- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Meteorologist Kerry Jones is pumped about this year’s El Nino, the pattern of warm Pacific Ocean surface temperatures that affects moisture patterns and is bringing Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico more rain than it usually gets.

“I’m happy as a lark about El Nino,” Jones, who is with the National Weather Service’s Albuquerque office, said recently. “If trends continue, we will be comparing this year to 1997-1998, and that was the strongest El Nino on record.”

Across the country and around the world, meteorologists and climate scientists are starting to look at 2015’s El Nino as one for the record books. That can be a blessing for places such as California and New Mexico, which need relief from drought, and crippling for places such as Peru, which is already bracing for devastating floods.

“It is safe to say we are dealing with an El Nino pattern we have not seen in a long time,” Jones said. “Everything is continuing, nothing is suggesting it is just going to shut down. It doesn’t work that way. We are looking at several months of enhanced moisture.”

Thunderstorms that swept through Albuquerque on Sunday kicked the city’s official July rainfall total to 3.02 inches, 1.81 inches more than normal, and set the stage for the wetter-than-normal monsoon season meteorologists have been predicting.

And there is more where that came from.

“We are going to end the month on a pretty active pattern,” Jones said Monday. He said that the projected five-day precipitation total is showing rainfalls in the 1- to 3-inch range and that Wednesday is shaping up to be the most active day.

Average rainfall in the Albuquerque area during the monsoon season — July 1 through Sept. 30 — is 3.85 inches. The wettest Albuquerque monsoon season on record is 1988, when the city got 7.36 inches. The average annual rainfall in Albuquerque is 9.5 inches, and this year the city has received 7.22 inches, 2.81 inches more than normal by this time of year.

Albuquerque’s official rainfall, measured at the airport, was 0.10 inch Sunday, but more than an inch was recorded on Rio Grande NW between Griegos and Matthew. Placitas got 0.89 inch Sunday, and parts of Rio Rancho got 0.83 inch.

Albuquerque’s summer weather has been almost as flashy as it has been wet.

Lightning show

“We had some pretty intense lightning here in Albuquerque Sunday night,”Jones said. He said there were 460 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in Bernalillo County during the thunderstorm that rumbled through Sunday afternoon and night.

PNM said that lightning knocked out power to about 1,600 customers Sunday night, and lightning was blamed for a small house fire in which the occupants escaped safely with their two dogs.

Jones said that last week, from about noon July 20 to 2 a.m. July 21, there were an astounding 20,000 cloud-to-ground strikes in the northern two-thirds of the state. This year, there have been 23 lightning-caused deaths in 14 states, including four in Alabama and three each in Florida and Colorado. New Mexico’s only lightning fatality this year occurred in Carrizozo on May 15. Jones said people should take steps to avoid lightning strikes during thunderstorms.

The weather service advises that if the time between seeing lightning and hearing thunder is less than 30 seconds, danger exists. According to the weather service, no place outdoors is safe from lightning and people should seek shelter indoors. If that is not possible, people should avoid being in or near high places, open fields, isolated trees and rain and picnic shelters.

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(c)2015 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com

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