The outlooks and computer models are solidifying around a wet March. It starts this weekend with a mild storm with light precipitation. The pattern builds through the month. The precipitation in the first two weeks of March could hit the monthly average. More details as the future storms are closer. Below is the 6-10 day, and one month outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center.
The computer models keep dropping a significant storm into the long-range forecast. If you look at the image from my last post, it shows significant precipitation around March 4, 2016. The forecasts do point to some precipitation this weekend, but not the large amount in that image. The problem is that the big storm is always just over the horizon. Below is the outlook for Monday, March 14. It’s almost identical to the image in my last post.
As we move away from a very warm and dry February, we have to wonder if March will fulfill its historic reputation for the wettest time of year. The computer models keep pointing to a change in the storm track that will push storms over Arizona. We will see. Not much to blog about when it’s sunny and warm.
Warm and dry has become the February story. The wet cold start has faded into sun and occasional high winds. There have be a few times the outlook was positive for wet conditions. It hasn’t happened.
Is it unusual for February to be dry during an El Niño winter. I think the data are pretty messy and there really isn’t enough to be very meaningful. Since 1950, the average for February precipitation in Flagstaff is about 2 inches. There are very wet and fairly dry Februaries during El Niño years.
Most of the areas that normally benefit from El Niños are benefiting this year. We continue to be way ahead on 12 and 24 month total precipitation.
The GFS model shows a possible weak storm at the end of the month, and a stronger storm at the start of March.
The 3 month outlook from the Climate Prediction Center continues to look positive from a precipitation point of view.
There is still time left this winter for more snow. March is typically the wettest month of the year. I think more is on the way.
I’ve looked at a new site for computer model data. I think the pictures are prettier than the US Government site. No surprise there. The snow fall pictures are purple and orange for this weekend. It looks like the Flagstaff groundhogs will have a bit of digging to do to get to above the snow on Groundhog Day. In the image below, Flagstaff has a big 12 printed on it.
The colors are definitely more dramatic. The reaction to this storm from the National Weather Service hasn’t been until tonight. This storm is going to be big. It has shown up in the computer models as a big storm for a while. Just on Friday evening did they get excited.
There could be local effects causing the total to be more or less than the forecast. This is especially true with the windy start to the storm.
I don’t know if a groundhog living in Flagstaff will see his shadow on February 2. But, it will see some fresh snow. Next Sunday and Monday should be snowy. For the last few days the GFS model has repeatedly shown snow for these days. The amounts have varied. Some model runs have over 1.5 inches of water. Some have only 3/4 inch of water.It’s simply too early to tell what the accumulation will be, but Flagstaff should get at least a few inches, it maybe be more than a foot.
El Nino years are often like this year. The storm track is split to the north and the south, but the southern track has often been below Arizona. When Flagstaff gets a storm, the storm amounts will be heavier than in other years. January has not been very snowy. But, the big storm earlier in the month covered the average amount, making any more snow above average. This next storm could be a big boost.
I’m looking at Wunderground‘s, the National Weather Services and Accuweather‘s precipitation forecasts. (The National Weather Service updated theirs while I wrote this post, it was roughly half of what it is now) Here’s how precipitation through Friday Morning looks:
National Weather Service 9-23 inches
Accuweather 8-20 inches
Wunderground 16-25 inches
The Wunderground forecast has been on the high-end. Maybe there isn’t a big difference. Does 8 inches feel much different from 16 inches? Does 25 inches look more wintry than 20 inches? The biggest forecast difference is probably tonight through Wednesday. Basically, plenty of snow is on the way.
One more note, Wunderground calls for rain on Friday.
I think Flagstaff is easily going to receive a foot of snow this week. I’m not sure I buy the NWS’s forecast for the majority of it showing up at the end of the week. I think there will be two serious rounds of precipitation. First between today and Wednesday. Second, at the opposite end of the week. Depending on temperatures, we could get over two feet this week.
After a drier than normal December, El Niño will get 2016 off to a wet start. The average monthly precipitation for Flagstaff in January is about 2 inches. Next week’s outlook from the GFS model at the Climate Prediction Center forecasts that amount to arrive between today and next Saturday. Multiple storm systems will move through the area over the next week.
In the 7-day total precipitation image above, Flagstaff is in the 2-3 inches of water range. After warmer temperatures this weekend, it will cool off and the precipitation will show up as snow. It could be heavy, wet snow at times. This is just the first week of the month.
Although December was dry, the total precipitation for 2015 was over 27 inches. This was 5 inches above average.
December has been low on moisture compared to normal, and near normal for the average temperature. Low precipitation in an El Niño December probably is not very unusual. I’ll have to look. But, it all changes in the start of January. A series of storms is due next week. Arizona will get plenty of moisture with seasonal normal temperatures. Enjoy this week’s sun while it’s here.
I haven’t seen any forecasts that without a high likelihood of a white Christmas for Flagstaff. As it is often the case, the exact timing and total snowfall amounts are changing in the forecast, but several inches in or around Christmas Day are very likely. The 6-10 precipitation outlook is below. I don’t see a huge storm coming to Northern Arizona. Precipitation will be strong to the north and east. Travel across the Southwest could be difficult.