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What New Mexicans can expect this winter

KRQE News 13 Winter Weather Special

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – There has been a lot of talk about El Niño this winter and what that could mean for New Mexico, but that’s not the only player in town that could affect how much rain and snow we see. KRQE’s team of meteorologists discusses what goes into the forecast and what you can expect this winter. They also sit down with New Mexico State Climatologist Dr. Dave Dubois and talk about the impact a wet winter would have on the state.

El Niño

Over the last several months, sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean have been warming. It is part of a natural climate pattern called El Niño, which is defined as warmer than average sea surface temperatures across that part of the Pacific Ocean. Warmer sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific can cause the jet stream to dip farther south during the winter and bring wetter weather across the Southwest United States.

A typical El Niño pattern during winter. Image courtesy of

This is a good sign for New Mexico this winter as sea surface temperatures are currently hovering well above average, signaling we are experiencing a strong El Niño. While El Niño is not responsible for any one single storm, it will hopefully bring us more active weather through the winter. El Niño has the strongest effect on the jet stream during the winter months. Other El Niño years have also served New Mexico well, usually bringing above-average rainfall and snowfall to the state.

Other Factors at Play

While El Niño will hopefully play a large role in setting up a more active weather pattern across the Southwest United States, there are other climate patterns that will also play a role. One such climate pattern is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Currently, there are cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the northwest Pacific Ocean. These cooler temperatures can actually lead to an area of high pressure developing across the Pacific Northwest United States. That pattern would usually bring drier weather across the entire western half of the country.

Another climate pattern is the Madden-Julien Oscillation (MJO). This is an area of thunderstorm activity that travels around the equator every 30 to 60 days. With El Niño in the Pacific (warmer than average sea surface temperatures), this warmer water allows more thunderstorms to develop. An active equatorial Pacific can draw the jet stream farther south into the Southwest United States, further enhancing a typical winter El Niño weather pattern.

What You Can Expect

Looking at long-range forecasts, considering the effect El Niño and other climate patterns may have, and comparing the current climate conditions to a previous winter, the KRQE News 13 team of meteorologists have put together this outlook for the 2023-2024 winter in New Mexico.

Near to slightly warmer than average temperatures are likely this winter across New Mexico.
Near to slightly above-average precipitation is likely this winter across New Mexico.

New Mexico will likely see near to slightly warmer than average temperatures and near to slightly above average precipitation this winter. This is a promising sign for the northern mountains where we could see above-average snowfall across the higher elevations. However, a near to slightly warmer than average temperature forecast for the state could mean we see more rain than snow in the lower elevations. Regardless, it is a promising sign to see the potential for a wet winter across the state.

While the winter weather forecast is promising for New Mexico, there is still some uncertainty how climate patterns will affect the amount of rain and snow we will see.

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