Western Earth Surface Processes Team

Prepared in Cooperation with Effects of Climate Variability and Land Use on American Drylands and Navajo Nation Studies—Projects of the Earth Surface Dynamics Program

U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 2007-1410

Climate Variation at Flagstaff, Arizona—1950 to 2007

By Richard Hereford


graph showing temperature going down then up between 1970 and 2007
Deviation of average temperature in the flagstaff area showing rapid temperature rise since 1970 (from figure 14).

What is Happening to Flagstaff’s Climate?

Flagstaff is becoming warmer and drier. Estimated average-daily temperatures of the Flagstaff area are 2.3-degrees warmer since 1970 and annual precipitation at Flagstaff has been below average for nine of 11 years since 1996. Rising temperatures in the area parallel those of global-surface temperatures, particularly the rapid rise since the early 1970s.

Ongoing drought since 1996 is strongly affecting winter, spring, and fall precipitation. Winter moisture has been below average in 11 of the past 12 years, spring was below average in eight of the past 11 years, while fall was below normal in nine of the past 12 years. The precipitation decrease of the three seasons is 44 percent since 1996. In contrast, summer-monsoon related rainfall is unaffected by the ongoing drought. Although summer rainfall tends to be more abundant and dependable than the other seasons, cool season moisture is more important hydrologically. This means that aspects of Flagstaff's environment that require cool-season moisture, particularly the ponderosa pine forest, are increasingly stressed.

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For questions about the content of this report, contact Richard Hereford

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