Another year of drought and climate extremes: Where’s El Niño when you need it?

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The year 2006 was characterized by weather extremes in the Tucson area. On one hand, the first 6 months were some of the driest on record. Then we experienced the sixth wettest monsoon season ever recorded, starting with 4.6 inches of much-needed rain in July. Although the rains extended well into September, this wet trend was punctuated by a remarkably dry fall and winter.

By the end of the year, records from the M&A weather station showed that our area of central Tucson received only 77 percent (9.37 inches) of its “normal” average yearly rainfall. Over 6 inches fell during the monsoon season alone. Compared to the 30-year average of 12.17 inches for the Tucson airport, our area came up short about 2.8 inches — even though the airport’s total was “near normal” at 11.81 inches. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, regional conditions now range from “abnormally dry” east of Tucson to “severe drought” in western Pima County.

Forecasters have predicted El Niño conditions for early 2007. If they’re right, we may finally get some relief from this extended drought.

Click here to view a chart comparing 2006 rainfall at our Tucson office weather station with average rainfall (PDF 20KB).