Drought expected to continue

Do not expect any significant relief this spring from the precipitation shortfall this winter in the Kingman area, weather experts say.

Kingman received 0.72 inch of precipitation in November, according to figures supplied by the Arizona State University Office of Climatology.

Normal rainfall for the area in November is 0.74 inch.

However, just 0.53 inch of precipitation fell in December, when 0.94 is normal.

The drought worsened with no measurable precipitation for January or February.

Normal amounts for those months are 1.28 and 1.07 inches, respectively.

"Storm tracks have been mainly across the Pacific Northwest and northern Plains states this winter," said Charlie Schlott, a staff meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Las Vegas.

"We sometimes get a variation when it comes down over us, but it did not this winter."

The Climate Prediction Center in Silver Spring, Md., in its 90-day forecast, is calling for below normal precipitation for northwest Arizona for March, April and May, said Schlott and Randy Cerveny, professor of geography at ASU.

Normal precipitation figures for Kingman include 1.39 inches in March, 0.46 inch for April, and 0.35 inch for May.

"We've had storm fronts go through your area this winter," Cerveny said.

"But nothing came along with them in terms of moisture."

Those recent fronts have brought strong winds to the Kingman area, but little else, Cerveny said.

Schlott and Cerveny both said above normal temperatures are expected in northwest Arizona during the next three months.

Kingman experienced above normal average temperatures in November of 67.6 for a high and 41.4 for a low.

The normal temperatures are 63.6 and 38.7, respectively.

But cooler, dryer air moved in during December, when average daily readings were 53.5 and 29.5.

Normal temperatures are 54.2 and 31.8.

During January and February daytime highs were above normal while nighttime lows were below normal.

"The big thing is the dryness of the air," Cerveny said.

"It allows evening temperatures to cool off."

There is some indication that an El Nino weather pattern is forming in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

"There has been talk of it for the past month, but it's still in the embryo stage," Schlott said.

"It would not occur until next winter, if we have one, and what we're seeing now is nothing like four or five years ago."

El Nino is a natural climate phenomenon that occurs every two to seven years.

A pool of warm water, which typically remains in the western Pacific near the Philippines, moves east, causing a change to circulation patterns in the ocean and atmosphere above it.

The most recent El Nino of 1997-98 brought heavy rain and mudslides to southern California, resulting in an estimated $1.1 billion damage.

But it also brought warmer-than-normal temperatures to the upper Midwest and that led to decreased heating and snow removal costs.

"Forecasters say we'll have a better chance of precipitation next winter from El Nino," Cerveny said.

"The weird thing is that the water is warming 4-5 feet below the surface of the ocean and that has forecasters puzzled.

You normally get warming at the surface for a true El Nino."

Cerveny said the water temperature is 1.5 degrees warmer several feet below the surface of the eastern Pacific and that increase must reach the surface for weather patterns to change.