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Winter outlook in New Mexico

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New Mexico Winter Weather Forecast

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – KRQE’s 2021 winter weather special provides analysis and insight into what this winter will look like for New Mexico. It examines the impacts of what another La Niña might mean for the state, what other climate models are affecting the state during this time of year, and the impact of climate change on forests and the fire season in the state. ‘State.

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Last winter, La Niña brought mostly below average precipitation and higher than average temperatures throughout the state. For the second year in a row, La Niña has grown again. Cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures along the equatorial Pacific generally mean a warmer, drier winter for New Mexico. This winter’s double dip appears to be slightly weaker than last year, peaking in December and slowly approaching average over the new year.

With a weaker La Niña forecast this winter, it is likely that other climatic modes will have a greater impact on wintering in New Mexico.

Madden-Julien Oscillation

Another climate model that we use to observe weather activity in New Mexico is the Madden-Julien Oscillation. This is a storm complex that circles the globe along the equator, but we specifically monitor where the storms are located along the equatorial Pacific Ocean. High pressure off the west coast of the United States kept the storm’s track well north of New Mexico this fall. However, during the phases of the Madden-Julien Oscillation when storms occur in the eastern Pacific, this pushes this area of ​​high pressure away, causing the storm’s track southward and bringing more active weather to the New -Mexico. This cycle typically takes place every 30 to 60 days and will be something to watch out for this winter for more active time in the state.

Climate change

KRQE meteorologists speak with experts about New Mexico’s forests and the impact of climate change on the state during the winter. Winter in New Mexico has become warmer and drier over the past 30 years due to climate change, reducing the snowpack in the mountains and melting the snowpack faster than in previous years.

Dennis Carrill, director of the fuels program in the USDA Forest Service, says without a decent snowpack and humidity this winter, the fire season could be harsh until next spring. This year’s monsoon brought rains to grow lots of grass in parts of the state, and without sufficient moisture this winter, that dried grass could serve as dangerous fire fuel ahead of the next fire season.

Our fire season in New Mexico has increased by 70 days due to a warmer and drier climate, according to Dr. Matthew Hurteau, a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico. Dr Hurteau says this will continue to be a trend over the next several decades as the climate continues to warm.

Winter forecast

Due to a double dip in La Niña this winter and a weak Madden-Julien oscillation, the forecast for this winter is very similar to what we experienced in the winter of 2020-2021. During the first half of winter (November and December), warmer than average temperatures will persist across the state. Temperatures are likely to be approaching average in the eastern half of New Mexico thanks to cold backdoor fronts that will help regulate those temperatures. Precipitation will continue to be below average across the state.

Some changes start to happen in the first two months of the New Year. Temperatures will continue to stay above average statewide, but as La Niña begins to weaken, this will allow the storm’s track to head slightly further south by the end of January. until February. This will increase the chances of snow and rain in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

While the KRQE forecast calls for above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation across the state this winter, streaks of extreme weather will always be possible. This means very hot or very cold days and one or two storms that will bring heavy snow in the mountains or at low altitudes.