Region misses monsoons

Weather conditions in Montezuma County remain hot and dry, and recent forecasts predicting rain haven’t panned out for the area.

Jim Andrus, a cooperative weather observer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presented county commissioners with an updated weather report Monday morning and stressed that the dry weather may continue, though some portions of the county may be more fortunate than others.

“Really, lately we are looking at the luck of the draw in terms of weather,” Andrus said. “The western half of the county has had more rain than the rest of us, but we are still struggling.”

This year’s precipitation readings show a picture quite different than last year’s monsoon season. June and September of 2010 saw precipitation levels right at average, while July and August of last year recorded 197 and 144 percent above average respectively.

This year’s numbers are a far cry from normal, Andrus said.

“The monsoon season last year was very generous, and so far this monsoon is the polar opposite of that situation,” Andrus said.

Precipitation for June 2011 was recorded at .01 inches, roughly 2 percent of average. No measurable precipitation has appeared in Cortez this month.

“I’m wondering if the drought that has slammed Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana is slowly working its way north this summer,” Andrus said. “Low precipitation levels like this will go a long way in driving us toward exceptional drought conditions.”

Forecasts the past few weeks have predicted rain in the region, but while the atmosphere seems to be filling with moisture, most of it isn’t making it to the ground.

Montezuma Commissioner Steve Chappell asked Andrus if a dry atmosphere impacts the ability of rain to reach thirsty crops and dry grasses.

“Is it possible for it to be so dry that the atmosphere just can’t get it done,” Chappell asked.

“Absolutely,” Andrus responded. “When the atmosphere gets extremely dry, storms might develop overhead but you have to think in terms of priming the pump and the lower levels of the atmosphere may be so dry the rain evaporates before it reaches the ground. But those storms do add humidity and might help later storms get their rain to the ground.”

Andrus noted the bulk of the monsoon flow has been west of the region. While the La Nina weather pattern characterized by cool and wet northern regions and hot and dry southern regions has officially ended, Andrus wondered if the present conditions may be stuck in a similar holding pattern.

“The rest of this week is supposed to be a little warmer and dryer by the end of the week,” Andrus said. “We are looking at a neutral situation in the 30- and 90-day outlooks, so hopefully we will start seeing normal precipitation.”

Forecasts call for a 60 percent chance of precipitation today and tonight with a 20 percent chance of showers Wednesday morning, Andrus said. Temperatures should remain in the upper 80s and lower 90s the rest of the week.

Reach Kimberly Benedict at kimberlyb@cortezjournal.com