Dec. 18, 2020
The latest seasonal outlooks were released yesterday (Thursday, Dec. 17) from NOAA. The outlooks cover the period from January to March of 2021. In the forecast discussion NOAA noted moderate La Niña conditions remain and are expected to continue through the winter and La Niña continues to heavily influence NOAA’s expectations for next three months.
For temperatures, there are enhanced odds for above normal temperatures across the southern tier of the contiguous U.S. The odds are particularly high and exceed 60% across parts of Texas and New Mexico.
Like the temperature outlook, the precipitation outlook favors below normal precipitation for a most of the southern portion of the U.S. The highest odds exceeding 60% for the Big Bend area. Except for parts of North and East Texas, the rest of the state has between 50-60% odds of less than average precipitation for January through March (see the precipitation outlook map below). The U.S. Drought Monitor shows many of these areas as being in exceptional or extreme drought so the outlooks are not very encouraging for drought improvement over the next three months. 2020 has been bad enough and it doesn’t seem 2021 will be getting off to a good start. Things may not be as bad as they seem, though.
To put the Jan-Feb-Mar precipitation outlook in context, the map below shows the average amount of precipitation (in inches) expected from January through March for the contiguous U.S. using the 1981-2010 base period. The West Coast and the Southeast see a good portion of their precipitation during this time. As most of you know, however, most of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico do not expect to see more than 1to 2” of precipitation during this time. If you look at those totals in the context of average precipitation for the year, the second map shows the average percentage of precipitation Jan-Feb-Mar contributes to the annual total. New Mexico, Far West and West Texas do not usually see much precipitation during this time so an ominous precipitation outlook might not be as bad as it might seem. The is not to diminish the ongoing exceptional drought in these areas and at this point any precipitation would be good. This is just a bit of context to show there is still a long way to go and that things could improve later in the year.