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Significant Weather Events of 2013 for Northern and Central New Mexico

 

This feature briefly describes some of the significant weather and climate events of 2013 for northern and central New Mexico.  Events in this feature are described below in chronological order.

More complete details on temperature and precipitation, the drought, fire weather, records and extremes, monthly highlights and severe weather can be found in our 2013 annual summary found on our homepage.

 2013 highlights animation

Eastern Plains Bizzard of February 24, 2013
The combination of a slow moving upper level storm moving southeast out of the Great Basin and a potent back door cold front racing south down the Front Range of the Rockies produced widespread heavy snowfall and strong to damaging winds, resulting in blizzard conditions for much of eastern New Mexico.  While snowfall amounts were not exceptionally high, the combination of snow and strong winds created whiteout conditions. Widespread major impacts to travel developed across the eastern plains where nearly every U.S. and state highway as well as Interstates 25 and 40 were closed periods ranging from several hours to multiple days. By the Numbers: Snow and blowing snow produced drifts as high as 5 feet along the Texas state line.  Peak wind gusts for this event included 69 mph at Raton Airport, 59 mph 2 miles NE of Dunken, 58 mph at Clayton Airport.
 
Heat Wave with Record High Temperatures: June 27, 2013
Persistent high pressure with geopotential heights about two standard deviations above normal brought record-breaking heat to New Mexico on June 27. By the numbers: Maximum temperature records were tied or broken across northern, western and central portions of the state, not only for the date - but all time record highs for any month! Some records are listed in the table below with additional record temperatures for numerous sites available as well.

500 mb height chart

Maximum Temperature Records for June 27, 2013
Location New Record Remarks
Tucumcari 109 Daily record, tied all time high
Socorro 109 Daily record, tied all time high
Albuquerque 105 Daily record
Santa Fe 102 All time record high
ABQ Foothills 102 Tied all time record high
Farmington 101 Daily record
Raton 100 Tied daily record
Gallup 98 Tied daily record
Taos 97 Daily record
Chama 93 Daily record
 
Widespread Drought
Drought conditions developed across New Mexico in January of 2011, with few breaks in the drought over the next two years.  Thus, by the start of 2013, drought continued to grip much of the state with about 30% of the state in drought.  Precipitation deficits continued, and from mid-May through mid-July 100% of the state was officially in drought, with 40% in exceptional drought.  It took the historic rains of September to finally produce widespread reductions in short term drought severity across New Mexico, though by year's end, nearly 100 percent of New Mexico will continue to see drought or abnormally dry conditions.  By the numbers: In Albuquerque, only 0.70 inches of precipitation was measured in the first 6 months of the calendar year, which was the second driest start to the year since 1931 (and the driest January-June period occurred in 2011 with only 0.11 in). For New Mexico and considering the period since 1895, the 12-month period ending in May 2013 was the driest on record.  The 36-month period ending in June was both the driest and warmest on record.

 percent of NM in drought during 2013

The effect of the exceptional drought in New Mexico is evident in soil moisture measurements monitored by the NRCS Soil Climate Analysis Network, or SCAN.  The chart below depicts soil moisture daily percentages since 2005 at the Crossroads SCAN site in southeast New Mexico.  Note that since the start of this drought (2011) there has been no recharging of soil moisture at 20 inches (red oval) with percentages remaining below 10 percent.  Additionally, since both the 2013 monsoon and September flooding “missed” this area, soils remain dry.   More details on the drought conditions of 2013 can be found in the Hydrology section of our annual summary.
SCAN soil m easurements at Crossroads
 
Santa Rosa Hail Storm: July 3, 2013
July 3 was an active day across eastern New Mexico with several reports of severe hail (greater than one inch in diameter).  Additionally, there were reports of deep sub-severe hail.  It is not uncommon for snow plows to be called out in summer in New Mexico to plow hail rather than snow off interstates and highways. Santa Rosa and the adjacent Interstate 40 corridor experienced both on the afternoon of July 3.  A severe storm tracked directly over the town, producing copious amounts of hail, with some hailstones the size of golf balls (1.75 in). Partial roof collapses and broken skylights were common throughout the central and western portions of the community.  Snow plows were required to clear roads. Many local residents and motorists described the scene as Christmas in July.  By the numbers: hail accumulations reached 1-2 feet in some locations, and damage was estimated to be around $100,000. deep hail in Santa Rosa
 
Albuquerque Macroburst: July 26, 2013
On the afternoon of July 26, a large complex of strong thunderstorms organized over north central New Mexico then slowly pushed south along the entire Rio Grande Valley into the Big Bend region of Texas. As this storm complex approached the Albuquerque Metro Area, a downburst wind measuring a historical 89mph at the Sunport surged out ahead of the storm and produced extensive damage and flash flooding to many areas along and south of Interstate 40. Several outdoor events were severely impacted, including an Albuquerque Isotopes baseball game, Summer Fest at the BioPark Zoo, and a concert at the Isleta Amphitheater. Downed tree branches and uprooted trees created extensive power outages leaving more than 25,000 customers without power. Interstate 25 was closed between the Big I and Rio Bravo Boulevard for nearly 12 hours as downed power lines and power poles were repaired along several access ramps. Flash flooding with these thunderstorms stranded motorists in several feet of water across downtown Albuquerque and in many other areas of town. This complex of storms continued to produce flash flooding as it moved south through Los Lunas, Belen, and much of Socorro County. Flooding at a waste water treatment facility in Belen prompted a state of emergency.

While dry microbursts are fairly common in New Mexico, this event was considered a macroburst. The difference between the two is determined by the spatial and temporal extents. Microbursts are defined by outflows less than 2.5 miles wide with peak winds for 5 minutes or less. By comparison, a macroburst produces a downdraft with an affected outflow area of at least 2.5 miles wide with peak winds lasting between 5 and 20 minutes.  The chart to the right lists peak gust measurements for the Albuquerque Metro Area.  Wind gusts exceeded 60 mph for 30 minutes over various locations.  By the Numbers: the 89 mph wind gust measured at the Albuquerque Sunport on Friday, July 26th at 7:36 pm was the strongest gust recorded at Albuquerque Sunport since 1939.

Albuquerque Metro Wind Observations
 Time   Peak Gust (mph)
 7:20 pm MDT  64
 7:30 pm MDT  70
 7:36 pm MDT  89
 7:40 pm MDT  75
 7:45 pm MDT 70
7:53 pm MDT 62
Z and SRM from KABX during macroburst 
 
September 2013 Historic Rain
A prolonged period of historic, record-breaking heavy rain led to widespread flooding across much of New Mexico in September of 2013.  A series of upper level weather systems combined with unusually deep atmospheric moisture, enhanced by tropical cyclones Ingrid and Manuel, resulted in an extended period of persistent heavy rainfall across the state from September 9, 2013 through September 17, 2013. 

Heavy rain began in western New Mexico late in the day on September 9, 2013 and widespread heavy rain and flooding expanded and impacted most of the state for a week.  Numerous locations set daily records for rainfall, with several locations recording the wettest 5 or 6 day periods on record.  According to a NOAA precipitation Frequency data analysis, areas in central and western New Mexico received week-long precipitation with an average recurrence interval of once every 500 to 1,000 years.  Heavy rainfall began in western New Mexico late in the day on September 9, 2013 and widespread heavy rain and flooding expanded and impacted most of the state for a week.  Numerous locations set daily records for rainfall, with several locations recording the wettest 5 or 6 day periods on record.  According to a NOAA precipitation frequency data analysis, areas in central and western New Mexico received week-long precipitation with an average recurrence interval of once every 500 to 1,000 years.  Following the record event, thunderstorms produced local heavy rain that resulted in more record high river stages and additional flash flooding.

Due to the large spatial extent of this event, impacts from the flooding were widespread. Flows at many river gages were observed to be at record or near record levels. Transportation infrastructure was destroyed, damaged or compromised in many locations.

By the Numbers:  10.44 in of rain was reported during the period September 10-22 12 miles west of Las Vegas. Los Alamos reported 7.05 inches from 9/10-9-15 which was the wettest 6-day total since 1902.   WFO Albuquerque measured 3.14 inches during the same period which was the wettest 6-day total since records began in 1891.  Much of the state saw significant crests during this event. The San Francisco River near Glenwood recorded its second highest crest on record since 1927 (18.87 feet). Some locations also reported the wettest September on record, including Albuquerque (3.97 in.) and Los Alamos (8.72in.).  For the state, September 2013 was the second wettest on record behind 1941.

A special feature describing this historic rain event is available on our web site.  Use the clickable map to obtain rainfall reports, impact and hydrological summaries and well as more photos for each county.

flooded house in Chamita
 
 Additional Monsoon Events
Northern and central New Mexico and other areas across the Southwest U.S. are affected by the North American Monsoon System (NAMS).  “Monsoon Season” is designated as the period lasting from June 15th through September 30th, and a variety of weather hazards including flash floods, hail, and downburst winds occur each year during monsoon season.  The graph below provides a quick summary of flood and severe thunderstorm events.
graph of monsoon season statistics
Note that the beginning of the season was dominated by severe events, and severe thunderstorms on June 18, 19, and 21st were notable. On June 19, a series of long track severe storms impacted a narrow region with severe hail from near Raton southeastward across the plains to south of Clayton.   The main focus for severe weather on June 19 occurred along the dryline from near Tucumcari south to around Fort Sumner and east of the Roswell area. Numerous reports of large hail, strong gusty winds, and hazardous blowing dust were reported, along with a baseball-sized hail and a funnel cloud a few miles north of Tucumcari.  On June 21, an isolated thunderstorm developed over Quay County and slowly moved southeast impacting portions of Curry County during the evening hours. This storm produced strong, gusty winds and hailstones as large as ping pong ball sized hail.
 
July and August saw numerous episodes of flash flooding.  However, Roosevelt County was impacted by a longer duration event, first by a complex of thunderstorms that remained stationary over southeastern portion of county, producing very heavy rainfall during the very early morning hours of August 11th.  After this initial round of heavy rainfall diminished, another series of storms set up over the area during the predawn hours resulting in radar-derived precipitation amounts between 5 and 8 inches. Observers in the area verified extremely heavy rainfall amounts of 3 to 5 inches.
 
 The "Deep Freeze" of December
The first few days of December 2013 were mild for the start of winter, but an arctic air mass ushered in much colder air along with valley rain and snow, mountain snow, and freezing rain in the eastern plains starting December 4.  The frigid temperatures persisted for several days and, after a brief rebound in temperatures, a second reinforcing shot of arctic air blasted into the state late on December 8.  The chart below shows the hourly temperature plot for Clayton. Following a high temperature of 65F on December 3, the mercury plummeted to 1F on December 5. Temperatures remained below freezing for 107 hours, rebounded to above freezing for 6 hours, then remained below freezing for another 40 hours.  This was the coldest outbreak since the February 2011 event, and while temperatures were significantly colder in 2011, this event was similar in duration. Below average temperatures dominated the first half of December and averaged 3 to 10 degrees below normal for northern and central New Mexico.

By the Numbers: At Clayton, the high temperature was only 12 degrees on December 5th and only 13 degrees on December 6th.  These temperatures set record low maximum temperatures for the date by several degrees.  The previous record for December 5th was 21 degrees set in 2011 and for December 6th, the previous record was 17 in 1978.  Other records for the 5th (mainly in northeast New Mexico) and the 6th (with some western and central locations) are available.


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