Originally Published: February 1, 2012 9:58 p.m.
After a relatively cool, wet December, La Niña settled into Arizona in January and brought warm, dry weather.
Prescott's official Sundog measuring site on the northeast side of the city recorded only 0.23 inches of precipitation in January, which is 13 percent of the 114-year average.
The average high temperature at Sundog in January was 56.7 degrees, or six degrees above the 114-year average. The average low was closer to the average, 22.4 degrees compared to the average of 21.3 degrees.
With the relatively warm, dry weather, it's no surprise that the total January snowfall at Sundog was zero compared to the average of 5.8 inches.
The National Weather Service issued data showing that January at the Prescott airport was the fourth-warmest January since records started at the airport in 1948, and it was the ninth driest January on record there.
This is the second straight winter in which La Niña has taken hold in the Southwest, bringing drier and warmer than average conditions.
Moderate or severe drought was covering 60 percent of Arizona by Jan. 24 when the University of Arizona's Climate Assessment of the Southwest (CLIMAS) released its monthly Southwest Climate Outlook.
Most forecasts call for La Niña to persist through April. Early spring streamflow forecasts for the Colorado River call for inflow to be about 64 percent of average. The Upper Colorado River Basin didn't benefit from some of the December storms that hit the high elevations of Arizona and New Mexico, the CLIMAS report noted.
La Niña originates with cooler-than-average temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. That pushes the jet stream and its storms north of Arizona.
In January 2011, the Sundog site tied the record for the driest January since zero precipitation fell. After a relatively wet February, below-average precipitation fell in March through August.