Climatology 101: Wet start, warm finish to January 2016


The beginning and end of January 2016 couldn’t have been more different.

Southern Arizona started the month with a trio of El Niño-fueled storm systems, which supplied all of January’s registered rainfall. The latest cold front registered only a trace of rain on January 31st at Tucson International Airport. Officially, Tucson received 1.53″ rain, running 0.59″ above the January average.

Interesting note regarding temperatures last month. Three times in January, Tucson recorded the nation’s warmest high temp (on the 19th, 22nd, and 23rd). Since 2010, only three other times Tucson was the nation’s afternoon temperature leader. We matched that mark in less than a week!

Below is the complete January 2016 climate report, compiled by the fine folks at NWS Tucson.

The calendar turned over to a new year on a dry note while the area was anticipating the arrival of a series of Pacific storms that would impact the area between the 4th and 10th..
The first Pacific storm hit the area on the 4th with widespread valley rain and high elevation mountain snow. Valley rainfall amounts were generally between 0.25″ and 1.25″ with 4-6″ of snow above 7000 feet in the nearby mountains. The second Pacific storm, which was wetter and much colder with lower snow levels, moved through the area on the 6th and 7th. Valley precipitation totals ranged between 0.50″ and 1.50″ with some of the lower elevations seeing some light snow accumulations. In the mountains, 12-18″ of snow was recorded above 7000 feet. Two weaker storms brought minimal precipitation amounts to the area on the 8th and 10th.
The remainder of the month was dry with above normal highs and below normal lows. On occasion during the winter months the Tucson area will be the warmest spot in the nation. In the 2010-2015 period, Tucson was the nations warmest spot on three dates (Dec. 12, 2014 @ 78°; Dec. 18, 2013 @ 79° & Dec. 6, 2010 @ 82°). Tucson matched that six year total in January by being the warmest spot in the nation on the 19th (78°), the 22nd (77°) and on the 23rd (81°). * Daily nation high temperatures do not include data from Alaska or Hawaii.
A Pacific storm system impacted the area on the 31st with strong gusty winds and fast moving late evening light showers. The Tucson International airport recorded a wind gust of 47 mph at 10:50 pm and 48 mph at 11:39 pm while the Marana Regional airport recorded a wind gust of 48 mph just before 11 pm.
Temperature extremes for the month ranged from a daily record high of 81° on the 23rd to a low of 31° on the 13th. The cool unsettled 1st half of the month had the average monthly temperature being around two degrees below normal on the 16th. And although there was an extended period of below normal low temperatures during the 2nd half of the month, the daily highs were mostly above normal. There were five daily highs that were 9-15 degrees above normal. Thus at months end, the average monthly temperature of 52.5° was only one-tenthof a degree below normal. This ranks as the 40th warmest January on record.
January 2016 daily high temperature departure from normal January 2016 daily low temperature departure from normal
The images above show daily departure from the(1981-2010) normals. Below normal is blue and above normal is red. Click on images above for larger view
For the second January in a row, most of Tucson recorded above normal rain. Using several sources, the Pima County Regional Flood Control District gages and CoCoRaHS rainfall totals in the valley ranged from 1.00″ to 2.50″ with localized spots up to 3.25″. The airport, which is the official recording location for Tucson, recorded 1.53″ which ranks as the 22nd wettest January on record. You have to go back to the early 1990s to find the airport recording above normal rainfall in consecutive January’s.
January 2016 stats
Average high temperature
+ 0.6°
Average low temperature
– 1.0°
Average temperature
– 0.1°
+ 0.59″
2015-16 Water Year rainfall (Oct-Jan)
+ 1.08″

When did daily highs/lows occur
Average high temperature time
3:45 pm
3:38 pm
7 min. later
Average low temperature time
6:26 am
6:40 am
14 min. early
Average times based on data collected from 2001-2015

Winter 2015-2016
Two-thirds of Winter 2015-16 is in the records books with an average winter temperature of 52.0°, which is 0.4° below normal. The airport, which is the official recording location for Tucson, has recorded 2.00″ of rain which is slightly above normal.

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