As much of New Mexico grapples with drought, the state could see the summer’s first significant monsoon activity this weekend.
“We’re kind of getting into that pattern where we’ll have those daily chances of showers and thunderstorms each day,” said Scott Overpeck, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Albuquerque office.
But dry conditions will likely persist for much of the week. On Tuesday, portions of eastern New Mexico will have red flag warnings for critical fire weather, thanks to low humidity and high winds.
Albuquerque will cool off midweek, with a high of 86 degrees on Tuesday and 89 on Wednesday.
On Thursday, dry thunderstorms with lightning are possible for southwestern New Mexico. Albuquerque will have a high of 91 degrees Thursday and Friday.
Temperatures trend upward toward the end of the week, as do chances for rain.
Albuquerque will have a high of 92 degrees Saturday and 91 Sunday.
The region will start to see moisture from the eastern Pacific, and upper-level high pressure will begin to build over the Southwest.
“That’s where we’re looking at the possibility of our monsoon kicking in for the summer,” Overpeck said.
To help gauge the potential of the North American monsoon, meteorologists examine sea surface temperature differences in the Pacific Ocean, short-term weather prediction models and long-term climate models.
Climate change appears to be playing a role in how much rain New Mexico receives from the monsoon, NWS meteorologist Andrew Church said.
“Over the last 10 to 15 years, we have seen a more volatile polar jet stream that has been drying us out more than in the ’80s and ’90s, when we had wet monsoons which were more frequent,” Church told the Journal.
Dry westerly winds often accompany the storms, Church said, and the Four Corners high-pressure system is getting stronger.
“You have to go higher up in the atmosphere before thunderstorms can develop,” Church said.
Summer outlooks predict near-average precipitation across most of New Mexico.
“It’s fickle, and highly dependent on location,” Church said. “We haven’t seen a robust monsoon in 14 years now.”
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.