The southwestern United States experiences impressive rainfall during the summer monsoon
FLAGSTAFF, Arizona >> Cities in the southwestern United States saw impressive rainfall this summer, bringing much-needed – but temporary – relief to a region hit by drought.
Winter could be disappointing, however, with an expected weather pattern that usually means less snow cover that rivers and streams rely on, weather experts say.
The annual rainy season, known simply as the “monsoons,” ended Thursday with widespread rainfall in New Mexico and Arizona, including snow at higher elevations. The seasonal weather pattern starts in mid-June and brings high hopes for rain but doesn’t always deliver.
This year, however, it didn’t do it justice.
Payson, about an hour and a half drive north of Phoenix, had more than double its normal rainfall and recorded the wettest monsoons ever at nearly 38 centimeters. Further east, Show Low’s rain also hit a record 31.7 centimeters. In the desert of southern Arizona, Tucson recorded the third wettest monsoon at 32.5 centimeters.
Phoenix had the second-most days of measurable rain during the monsoons, at 23, a day less than the record of 24 days set in 1896. But the city was far from the top in total rainfall.
Many areas had above average rainfall, including Flagstaff, Prescott, and Canyon de Chelly near Chinle on the Navajo Nation. Precipitation was more notable after two consecutive dry monsoons.
This year’s monsoons in New Mexico were very different.
Albuquerque was still about two inches below the calendar year average, said Todd Shoemake of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. After gloomy rains in August, the last breaths of the monsoons provided a big boost and brought September closer to average, he said.
“To get back to that spotty nature of the monsoons, it’s kind of a gamble,” Shoemake said. “And we had a lot of failures there in August.”
Roswell, in the southeastern part of the state, had a huge rainfall deficit earlier in the year, he said, but ended the monsoons at over 38 centimeters – well above normal.
The Four Corners neighborhood, where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona meet, didn’t do nearly as well. It has generally had below-average rainfall and remains in severe to extreme drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.
Despite the rains, the southwest is still tending towards hotter and drier weather conditions due to climate change. A weather pattern known as La Nina is preparing for winter, which usually means less humidity, according to forecasters.