watch, which means an El Niño may form in the next several months.
Climate Forecasts: There are slightly increased chances for above-average rain for the July–September period in southern Arizona and New Mexico, while temperature forecasts call for increased chances for warmer-than-average conditions throughout the summer.
The Bottom Line: Drought conditions expanded and intensified in May in both Arizona and New Mexico, continuing a trend that began in January. Warmer-than-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in recent months have primed the landscape for wildland fires. As of June 26, six fires were burning in the region, including the Whitewater- Baldy Complex in western New Mexico, where more than 290,000 acres have burned. This fire has become New Mexico’s largest on record. Long-term drought conditions are evident in the low reservoir water storage in both states. All but one reservoir in New Mexico, for example, has below-average storage. Storage in Elephant Butte Reservoir is only 17 percent of capacity and farmers in its irrigation district are receiving substantially less water this year. The scant 2011–12 snow in the Upper Colorado River Basin will also decrease reservoir storage in coming months. The best estimate of inflow into Lake Powell for the 2012 water year is only 46 percent of average, which would be the third lowest water year streamflow since 1963. This will hlep lower water levels in Lake Powell by about 17 feet through the spring of next year. Improvements in drought conditions and fire risk will not come until the monsoon arrives in earnest. Precipitation forecasts from several sources, including the Climate Prediction Center, are currently optimistic. Experts forecast an early monsoon arrival with above-average rainfall totals in July. Although there is uncertainty in monsoon activity in August and September, the emergence of El Niño could increase chances for above-average rainfall in September. An El Niño would also increase chances for a wet winter —good news for a region that has been caught in the throes of short-term severe drought for more than 18 months.
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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