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MONSOON?

a01_jd_03july_monsoon2
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Finally.

A thickening flow of moist air from the south has New Mexico primed this week for summer rains

“It looks like a full onset of the monsoon,” Chuck Jones, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said Monday afternoon.

Sporadic summer rains
July-August rain in inches, Albuquerque

2007 2.68
2008 4.42
2009 1.74
2010 3.14
2011 1.32

The coming rains are expected to break Albuquerque’s heat wave, with today’s forecast of a high of 94 down from Saturday’s 101, the hottest Albuquerque temperature so far this year.

Southwest New Mexico has the best chance of rain as wet weather conditions spread north across the state through the week, according to Jones.

While the rains could provide cooling relief to the hot, parched state, Jones and his colleagues cautioned that they could also create serious flash flood risk in watersheds burned by wildfire the past two years.

The Weather Service issued a flash flood watch Monday afternoon for burn areas in the Sacramento, Gila and Jemez mountains, and Jones said the risk of flooding will continue all week.

The summer rainy season generally begins in early July and brings as much as 40 percent of New Mexico’s annual precipitation. The effect is especially significant in the southern part of the state, where the chance of rain will be the greatest this week, but there also is a chance of rain in central and northern parts of the state, according to the Weather Service.

Thunderstorms have been popping up around New Mexico in recent days, according to the Weather Service’s Shawn Bennett, but not delivering much rain because the air is still too dry.

But the weather pattern is finally changing in our favor, with additional moisture streaming up from Mexico that should be enough for widespread rainstorms to develop across New Mexico, forecasters said during a briefing Monday afternoon.

The problem faced in the burn areas, according to the Weather Service’s Deirdre Kann, is the ability of burned landscapes to turn ordinary rainstorms into flash flood-inducing torrents. Where only 2 percent of the rain that falls on a healthy woodland runs off into streams and rivers, that can rise to as much as 75 percent of the rain that hits a burned landscape.

“Your normal dry drainages become raging rivers in seconds,” Kann said.

The Weather Service is forecasting a 20 percent chance of rain today in Albuquerque, increasing to 30 percent this evening, with the pattern repeating on the July 4 holiday.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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