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Warm weather could melt Arizona snowpack by end of March

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PHOENIX — It looks like this year’s El Nino weather pattern may not be the drought-buster some had predicted.

Arizona’s snowpack has been rapidly melting during record-setting heat in February and a warm start to March. Dino DeSimone with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said the snowpack is down to only 18 percent and could be completely gone by the end of the month.

“We will be at least a month to six weeks ahead of usual on the complete melt out of our snowpack,” he said. “This is such a big surprise to all of us. We were expecting a banner year for snowpack. We were expecting a record snowpack from El Nino.”

That optimism was driven by hope that one of the strongest El Nino’s ever recorded would pump storm after storm into the state, but that projection seems to be false.

However, El Nino did drop a heft amount of snow during a short time. At one point in January, the snowpack in some places was 200 percent above normal.

But Arizona is looking dry in March. The only snow in the state is at the very highest elevations of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, the Mogollon Rim and in the White Mountains near Sunrise Ski Resort.

DeSimone said we could see some decent rainfall in late March and April, but the snow is pretty much done for the season and any additional runoff into the streams will be coming from rain.

The last significant winter in Arizona was in 2010.

KTAR’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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