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Tue, April 23

Dry to the bone – May ties 1902 no-rain record in Prescott

May's complete lack of precipitation in Prescott tied a 1902 record.

The zero rainfall also extends another record: the period from September to May is now the driest weather during that period in Prescott's history, officials said.

February also tied a record of zero precipitation, from 1900.

The National Weather Service station at the City of Prescott's Sundog site on the northeast side of town has averaged 0.5 inches of rain in May since 1898. May is traditionally the second-driest month of the year, behind June, which averages 0.41 inches.

The Yavapai County Flood Control District has a precipitation monitoring site on the south side of town along Marina Street.

That county site hasn't recorded any rain since April 6, said hydrologist Mark Massis. And it has recorded precipitation only twice this year, he added. It has recorded 2.87 inches of rain since Oct. 1, 2001.

June is looking pretty hot and dry, too, said Mike Campbell, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service's Flagstaff office.

"We've got a whole 'nother month of real extreme fire danger," he said.

The hot, dry weather is creating more wind than normal, too, he said.

Any cold fronts that make their way into the area are devoid of clouds or moisture, what the Weather Service calls "dry fronts," he added.

When the monsoon season arrives in southern Arizona a week or two before it hits here, it could produce dangerous dry lightning in this area, Campbell said.

Some weather experts believe this area is in for a continuous drought that won't end until sometime between 2015 and 2025.

So even though it's naturally arid here, people should be prepared for drier weather than they've ever experienced unless they lived here during the 1950s.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is what some officials think will cause the drought to continue.

That weather cycle changes every 20 to 30 years, explained Mike Staudenmaier of the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.

In 1995, it changed to its dry phase after three decades of above-average moisture.

During the past seven years, this area's annual precipitation has been below average except for one year in which El Nino affected it.

The only possibility for help that long-term forecasters see right now is El Niño.

The Pacific Ocean warms up during El Nino, and the ocean is warming up right now off the cost of South America, Staudenmaier said. But the warming ocean takes awhile to impact the atmosphere, and it affects Arizona only during the winter, he said.

So if the El Niño effect continues on through to the next winter, it may help wet things up around here.

To learn more about the regional drought, visit the federal government's drought monitor Web site at www.drought.noaa.gov.

Contact Joanna Dodder at jdodder@prescottaz.com

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