What happened to winter in northern Arizona?

National Weather Service meteorologists predict wet weather will return in March

A tree begins to bloom in Williams well shy of the beginning of spring. Ryan Williams/WGCN

A tree begins to bloom in Williams well shy of the beginning of spring. Ryan Williams/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - What started with a bang seems to have snuck out without saying goodbye as people wonder "What happened to El Nino?"

Meteorologists predicted that the 2015-2016 winter would be one the biggest El Nino years in history with higher than average amounts of precipitation in northern Arizona.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Bellemont tried to answer the pressing question "Where has El Nino gone?" in a report released Feb. 19.

Meteorologists predict more warm weather over the next week or two. Warm temperatures have rapidly melted the snow from the Williams area, but meteorologists predict that El Nino is not over and active weather storms will start to roll in again soon. They say there is still a lot of atmospheric "fuel" with the El Nino conditions, and additional strong storms are expected.

This winter has been consistent with the prediction of a wetter than normal winter for the area. Meteorologists say prolonged dry spells aren't unusual for Arizona winters, but the current one is unusual, especially in comparison to other strong El Nino events. The dry spell wasn't necessarily expected during this strong El Nino, but it isn't much of a surprise given the nature of winters in the Southwest.

Meteorologists reported that northern Arizona is near normal for precipitation through mid-February, with Flagstaff being above average with 71.7 inches of snow so far this year (average through Feb. 17 is 64.8").

Meteorologists were calling for wetter than normal conditions for this El Nino year based on the high precipitation recorded in past El Nino years. Of the six strong El Ninos recorded since 1950, each has varied in intensity, but all have been associated with wetter than normal conditions.

Current long-range projections are consistent with a return to a more active weather pattern, but it may take a while. Meterologists are predicting more active weather in March.

The fire season largely depends on winter snowfall and precipitation but also the weather during the critical months of April, May and June. Last year was a below normal snowfall and precipitation but a wet May and June reduced the fire threat significantly. Meteorologists predict that the severity of the fire weather season will depend on precipitation through the spring and the weather critical months of May and June.

The long range forecasts indicate a transition from the current strong El Nino conditions into what could be La Nina conditions this fall. La Nina conditions are colder than normal oceanic temperatures over the equatorial Pacific. They are frequently associated with drier than normal winters for the Southwestern U.S.

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