Southwest Climate Outlook February 2021 - Climate Summary
Assistant Research Professor, Arizona Institutes for Resilience
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, School of Anthropology
Ben McMahan joined CLIMAS after completing a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Arizona. His dissertation research was on hurricanes and disaster on the U.S. Gulf Coast, where he focused on
- Human interactions in dynamic social and environmental contexts,
- Risk perception and landscape changes during and after disaster, and
- Social network and policy responses to governance issues related to the acute threats of disaster; as they layer onto long term environmental issues and landscape scale changes.
He was also a key contributor to UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) collaborative/trans-disciplinary research on the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the US Oil and Gas industry (2007-2011), and the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010-2013).
At CLIMAS, his research activities included tracing how climate information is incorporated into regional decision maker networks, leading CLIMAS team research on the risks and effects of climate extremes, and collaborative research on the effects of climate variability on phenology and temporality of native plants in the region. He was also responsible for working to develop collaborative research opportunities and outreach efforts at CLIMAS, and as part of ongoing assessment and science/strategic planning, he contributed to strategic planning used to prioritize future research and outreach directions. He also coordinated publication of the monthly Southwest Climate Outlook, produced the Southwest Climate Podcasts, and was the online editor for CLIMAS’ blog - Southwestern Oscillations.
Monthly Precipitation and Temperature: January precipitation was average to above average across most of Arizona and below average to above average in most of New Mexico (Fig. 1). January temperatures ranged between average and above average in most of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 2). Precipitation ranks for the last two months show most of the Southwest at or below normal (Fig. 2), while temperatures for the same period were mostly at or above normal (Fig. 3).
Drought: Water year precipitation reveals a widespread pattern of below normal and much below normal conditions across the Southwest (Fig. 4). The Feb 9 U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) for the U.S. Southwest showed some improvement in parts of Arizona after the precipitation activity in January (Fig. 5), but still has a majority of the region classified as experiencing extreme drought (D3) or exceptional drought (D4).
Snowpack and Water Supply: Snow water equivalent (SWE) is well below the 1981-2010 median for much of the region (see the NRCS website for details), and streamflow forecasts are similarly lagging behind (Fig. 6). Many of the reservoirs in the region are at or below the values recorded at this time last year. Most are below their long-term average (see Arizona and New Mexico reservoir storage).
ENSO Tracker: La Niña conditions are present and are expected to continue through winter (see ENSO-tracker). Despite a run of storms in January, the expectation is for cumulative cool-season totals to be below average for much of the Southwest. This will almost certainly intensify the current drought conditions.
Precipitation and Temperature Forecast: The three-month outlook for Mar through May calls for increased chances for below-normal precipitation across the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico (Fig. 7, top). The three-month temperature outlook calls for increased chances of abovenormal temperatures across much of the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico (Fig. 7, bottom).
- Figures 1, 2 - West Wide Drought Tracker - wrcc.dri.edu/wwdt
- Figure 3 - National Centers for Environmental Information - ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc
- Figure 4 - U.S. Drought Monitor - droughtmonitor.unl.edu
- Figure 5, 6 - National Resource Conservation Service - nrcs.usda.gov
- Figure 7 - International Research Institute for Climate and Society - iri.columbia.edu