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Fri, Sept. 20

2014: Year of extremes for Prescott weather

It was a year of extremes for Prescott's 2014 weather.

The Prescott airport at the northern edge of the city recorded its warmest average temperature since records began in 1948, at 58.2 degrees.

And Prescott's Sundog site to the south set a record for total monsoon precipitation with 18.23 inches of rain, nearly reaching the city's annual average of 18.78 inches in just three months.

Yet five other months at Sundog recorded less than one-tenth of an inch of rain.

The Sundog site at the wastewater treatment plant recorded a total of 22.16 inches of precipitation in 2014. That ranks 32nd on the city's 116-year record, and it's more than the city's Weather Service site has received since 1998 when 22.7 inches fell, said Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Flagstaff.

Yet Prescott and the rest of the state remain in a long-term drought that began in 1998.

"It still needs quite a bit of precipitation to get out of that long-term drought," Mottice said.

Experts say Arizona droughts tend to last 20 to 30 years.

The chances of increased precipitation this winter because of El Niño are dwindling. While it previously looked like Arizona might see a moderate El Niño, it hasn't arrived yet and forecasters are predicting it's likely to be weak if it does come. They are predicting a 65 percent chance of some kind of El Niño this winter and spring.

"If there is going to be one this year, it's not going to be that strong," Mottice said.

Last year was hot just about everywhere. It was the hottest year on record for Phoenix, with an average of 77 degrees. And it was the hottest year on record for the entire planet, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The upward march of the world's average temperature since 1891 is a trademark of human-influenced global warming, with 2014 being the latest stop on the climb, AP noted. All 10 of the hottest years have come since 1998.

In other parts of northern Arizona, it was the hottest year on record for Winslow, second warmest for Page and Show Low, and third warmest for Flagstaff.

The average 2014 temperature at Sundog was 56.8 degrees, the 9th warmest on record.

Not surprisingly, snowfall was much below normal across northern Arizona. Also not surprisingly, many native fish species that depend on spring runoff are endangered.

Prescott recorded only 0.5 inches of snow all year in 2014, compared to the long-term average of 23.7 inches. The New Year's Eve and New Year's Day snow of four inches went onto the 2015 books because of the way city workers measure the weather at the Sundog wastewater treatment plant.

Mountainaire recorded the most snow in northern Arizona from that cold New Year's storm, at 20 inches. Yavapai County saw anywhere from 3 to 12 inches all the way down to Camp Verde, which recorded five inches.

The Weather Service listed some interesting extremes for the Prescott airport on its 2014 weather summary.

The hottest day was 91 degrees on July 1. The coldest was 17 degrees on Dec. 27 and Dec. 29. The wettest day was 1.36 inches on Sept. 27. The strongest wind gust was 50 mph on June 17.

The airport set a record for the most rain on any Dec. 3, with 0.61 inches. The old record was 0.26 inches in 2011.

Areas across northern Arizona recorded significant rainfall on Dec. 3-5, with the highest recorded total located seven miles west of Prescott at 3.56 inches.

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