ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Spring weather patterns are starting to line up and forecasters said Thursday it's looking more certain that New Mexico will have to endure another round of warm, windy and dry weather.
The good news this year is the state is in a much better position heading into the season thanks to significant snowfall in the higher elevations during December and this month's periodic dustings in the north-central mountains.
Near normal amounts of snow in February have served as an added blessing to New Mexico's ski resorts, which are hoping for a record-setting spring season after boasting some of the best conditions in the nation. Other winter destinations struggled early on with limited snow.
State and federal water managers are sharing in some of that optimism given that more than two-thirds of the state's basins are reporting snowpack levels at or above normal. Those levels are better than many other spots in the West.
The question is whether the snow will stick around long enough to bolster river and stream flows later this year.
Ed Polasko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, told water managers and agriculture experts during a drought working group meeting that the spring pattern is suggesting more windy and dry days than days with snow or rain.
"We've transitioned from looking out for winter storms to looking out for spring storms and seeing where fire danger is going to be and where it's going to blow 40 to 60 mph in the afternoon," Polasko said. "It's just a typical part of our climate."
Forecasters explained that a lingering La Nina weather pattern will likely lead to fewer chances for normal precipitation this spring, particularly in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Temperatures are also expected to be higher than normal.
Predictive maps shared by the forecasters looked similar to those presented last spring. The 2011 predictions ended up coming true, making for one of New Mexico's driest springs on record. In fact, the Middle Rio Grande Valley received only about 2 percent of its normal precipitation last spring.
Wayne Sleep, a snow survey technician with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said New Mexico has been slowly drying out since December. Now is the time New Mexico's snowpack should be peaking, but he said the recent storms have not dropped enough snow to see it build.
"I'm afraid if we get another warm, windy spring like we did last year, we'll see those snowpack numbers fall off quickly with sublimation," he said.
Nearly all of New Mexico's ski resorts are reporting bases of greater than four feet. In February alone, Angel Fire has had about two feet of new snow and skiers and snowboarders have been monitoring weather forecasts, watching for any signs more fresh powder might be on the way.
"This is definitely the New Mexico ski season no one saw coming," said Dave Dekema, director of marketing at Angel Fire Resort.
This weekend, the National Weather Service is predicting more wind than snow or rain. There's a small chance for some moisture in far northern New Mexico if the system expected to track over Colorado moves farther south.