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Keywords:

  • dry events;
  • climate change;
  • southwestern United States

[1] Daily precipitation from 22 National Weather Service first-order weather stations in the southwestern United States for water years 1951 through 2006 are used to examine variability and trends in the frequency of dry days and dry event length. Dry events with minimum thresholds of 10 and 20 consecutive days of precipitation with less than 2.54 mm are analyzed. For water years and cool seasons (October through March), most sites indicate negative trends in dry event length (i.e., dry event durations are becoming shorter). For the warm season (April through September), most sites also indicate negative trends; however, more sites indicate positive trends in dry event length for the warm season than for water years or cool seasons. The larger number of sites indicating positive trends in dry event length during the warm season is due to a series of dry warm seasons near the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. Overall, a large portion of the variability in dry event length is attributable to variability of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, especially for water years and cool seasons. Our results are consistent with analyses of trends in discharge for sites in the southwestern United States, an increased frequency in El Niño events, and positive trends in precipitation in the southwestern United States.