Jon Hutchinson’s article in the Dec. 11 Verde Independent titled “2016 flood prospects concern Verde Valley emergency responders” reports expectation that Yavapai County will be wetter than normal during the first three months of 2016.
We are certainly in the midst of a very strong El Niño and it is prudent for Verde Valley Emergency Service responders to be “gearing up for a big flood season.” But the historical record does not suggest any reason for unusual preparations.
The heaviest January-through-March precipitation in Cottonwood/Tuzigoot’s weather station history occurred (in order of decreasing volume) in 1993, 2005, 1980, and 1978, and not one of those years was even a moderate El Niño year by NOAA’s reckoning.
In the Verde Valley, none of the previous five “strong” or “very strong” El Niños have produced exceptional precipitation during the first three months of the year. In all but the 1972-73 El Niño, precipitation during that period was at or below “normal.”
Central California residents have more cause for concern:
Sacramento’s precipitation record shows correlation between strong El Niños and heavy January through March precipitation. But here in the Verde Valley, where a dearth of precipitation is the norm, past weather is less often a predictor of what is to come. Here we should always keep an eye on weather forecasts and be prepared for the worst.
Cottonwood/Tuzigoot average January-March precipitation from 1950 through 2015 is only 3 inches. Precipitation was above average during all but one of the strong and very strong El Niño years. 16 of 23 El Niño years, 9 of 23 neutral years, and 4 of 20 La Niña years had above average precipitation.
Since “normal precipitation” in the Verde Valley is rarely considered enough, I sincerely hope the National Weather Service prediction of above normal precipitation is moderately correct.