FOUR CORNERS

Late series of storms lifts Farmington moisture total for 2022 past 30-year average

La Niña finally may be ending in eastern Pacific, Climate Prediction Center says

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A series of storms that rolled through the Four Corners over the holidays helped push Farmington’s precipitation total for the year to just past the 30-year average, resulting in a rare, comparatively wet year — and more moisture could be on the way.

According to meteorologist Michael Anand of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, the Four Corners Regional Airport received 1.29 inches of precipitation between Dec. 25 and Jan. 4. Although only part of that sum counted toward the total for 2022, it was enough to lift the city to 7.47 inches for the year — slightly more than the figure of 7.44 inches seen over the previous 30 years.

Overall, 0.81 inches of precipitation fell at the airport in December, he said.

For an area where sharply below-average moisture figures have been the norm for at least 20 years, that mix of rainfall and snow over a 10-day period was a welcome development.

“It’s been a series of storms,” Anand said, noting that an atmospheric river that set up off the coast of California was responsible for sending four storms this way, including two stronger ones that reached the Four Corners last weekend and early this week.

Snow from a series of recent storms clings to a cliffside on Jan. 4 southwest of Bloomfield as a nearly full moon rises at sunset.

By Jan. 4, those disturbances had cleared out, and sunny skies had returned to San Juan County for the first time in a week. Temperatures over the next several days are expected to reach the low to middle 40s, which is normal for this time of year, with overnight lows bouncing between the high teens and middle 20s.

Anand said northern California is expected to face another bomb cyclone this week, and the remnants of that storm could bring a little moisture to far-northern reaches of the state by this weekend. But he said it was more likely that the only impact from that disturbance would be an increase in winds in the central mountains and eastern part of New Mexico.

“There’s going to be high pressure building over the region, so we’ll see warmer and drier conditions beyond Friday,” he said. “We are expecting a quieter pattern compared to the last week and a half.”

Snow dusts a sandstone formation southwest of Bloomfield on Jan. 4.

That doesn’t mean San Juan County residents haven’t seen the last of winter conditions. Anand said the latest data compiled by the federal Climate Prediction Center shows that conditions are changing in the eastern Pacific Ocean, leading to some optimism that the abnormally dry winters that have taken place in the American Southwest this decade finally could be coming to an end.

“So it looks like La Niña slowly is reducing its grip,” he said, explaining that the Climate Prediction Center is calling for a return to neutral conditions late this winter and into spring, which could lead to a more active storm track for the Southwest.

A series of storms over the holidays has brought the snowpack in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado up to well above average.

“That’s definitely good news, because the last three winters have been La Niña winters,” he said.

There is additional good news regarding the status of the mountain snowpack in southwest Colorado. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan rivers snowpack summary compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that basin was at 125% of normal for its snow-water equivalent as of Jan. 4. That was up considerably from just a few weeks ago, when that figure was closer to 100%.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 ormeasterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.