December 2015 Met Central El Nino Express Has Arrived

El Nino express has arrived. Two big storms hit New Mexico during December. The Sevilleta actually benefited more from the first storm on the 12th and 13th of the month that was a combination of rain and then snow. The second storm that arrived on the 26th and came in very cold and windy. The Sevilleta got considerably more of the snow than Albuquerque did but got nothing like the blizzard that hit the eastern side of the state. Gauges on the Sev do not do a great job of measuring blowing snow like that from the 2nd December storm but the measured December total precipitation on the Sev was 20 mm.

December temperatures roamed from extreme to extreme. Temperatures started just below normal at the start of the month, then climbed to a new record daytime high on the 10th, then plummeted again with the snow storm on the 12th and remained low for a few days before climbing to another new record daily high on the Christmas day followed by a precipitous drop with 3 new daily low temperatures on the 3 of the last 4 days of the month. Overall the monthly average came in virtually average with the mean daily highs being slightly below average and the daily lows being slightly above average.


    December Record Temperatures - High 23.4 (74.1 F), Low -20.8 (-5.4 F)
    December '15 Record Temperatures - High 20 (68 F), Low -19.2 (-2.6 F)

December Meteorological Summary

                       December    December '15       December '15
Variable             Long-term* Mean    Mean           Mean Range
Mean Max Temp (C)          9.64           9.2           7.3 - 10.0
Mean Min Temp (C)         -5.14          -4.8          -7.6 - -2.8
Mean Average Temp (C)      2.25           2.2           1.2 - 3.0
Mean R.H. (%)             54.6           52.3          47.6 - 56.2
Mean Vap Press. (mb)       3.84           3.46         3.31 - 3.66
Mean Max Wind (m/sec)      8.2            9.0           7.6 - 11.0
Mean Solar Rad. (kWh/m2)   3.09           3.10         2.85 - 3.46
Precip.(mm)               13.9           20.0           7.1 - 33.7
*Long-term refers to all of the Sevilleta met stations for 1989-2014

Albuquerque - Sevilleta Comparison

First time since 2007 that Albuquerque's calendar year total precipitation ran above average - missed by 3.3 mm in 2013.  This makes it the 16th wettest year in the 1892-present record.  The Sevilleta only just slipped by its long-term normal.

               Loc         Precip          Normal         % of Normal
December      	ABQ        24.9 mm         12.7 mm           196 %
                SEV        20.0 mm         13.9 mm           143 %

Year to Date    ABQ       291.3 mm        240.0 mm           121 %
                SEV       245.4 mm        241.2 mm           102 %
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Water-year Precipitation

Fastest start to a water year since Oct-Dec 2006. Normally we would not expect to see this much until the end of March. Of course the largest 3-month total for the start of any water year was 1991 with 109 mm total.

    Water Year Precipitation (mm)
Month           Mean            2015-2016    
Oct             22.2              53.5       
Nov             11.2               9.0
Dec		13.9		  20.0
                47.3		  82.5  


The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that New Mexico ended the year with no part of the state being classified as under drought conditions - the first time since November, 2010. They still classify about 16% of the state as being "abnormally dry".

The Palmer Drought Index paints even a rosier picture.

El Nino

This figure sort of tells it all (credit Jan Null Golden Gate Weather) Seems like El Nino may have peaked out as the Sea Surface temperature anomalies in the Nino 3.4 region appeared to peak out back in November just a little higher than back during the super El Nino of 1997-98. However, often times the biggest shots of moisture in NM come during the spring months of March to May.  The Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) for Oct-Nov-Dec was 2.25 .  This is 0.01 less than for the same period in 1997 - the highest on the 1950-present record.

The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) does not seem to be so bullish on El Nino. Of course the November SOI of -0.5 was a surprising move toward a more neutral status from -1.7 in Oct. The Dec SOI -0.6 was again in the same range as November- which is still in the El Nino region. The 5-month running mean is now -1.16.

Notables from on and off the Sev

Eastern side of the state took the real hit from post Christmas storm with inches and inches of snow that was then piled into drifts up to 20 feet deep by the hurricane force winds that accompanied the snow.

Several people lost lives during this event and thousands of cattle lost theirs. Most of the roads in the southeaster part of the state were closed down for at least 24 hours


Nine Category 5 tropical storms (+165 mph winds) during 2015 - second only to 1997 for cat 5 storms. The only one in our vicinity was Hurricane Patricia although Hurricane Joaquin only barely missed this classification. This number is being attributed directly to El Nino.

January Forecast

. Off to a pretty quick start to January which is historically the second driest month of the year. The 7.3 mm that we have seen thru the the 7th will go a long way toward the long term average of 9.0 mm NOAA is certainly predicting a wetter than normal January and even better chances of a wetter than normal January thru March.

The cool temperatures so far might fit with the NOAA prediction of cooler than normal for January for New Mexico.


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