What will winter be like in New Mexico?

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) — A dry and warmer-than-average winter is likely again for New Mexico this winter as we move toward a third straight La Niña.

La Nina

Typical La Niña Winter in North America (NOAA)

We know all too well what La Niña means for the New Mexico winter, having looked at it for the past two years in a row. Now we’re on our way to experiencing another La Niña this winter. There is currently a 75% chance that La Niña will last into winter.

La Niña is caused by strong trade winds along the equatorial Pacific, resulting in colder-than-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific. This may seem a long way from New Mexico, but these below-average sea surface temperatures help drive the jet stream north. This usually brings drier weather in the southern US and heavier rain in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Also, winter temperatures during La Niña years are typically warmer than average in the south and cooler than average in the north.

There might be some hope on the horizon. Sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific are expected to return closer to average by April and May. There is a 54 percent chance of neutral conditions by spring. This bodes well that we may be nearing the end of this historic triple dip La Niña.

winter forecast

There’s no doubt that La Niña will play a part again in our winter here in New Mexico. This brings with it a subsequent prognosis similar to the typical effects of La Niña during the winter and how the last two winters have played out. However, signs that La Niña may be weakening towards spring are good news for the state.

Above-average temperatures are likely throughout New Mexico this winter, with the greatest reliance on warmer temperatures in the southeastern portion of the state. Intermittent winter storms bring colder weather to the state, but overall winter temperatures remain above average.

Precipitation is below average in much of New Mexico this winter. There is hope that a nose of wetter weather will creep into Colorado and even far northern New Mexico this winter. This would bring better snowfall amounts to the headwaters of the Rio Grande. With La Niña currently still strong, drier conditions are expected across most of the state. December and early January will probably be the driest time of winter, with intermittent winter storms. As La Niña weakens late in winter, we will likely see a more active pattern bringing more snow and rain to the areas in February and March.