Monthly Review of Weather Events Across New Mexico in 2010

Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec

Click on a highlighted month below for a more detailed review

The first five days of the month were mostly dry and seasonable across New Mexico. A powerful cold front brought arctic air to the east on the 6th and 7th, sending temperatures well below normal. Low clouds and fog formed for a couple of nights, and a weak disturbance brought light snows to southern New Mexico on the 7th into the 8th. The 9th through 12th were quiet, then a storm dropping south through Arizona into Mexico brought mostly light precipitation to the state from late on the 13th into the 15th. Tranquil weather on the 14th through the 17th gave way to a major change in the weather pattern. Several pacific storms brought copious amounts of moisture to the state from the 18th into the 24th. This resulted in major snowfall over the western and northern mountains, with 3 to 4 feet of snow on high, west slope areas. A brief break on the 25th and 26th gave way to another impressive storm, this time impacting mainly eastern areas, on the 27th and 28th.

 photo of ice on windmill
 

Ice on windmill blades on January 30, 2010, 4 miles north of Clovis.  Photo by Carol Nash.

 photo of convective snow over the Truchas Peaks

Early February continued the trrend of late January with active weather through the first 10 days of the month. A widespread and significant storm impacted the state on the 3rd and 4th, while a weaker system brought light to moderate snow on the 7th and 8th. Yet another storm affected the southern half of New Mexico on the night of the 10th into the 11th, but with mostly light snowfall. A break from the active weather pattern followed from the 12th through 19th, only to be followed by another major storm on the 20th through 22nd. A weak disturbanced crossed the state on the 25th into the 26th, with one more storm to close out the month on the 28th. 

Convective snow over the Truchas Peaks on February 28, 2010.  Photo by Jody Radzik.

 

  March

March began active with a storm that arrived on February 28th and continued into the 1st of March. Light to moderate snow amounts were observed over the west and north. The 2nd and 3rd were quiet as temperatures finally returned to near normal or above. A weak disturbance passed north of the state on the 4th into the 5th, with only light snow amounts over the north. A stronger storm impacted New Mexico on the 8th with moderate snow amounts over the west and central higher terrain. A brief break on the 9th was followed by two more storms that crossed right over the state, providing moderate snow to the west and north from early on the 10th into the 11th.

The 12th and 13th were quiet, only to be proceeded by yet another storm, with this one producing impressive late winter snow on the 14th to 15th. Another brief break on the 16th through 18th preceeded the final storm of the official winter season on the 19th and 20th, with substantial widespread snow. The next snow event of the month struck on the 24th and 25, with mostly light amounts over the north. But strong winds in the northeast produced plenty of blowing and drifting snow. High winds struck the state on the 26th with light snow over the north on the 27th. Finally some dry and warmer weather returned for the last few days of the month, although winds picked up on the 31st. 

photo of flowers in snow on the first day of spring

 

Flowers peek out through the snow on the first day of Spring (March 20, 2010) in San Jon.  Photo by Gerald White.

 

A midday sky near Stanley, April 11, 2010

Midday sky near Moriarty, April 11, 2010.  Photo by Leah Robertson.

April got underway with high winds blasting across New Mexico along with widespread critical fire weather conditions. Breezy to windy conditions continued from the 2nd through 4th, with strong winds on the 5th and 6th. Winds settled down on the 7th and especially the 8th through 10th. During these 10 days there was little in the way of precipitation, while temperatures took a roller coaster ride with big swings from day to day. The action shifted from the wind to isolated severe weather on the 11th across southern Chaves County. Up to one inch hail was reported near Hagerman.

More widespread showers and thunderstorms erupted on the 12th, including isolated severe weather over southeast Lincoln County.  Strong winds were also noted on the 11th and 12th. Isolated severe weather then occurred on the 13th over San Miguel and Union Counties, and on the 14th over Union County. The 15th was quiet, but a strong back door cold front and upper level disturbance produced showers and storms later on the 16th into the 17th. Heavy rain on the 17th on top of the snowpack over the San Juan mountains produced some flooding along the Rio Chamita River, west of Chama, on the 17th. Mostly isolated showers and storms followed on the 18th through 21st. Wind and even snow returned on the 22nd and 23rd as a strong storm moved along the New Mexico and colorado border on the 23rd. The weather improved on the 24th, with dry and milder weather on the 25th. A back door cold front brought much cooler temperatures to the eastern plains on the 26th, but little moisture. Strong winds returned on the 29th and 30th, while cooler temperatures were experienced state wide for the end of the month. Spotty rain and mountain snow showers were noted mainly across the north.

   May

May began cold and unsettled as a storm approached on the 1st and crossed New Mexico on the 2nd. late season snow fell over the northern and western mountains. The weather warmed and dried on the 3rd and continued through the 5th with typical afternoon winds. Much stronger winds arrived on the 6th, with much cooler temperatures on the 7th.

East canyon winds howled into the Middle Rio Grande Valley on the night of the 7th/8th. Winds picked up again on the 9th and especially the 10th, when isolated high winds were noted over central and eastern New Mexico. Widespread high winds returned on the 11th, then eased on the 12th. After 10 days of dry weather, moisture returned primarily to eastern New Mexico from the 13th through 18th. This triggered an outbreak of severe weather on the 14th, with isolated severe storms on the 15th and 17th. A break from the stormy weather followed through the 22nd before more severe weather, including 5 tornadoes, struck on the 23rd. Severe storms continued on the 24th and 25th, with only isolated reports through the end of the month. 

H12 Fire

 

 H12 Fire on May 28, 2010.  Photo by Brent Wachter.

June began warm and kept getting warmer through the 1st week of the month. Record high temperatures were common on the 5th and 6th, less so on the 7th and 8th as a back door cold front brought an increase in moisture to eastern and central areas, and a little lower temperatures. The increase in moisture led to some thunderstorms on the 6th and 7th, a few which were severe over the southeast plains on the 6th. The back door front set off isolated severe weather over Curry and Quay Counties on the 8th. The storms eased up from the 9th through 11th with only a couple of reports of severe weather. A back door front across the eastern plains on the 12th helped trigger widespread severe storms over the far eastern plains. Isolated severe weather continued on the 13th and 15th across the far northeast, and on the 16th across Guadalupe, Quay and Curry counties.

 Photo of Thunderstorm near Cimarrom on June 24, 2010

The 17th through 22nd were a bit quieter, although strong microburst winds occurred across Albuquerque on the 19th. A strong back door cold front replenished the moisture across the east on the 23th and it spilled into the Rio Grande Valley.on the 24th Isolated severe weather, including large hail, high winds and flash flooding, impacted central and eastern portions of the state on the 23rd. Widespread showers and storms on the 24th through 26th brought the first measurable rain to Albuquerque in 53 days on the 25th. Another back door front delivered fresh low level moisture to the east on the 27th and into the Rio Grande Valley on the 28th. This made for a fairly active end to the month with widespread convection and some minor flooding from heavy rain. 

Strong thunderstorm near Cimarron on June 24, 2010.  Photo by Matt Gary.

 

The first three days of the month were active as a back door cold front brought fresh moisture to much of the state. Isolated reports of flash flooding were reported on each day. A noticable drying trend followed for the 4th and 5th, only to be reversed again on the 6th through 11th. The most active days were the 7th and 11th when numerous cases of minor flooding were reported. The 12th and 13th were noticeably drier. Activity picked up again on the 14th and 15th with isolated severe weather. Hot temperatures returned with less convection on the 16th through 19th. Then a decent surge of monsoon moisture arrived over the western half of the state on the 19th and 20th and again on the 23rd through 25th,. An easterly wave delivered renewed moisture on the 28th through 30th, while monsoon moisture also streamed north on the 31st, keeping the end of the month quite active. 

Monsoon thunderstorm near Stanley on July 10, 2010 

Summer thunderstorm near Stanley on July 10, 2010.  Photo by Leah Robertson.

   August

August began active as monsoon moisture saturated the western half of the state. Heavy rain produced flash flooding across San Juan, McKinley and Sandoval counties from the 1st through the 3rd. The 4th through 6th were more tame with less coverage and intensity of storms. A weak surge of monsoon moisture on the 7th and 8th increased the showers and storms, but there were no reports of flash flooding. The 9th through 14th were relatively quiet for August.

photo of microbust on August 23, 2010

A back door cold front delivered a fresh supply of low level moisture to much of the state on the 15th and 16th, leading to a sharp increase in showers and thunderstorms.A few of the storms were strong twith heavy rain leading to flash flooding. Less activity was noted on the 17th and 18th, while monsoon moisture brought an increase in convection over the west and north from the 19th through 23rd. The 23rd was particularily active as a back door cold front pressed south and wst across the state. Mostly rain free conditions prevailed from the 24th through 27th before another surge of monsoon moisture delivered showers and thunderstorms from the 28th and 29th. The last two days of August was noticeably less active.

A microburst producing a dust foot just west of Albuquerque on August 23, 2010.  Photo by Earl Breon.

 

The first 6 days of September were quiet as high pressure was in control, delivering mostly dry and warm conditions. A strong cold front did invade the state on the 2nd but little moisture was present behind the front. A weaker back door front made its way into New Mexico on the 6th, bringing a little moisture with it. At the same time high pressure aloft shifted east, allowing some late season monsoon moisture to creep into western portions of the state. These factors led to more widespread showers and thunderstorms on the 7th and 8th, including flash flooding north of Farmington and east of Bloomfield.

Quiet weather returned from the 9th through 12th before a weak surge of monsoon moisture delievered showers and storms to the state on the 13th. Activity weakened on the 14th and 15th before another back door front sent dewpoints climbing over central and eastern sections. Increased convection was the result on the 16th. Another quiet period followed from the 17th through 19th, while the 20th saw a noticeable increase in storms over the west and north. A strong surge of moisture ahead of, and with the remains of tropical depression Georgette occurred on the 22nd, resulting in scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms state wide with isolated flash flooding and plenty of heavy rain. The last week of the month was much drier with above normal temperatures. 

fall colors on the sandia mountains

Fall colors on Sandia Crest in September of 2010.  Photo by Leah Robertson. 

October

The month got off to a bang so to speak as large hail, high winds and even a funnel cloud impacted central New Mexico on the 2nd. After quieter weather from the 3rd through 5th, moisture from the south helped produce isolated large hail in the northwest on the 6th and 7th.

 lightning over Albuquerque

Mostly dry and cooler weather followed from the 8th through 13th, with a warming trend on the 14th and 15th. A weak disturbance over northern Mexico brought some showers to southern New Mexico on the 16th and 17th.  A much stronger storm along the California coast on the 18th and 19th moved inland on the 20th and reached New Mexico late on the 21st into the 22nd. Widespread showers and thunderstorms accompanied the storm with isolated reports of large hail. Two tornadoes were confirmed near Roswell on the 21st. The weather turned less active from the 23rd through the end of the month. The 25th though was an extremely windy day across New Mexico, especially the eastern plains. A cold front on the 26th brought cooler weather on the 27th and 28th. 

 Lightning over Albuquerque on October 20, 2010.  Photo by Don Armstrong. 

 

November was mostly dry with benign weather from the 1st through 8th. The 1st was brisk and cool with breezy conditions in the east on the 4th and northeast on the 6th. Otherwise winds were light and temperatures above to well above normal. A storm system delivered strong winds on the 9th over central and eastern areas, with light precipitation over the northwest. Much cooler weather was the rule from the 10th through 16th as a series of disturbances carved out a north to northwest flow aloft. Light snows over the north and northeast were recorded on the 11th, 13th and 14th. The 15th through 20th were mostly dry and mild, aside from a brief cool down on the 17th with snow showers over the north. The 16th and 17th were breezy to windy in the northeast. A cool down  and windy period started on the 21st and continued through Thanksgiving on the 25th, along with snow showers primarily over the northern mountains. Thanksgiving day and night were particularly chilly. A dry period with milder temperatures insued on the 26th and 27th. A storm on the 28th and 29th brought colder weather to the state with snow over the north and east. The 30th was dry and milder.

snow on sandia crest, November 30, 2010
 

Snow on Sandia Crest, November 30, 2010.  Photo by Leah Robertson. 

 

The first three days of December were dry and unseasonably mild with gusty breezes over the east central plains. A cold front pushed south across the eastern plains on the night of the 3rd and brought much cooler air to the east  on the 4th, but no precipitation. It remained dry statewide on the 5th before a bit of rain and snow reached the northern mountains and northeast on the 6th and 7th. Dry and mild weather was the norm from the 8th through 10th. A brief cool down on the 11th was followed by above normal temperatures again on the 12th and 13th.

 The first snow of the season in San Jon

Unsettled weather finally made an appearance from the 14th up until Christmas Eve. High winds howled through the Clines Corners, Las Vegas and Cimarron areas on the 15th.

Heavy snow blanketed much of northern and central New Mexico on the 16th and 17th.  A moist west flow kept occasional snow going in the northwest on the 18th through 21st, with a storm system causing more substanial snow on the 23rd. Drier and milder weather returned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as the 26th. An active period of weather commenced for the end of the month, including a significant storm from the 29th through 31st. 

First snow of the season (2.5 inches) in San Jon on December 17, 2010.  Photo by Gerald White. 

 

 

 Review of the Severe Weather Across New Mexico in 2010

Severe weather typically occurs across central and eastern New Mexico, however, there are occasionally reports west of the mountains, and many times those are flash flood reports. The map below shows the spatial variation of severe weather reports for 2010.  Click on an individual balloon for more details on the event.

 


Severe weather is defined as hail greater than or equal to ¾ of an inch, thunderstorm wind gusts greater than or equal to 58 mph, a flash flood or a tornado. Your National Weather Service in Albuquerque received 226 severe weather reports this year. The total number of severe weather reports across the state as a whole was 311. These totals do not include wind gusts greater than or equal to 58 mph that occurred from non-thunderstorm wind events – of which there were several, and some more damaging than thunderstorm wind gusts! The table below shows the breakdown of reports received.

2010 Severe Weather Reports
Event ABQ CWA Statewide
Tornado 11 11
Hail 129 183
Thunderstorm Wind Gust 31 47
Flash Flood 57 72
Total 228 313

The largest hailstone reported in the state this year was 3.25 inches in diameter. This was reported in Loco Hills, in Eddy County.  Baseball sized hail was also reported in Mora County, approximately 13 miles east-northeast of Wagon Mound and also in Otero County, approximately 5.5 miles north-northeast of Turquoise.

The highest measured thunderstorm wind gust was 82 mph which was reported 10 miles north of El Paso at the KQMG AWOS on the McGregor Range.  Unfortunately, thunderstorm wind gusts do not always occur where wind equipment exists, so often times wind gusts are estimated. The highest estimated wind gust was 85 mph which occurred just north of Gila, where a newly placed trailer was overturned and a large trampoline was blown off the property.

Eleven tornadoes were reported this year across New Mexico, and all of them occurred within the National Weather Service in Albuquerque's county warning area (CWA).  Most of these tornadoes occurred on May 23rd, where tornado after tornado tore through Union County.  A broken line of supercell thunderstorms marched northward just west of the Oklahoma and Texas borders during the late afternoon and evening hours.  The six tornadoes that occurred that evening caused damage from near Amistad, to Sedan, to just east of Clayton.  Two of the tornadoes were ranked as high as EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

How does 2010 compare to 2009?  2010 was certainly more active than 2009, especially when it came to flash flooding during monsoon season.  Only 38 flash flooding events were reported across the state in 2009, versus the nearly double number of 72 in 2010.

How does 2010 compare to normal? Since 1950, the average number of tornadoes reported in the state is 8 to 9, which makes 2010 slightly above average.  At least one tornado has been reported each year since 1953, and before that it is likely that most tornadoes went unreported. The highest number of tornadoes ever reported was in 1991, when 31 tornadoes devastated parts of the state, especially Eddy and Lea counties.  The average number of hail reports have steadily increased since 1950 due to increased awareness, and today the average number of events is near 130.   Flash flooding records only date back to 1993, however since then, the average number of flash flooding events is around 40 per year.  Therefore, 2010 was an above average year for both hail and flash flooding events.  Thunderstorm wind events were just above the average number of 35 events per year.

 

NM Severe Weather Events by Month

The graph on the left shows the distribution of New Mexico severe weather events by month.  New Mexico's primary severe weather season is in the spring, though a secondary season often occurs in the fall.  2010 was a classic example of this, as evident by the bimodal distribution of events. This graph also shows that flash flooding in New Mexico is most frequent in monsoon season. Click on the map for a larger image.

The most significant events in 2010 were not all "severe" in the typical usage of the word, but made an impact nonetheless.  The year started out with three back-to-back winter storms that left much of the high terrain with one to three feet of fresh snow!  Check out the 5 day snow totals from January 18th-23rd for the state.  Several high wind events in March and especially April left people hanging onto their hats, not to mention lawn furniture. A particularly damaging, but traditional, severe weather event was the aforementioned May 23rd tornado event (also see picture below), where six tornadoes marched northward across eastern New Mexico.  A three-week period of monsoon storms devastated areas around Church Rock, Farmington as well as other western New Mexico areas.  Around $2 million in damage occurred in Farmington on August 1st, while the Church Rock area was hit twice in just three days.  One last major rain event occurred on September 22nd where nearly 6.5 inches of rain fell in Gladstone.

Clayton-Texline Tornado     

Image of the Clayton-Texline EF-2 tornado on May 23rd, 2010 near Highway 87. Photo courtesy of KVII  Amarillo. Raging water from an arroyo was flowing over         Hubbard Street near Peace Valley Road during a flash flood event in Farmington on August 1st, 2010. Photo by NWS Albuquerque.


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