SIERRA VISTA — Rainfall totals across the state remain below average as the monsoon wraps up for another year.
After some rain chances early this week, the storms in Cochise County are expected to begin making their exit for 2019, said Robert Pawlak with the National Weather Service in Tucson. “We do have a drying trend coming in,” he said.
Pawlak said with the monsoon drawing to a close, forecasters are looking for another handful of stormy days at most as fall approaches.
“Since we’re in September, we’re kinda in that transition season, so hopefully we will see a few more good periods, maybe three or four days where we will see storms, but we’re really on the tail end of it, so we should be wrapping up pretty soon.”
As of Sept. 9, Sierra Vista has officially received 5.67 inches of rain, more than two inches below the average of 7.82 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Douglas is nearly 2.5 inches below normal, at 4.48. The average is 6.97. Willcox is 1.75 inches below normal, at exactly 4 inches, when the average is 5.75. Bisbee has seen about 10.6 inches according to a station on weatherunderground.com, about an inch below average.
Pawlak said the rainy season has been underwhelming, mostly due to the typical monsoonal high pressure failing to position where it needs to be to bring in the rain.
“I don’t think we were necessarily expecting it to be this dry, but it’s definitely been drier than normal,” he said. Forecasters had predicted a better than normal chance for an above-average monsoon at the start of the season, but that never materialized.
“For the monsoon pattern to set in, we rely on this giant high-pressure system to sit over either the Four Corners area, or well to the northwest of us over the Great Basin, but for this year it really hasn’t set up like that at all,” he said.
“That high pressure has mainly been sitting farther to the south or southeast, so it really hasn’t been bringing in that moisture from the Gulf of Mexico or the Great Plains like it usually does, so that’s generally why we haven’t seen a strong monsoon season this year.”
He said there is no singular reason for the high pressure not developing as it normally does.
“It’s a variety of factors, you can’t really pinpoint it on one thing,” he said. “It just didn’t want to set up in the right place this year.”
Pawlak said the abnormal monsoon has followed a recent trend of weather not behaving how it usually does.
“It’s been kind of a strange year,” he said. “Before the monsoon even happened, we didn’t have much of a fire season, and then, even going as far back as the beginning of the year, we had a strange winter, so it’s been kind of a bizarre year.”
As the monsoon ends, the Arizona Department of Water Resources is looking for more rain to boost the lackluster season.
“Although El Niño has decayed, there are some weak signals that the next couple of months could be wetter than average across the state,” it said on its website. “However, above normal rainfall may not amount to a substantial accumulation as Arizona enters a drier time of year.”
Currently, about 88 percent of the state is abnormally dry, according to the department. Of that, about 26 percent of the state, mostly to the north, is in a moderate drought.
That’s worse than at the start of the monsoon, when only 15 percent of the state was abnormally dry, and of that area, 4 percent was in moderate drought.
But it’s a marked improvement from a year ago, when the entire state was in a moderate drought, with almost 90 percent in a severe drought, 48 percent in an extreme drought and 8 percent at the worst level, exceptional drought.