Drought’s Back

From the CLIMAS folks at the University of Arizona:

Drought – Moderate drought to abnormally dry conditions persist in southeastern and northeastern Arizona, and have expanded eastward to include most of New Mexico.

* Pasture and range land conditions continue to degrade in Arizona and improve slightly in New Mexico.

* Drought conditions are much improved from last year, but the large Colorado River reservoirs and Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico remain below average.

Temperature – Since the start of the water year, and over the last 30 days, temperatures over most of the Southwest have been above average.

Precipitation – Since the start of the water year, most of the Southwest has been drier than average.

Climate Forecasts – Models indicate increased chances of above-average temperatures in the Southwest through May of 2006, but there are no forecasted precipitation anomalies for the region.

El Niño – ENSO-neutral conditions are most likely to exist during the next six to nine months.

The Bottom Line – Drought is likely to persist along some parts of the Arizona-New Mexico border. Hydrological drought continues to affect some large reservoir levels in the Southwest.

Check out especially the big reservoirs on the Colorado (Powell and Mead) which despite a wet 2004-05 are still well below average. New Mexico’s reservoirs also are in sorry shape despite coming off an unusually wet year. In other words, the big storage systems in the southwest are heading into the 2005-06 water year in pretty lousy shape.

Snowpack is currently lousy (the CLIMAS chart here is easy to read, more up-to-date stuff from the Western Regional Climate Center is here. Don’t sweat this yet. It’s quite early in the year for this measure – you can make this up in a hurry with one or two good dumps. Last weekend’s “storm” is not what I’m talking about. Chamita (my favorite SNOTEL site for no particular reason except that I love its name) got less than an inch of snow.

(You can watch snowpack in real time at the NRCS’s New Mexico SNOTEL page. Click on one of the attractive “pushpins” on the map for site data. I trust this more than the self-reported ski area numbers you often hear on the TV news or, ahem, read in the newspaper.)