November 2012 - Will Winter Ever Come

Despite my wife's prediction to the contrary, I believe we will see some winter weather this year... or at least this water-year. While it can be argued that we have been having very nice weather this fall, the lack of any significant moisture passing through this area has become increasingly noticeable, even alarming, even on top of 2 full years of well below normal precipitation. Of course, this late fall period is not a time that we should expect to see a lot of precipitation. November averages in the driest quarter of months; for the Sevilleta this means an average of 11.8 mm (0.46"). This fall most of the Sev has not seen a combined total of that much since about the 10th of September. It looks like no precipitation can be expected before the end of the month which means that the Sev is going into Dec with only a little over 50 % of average for the calendar year. This shows how bad the year has been. Even the wettest Dec on record for the Sevilleta (71 mm in 1991) would only bring us back to 192 mm or 80 % of normal.

Worse news may be on the water-year side of the ledger for which we will have received an average total of 1.0 mm on the refuge for Oct and Nov. This easily beats out the previous dry start to a water year record of 7.2 mm held by both 1995 and 1999. The dry start to these 2 other years could be blamed on the La Nina that each experienced. While we apparently are not going to see the development of the predicted El Nino, conditions are currently in the ENSO neutral range which would not presage such a dry situation.

Looking ahead, temperatures for December and for the December-February period are predicted to have greater than average chances of being above normal. I guess the only silver lining to our non-cloud situation is that the prediction is for equal chances of above, below or average precipitation for these same time periods.

Speaking of temperatures, the Sevilleta long-term (1989-2011) average daytime temperature for Jan through November is 14.96 (58.9 F). For 2012 through Nov, the average has been 16.75 (62.2 F). The next warmest (Jan-Nov) period was 2000 with 15.67 (60.2 F). This shows how this compares to previous Jan-Nov years. Of course we could have a cold December that would bring the annual average temperature back down into a "normal" range but by my calculations the Dec average daily temperature would have to be -8.2 degrees C (17.2 F) to just equal the previous highest annual average daytime temperature of 14.67 in 1996. Not likely. Our average daytime temperature for Dec is 2.2 C (36 F). So the question is not whether we are going to break the previous hottest year record but rather by how much.

Finally. FYI the National Weather Service has a new way to display temperature and precipitation data that is pretty cool at: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/abq/?n=cli_plots.

D.M.