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Published March 21, 2012
Seasonal Drought Outlook(through June)
Data Source(s): NOAA–Climate Prediction Center (CPC)
This summary is partially excerpted and edited from the March 15 Seasonal Drought Outlook technical discussion produced by the NOAA-Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and written by forecaster B. Pugh.
Precipitation has been below average for many parts of the Southwest since the water year began on October 1. As of March 13, water contained in snowpacks, or snow water equivalent (SWE), was between 75 and 130 percent of average across southwest Colorado and New Mexico, 60 to 80 percent of average across Utah, and 30 to 50 percent of average in Arizona. These numbers were boosted by a winter storm that hit the region on March 18, but was not sufficient to erase precipitation deficits that accumulated during the winter. As a result of the drier-than-average conditions, recent decreasing precipitation trends in April, and below-median precipitation forecasts for April, forecasts call for drought persistence, intensification, or development across the Southwest (Figure 11). The CPC assigns a moderate to high confidence in this forecast. Although not depicted on the map, an early onset of the monsoon in the Southwest could bring some drought improvement by the end of June—currently, there is no clear indication of an early or late start to the monsoon.
Elsewhere in the West, while the Pacific Northwest and northern California are expected to be wet, scant precipitation is more likely in Southern California. In addition, a recent decreasing precipitation trend in April favors the persistence of drought across the southern half of California. Persistence is also forecast for the northern Great Basin due to current dry conditions and few indications that the remainder of March will be wet. The CPC assigns a moderate confidence in the forecast for California and lower confidence for the outlook for the northern Great Basin and Washington.
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
- 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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