The year 2012 went into the weather records as the warmest ever in New Mexico. It was also the second driest in recorded state history.
"If you break down the entire state of New Mexico, looks like we were the warmest on record for the 118 years that we have those climate records going," said Todd Shoemake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the state. He said the Ruidoso area fit right in with above-average temperatures and dry conditions this past year.
"Probably a little bit more so in some areas including a lot of Lincoln County," Shoemake said. "And then as you go farther east, a lot of those areas have been suffering just as long as the south central parts of the state."
The last several weeks brought some Sacramento Mountains snow, but not enough to break the long-term trend.
"We certainly did see a pattern change in about mid-December," Shoemake said. "We finally kind of broke out of the persistent above normal temperatures and did actually see some precipitation. But it certainly was too little, too late -- I think is even an understatement."
In a Monday briefing, the National Weather Service in the state listed five top New Mexico weather stories for the year, including last June's Little Bear Fire north and northwest of Ruidoso. Shoemake said the warm and dry conditions were "absolutely" factors that contributed to the fire.
"And there's also a lot of indices and conditions that go into that -- 2011 was I believe about the
fifth or sixth driest. And we had certainly a very windy period going into much of the spring of 2011 and a lot of that kind of repeated into the spring of 2012. So back-to-back it was just kind of a worst case scenario."
The Climate Prediction Center's three-month outlook for January, February and March foretells below normal probabilities for precipitation in New Mexico. Shoemake said that is in line with a neutral position between La Nina (typically wetter than normal) and El Nino (drier than normal).
"Which was kind of disappointing. A lot of people were hoping for that El Nino, which implies the more wetter conditions for a lot of New Mexico, especially in the southern parts of the state. Even though we are in that neutral pattern, there's not a lot of times a great signal or indicator of what the winter precipitation season is going to be like. Most of the climate models that the Climate Prediction Center's looking at are kind of hinting at staying in that dry regime unfortunately."
Shoemake noted the winter of 2011-12 was a dry season with La Nina conditions.
"Even then we did see a change or a shift in the pattern about mid-December (2011) where we did finally start getting some storm systems moving in. And so that did finally start building up some snowpack but it was still sub par by most accounts."
The one bright spot is the amount of water locked in the Rio Hondo mountain snowpack on Dec. 31. It was 247 percent of normal two days ago. On Dec. 31, 2011, it had been 153 percent of normal.
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