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Published May 22, 2013
May Climate Summary
Drought: Severe drought has expanded across much of Arizona, while exceptional drought now covers about 44 percent of New Mexico.
Temperature: Warmer-than-average temperatures in Arizona and colder-than-average conditions in New Mexico dominated in the last month.
Precipitation: Although one storm wafted through the region in May, precipitation has been scant, which is typical for this time of year.
ENSO: ENSO-neutral conditions are expected to continue through the summer.
Climate Forecasts: The June–August forecast calls for increased chances for above-average temperatures in the Southwest, while precipitation may be below average in eastern New Mexico.
The Bottom Line: Drought conditions in New Mexico steadily worsened through the winter. Extreme and exceptional drought conditions cover about 82 percent of the state, an increase of approximately 70 percent since October 1. Drought conditions in Arizona are only slightly better, and both states experienced a third consecutive winter in which rain and snow was below average. Most of Colorado, from which much of the water in major southwestern rivers originates, also received below-average precipitation. Consequently, best estimates for spring streamflows in the Colorado River and Rio Grande, the Southwest’s most important rivers, are projected to be only 42 and 24 percent of average, respectively. With May and June historically dry months for Arizona and New Mexico, improvements in drought and water supply likely will not arrive until the monsoon begins in earnest. Fire activity will also ramp up in coming months, which is the typical pattern for this time of year—fires peak in June and July. The parched landscape, however, has fire managers expecting above-normal fire risk. At this point, relief from drought and drought-related impacts hinges on the timing and vigor of the monsoon. With dry and warm conditions in the Great Plains, there is some indication that the monsoon may arrive earlier than average. However, monsoon forecasts are highly uncertain and there is no guarantee that an early arrival translates to above-average rain. While a vigorous monsoon could dampen temperatures by increasing cloud cover and evaporative cooling, forecasts call for above-average temperatures, in part because of warming trends experienced in recent decades.
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 Dubious, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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