May 13, 2012--Colorado: Will the monsoon bring drought relief? (Summit Voice)

The biggest uncertainty for the course of this summer’s fire season is whether the monsoon will arrive on schedule — or perhaps even a bit early — to soak Colorado with beneficial rains, and for now, the answer is still uncertain. The larger Pacific weather patterns are in a transitional phase. With winter’s La Niña officially over, it’s unclear if and how quickly an El Niño might form, or whether neutral conditions will persist over the Pacific for the next few months. The El Niño-La Niña cycle drives not only the winter storm track, but also has an effect on summer weather patterns. El Niño is marked by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, while La Niña is signalled by cooler waters. Some forecasters have suggested that a quick shift to a strong El Niño could bring better chances  for a solid monsoon season to Colorado, but forecasting skills for the summer rains are not completely reliable. Monsoon moisture generally arrives in Colorado in mid-July, rotating clockwise around an area of high pressure to the south and east of the state, but the exact trajectory of that flow is hard to pinpoint in advance. National Weather Service forecasters in Boulder say that post-La Niña monsoons often shift farther west, delivering the best moisture over Arizona and Nevada. And an early forecast by suggests that, unlike the past two years, heavy monsoon downpours will target portions of the Southwest deserts.
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