Two words best describe New Mexico’s weather in 2016: warm and dry.
Six months in 2016 were among the 10 warmest since record-keeping began here in the 1890s, and three were among the driest.
Final data have not been tallied, but “2016 is definitely going down as one of the warmest years on record,” likely among the top five, said Kerry Jones, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
A dry, windy spring robbed much of New Mexico’s snow pack, and a dearth of rain in July deprived the state of some all-important monsoon rainfall.
New Mexico received 11.94 inches of rainfall in 2016 – compared with the 2015 total of 19.33 inches, the state’s fifth-wettest year.
The flow of moisture that made 2015 an unusually wet year and brought a blizzard to the state a year ago ended abruptly in February.
“Beginning in February, that’s pretty much when the switch was flipped off,” Jones said.
With less than a day left in 2016, Albuquerque’s total precipitation of 6.65 inches for the year was nearly 3 inches below the average, 9.45 inches. And New Mexico’s 11.94 inches was more than an inch below the average, 13.2 5 inches.
Warmth was a key factor in the state’s dryness this year.
February, March and July were among the three driest on record.
“It’s not coincidental that those three months are also among the top 10 warmest,” Jones said. “Typically, when you are dry in New
Mexico, temperatures are warmer than normal.” Average temperatures for those months were 42 degrees in February, 48.2 in March, and 76.8 in July.
The six months among the 10 warmest on record were February, March, June, July, October and November.
Of those, July tied for the state’s warmest July on record, October was the second-warmest, and November, the third-warmest.
Through November, New Mexico was 2.6 degrees above normal, making it the third-warmest on record for the 11-month period.
Warm, dry and windy weather in February and March stripped New Mexico of much of its snowpack, which feeds the state’s rivers and reservoirs through the spring.
“Usually, your snowpack peaks in late March or early April,” Jones said. “From mid-February into March, we lost a considerable amount of snowpack. March was just brutally dry for all areas, really. That was a huge hit.”
The state also took a hit from hot, dry weather in July, which delayed the onset of the all-important monsoon season until late in the month.
Given the warm, dry weather, the state’s drought map doesn’t look bad, with none of the state in severe or extreme drought.
The state owes its mild drought conditions in good part to a soggy 2015, listed as the fifth-wettest year on record, Jones said.
More than 19 inches of rain doused the state in 2015, providing good deep-soil moisture, he said. The state also has benefited this year from a wet November, listed as the 12th-wettest on record.
That, along with additional precipitation this month, has provided snow for the northern mountains, said Chuck Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
Snowpack in the Rio Chama Basin is about 150 percent of normal, and it is about normal or somewhat better in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, he said.