Southwest experiences impressive rainfall during summer monsoon – The Journal
FLAGSTAFF, Arizona – Southwestern cities hit impressive precipitation totals this summer, bringing much-needed – but temporary – relief to a region that has been mired in drought.
Winter, however, could be disappointing, with an expected weather pattern that typically means less snow on which rivers and streams depend, weather experts have said.
The annual rainy period known simply as the “monsoon” ended Thursday with widespread precipitation in New Mexico and Arizona, including snow at higher elevations. The seasonal weather pattern begins in mid-June and brings high hopes for rain, but is not always there.
This year he did, but not fairly.
Payson, about an hour and a half drive north of Phoenix, experienced more than double its normal precipitation, recording its wettest monsoon on record at nearly 15 inches. Further east, Show Low rain also hit a record 12.5 inches. In the southern Arizona desert, Tucson recorded its third wettest monsoon, at 12.7 inches.
Phoenix experienced the second-highest number of measurable rainy days during the monsoon, with 23 days, one day less than the 24-day record set in 1896. But the city was far from the peak of overall precipitation.
Many areas experienced above normal precipitation including Flagstaff, Prescott and Canyon de Chelly near Chinle on the Navajo Nation. Precipitation was more remarkable after two consecutive dry monsoons.
“It continued,” said Mike Crimmins, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona. “It was pretty epic, especially for the lower desert areas of Arizona, from Tucson to Phoenix and on to Yuma.”
New Mexico experienced great variability in this year’s monsoon.
Albuquerque was still below the average for the calendar year by about 2 inches, said Todd Shoemake of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. After dismal rains in August, the last shifts in the monsoon gave a boost and brought September closer to average, he said.
“Getting back to this uneven nature of the monsoon, it’s a bit hit and miss,” he said. “And we had a lot of hiccups there in August. “
Roswell, in the southeastern state, experienced a huge precipitation deficit earlier this year, he said, but ended the monsoon with more than 15 inches – way over from normal.
The Four Corners, where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet, didn’t fare as well. It has had below average rainfall overall and remains in severe to extreme drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor.
Despite the precipitation, the southwest still tends towards warmer and drier weather due to climate change. Wide weather fluctuations are also possible.
“I don’t think that kind of summer is necessarily ruled out in the future,” Crimmins said. “It may be that this kind of summer is more frequent or maybe less frequent or maybe we will just have to wait another 50 years to see something similar.”
A dry winter could be reserved in the Southwest. A weather pattern known as La Niña sets in, which usually means less humidity.
“Our short-term drought relief may be short-lived,” Crimmins said.