Warm SW Temperatures to Persist Through July
May 2011 thru April 2012 was the warmest consecutive 12-month period on record for the contiguous U.S., according to the April State of the Climate from NOAA. The month of April was the third warmest on record for the U.S., with temperatures 3.6 degrees F above average, while precipitation was 0.20 inches below average. Central and Southern California, as well as Flagstaff, Arizona, saw precipitation totals near normal for the month, while the rest of the Southwest and Great Basin states saw totals well below normal. The Western Great Basin has already experienced over 60 fires this year; fire conditions over the last month in this region are not usually seen until the peak of summer.
Temperature projections through July call for a greater than 50 percent chance for above-average temperatures in Arizona and New Mexico, according to the May La Niña Drought Tracker from CLIMAS. Precipitation, however, is more difficult to predict, with the outlook calling for equal chances of above-, below-, or near-average conditions through July. In addition, La Niña conditions officially transitioned to neutral conditions in April. Most models project neutral conditions will persist through the summer, although some models predict El Niño conditions may develop.