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December 22, 2014

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With no rain on horizon, Las Vegas flirts with extended dry spell record

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Sam Morris

Attendees stand in misters to cool off during the Las Vegas stop of the Vans Warped Tour Thursday, June 19, 2014.

Seem like it’s been awhile since it last rained in Las Vegas? It has.

To be exact it’s been 116 days, according to the U.S. National Weather Service in Las Vegas.

Not since Feb. 28 has measurable precipitation fallen at McCarran International Airport, where the National Weather Service makes its official observations for Las Vegas. Rainfall on Feb. 28 was nearly a third of an inch.

Only 13 other times since 1937, when the National Weather Service began keeping records here, has Las Vegas been through such a dry spell. The longest was 150 days, from Feb. 22 to July 21 in 1959.

The current 116-day spell, said Clay Morgan, a NWS meteorologist in Las Vegas, got its legs in March, traditionally one of the wetter months in the valley.

“It’s pretty unusual to go through the winter season without some rains into March,” he said.

The historically dry months of April, May and June merely extended the consecutive days without precipitation.

Should Las Vegas goes through another nine days without measurable rainfall, 2014 would tie for 10th-longest dry spell in the valley’s history.

In the immediate future, there’s little chance of rain happening. But, Morgan said, “there’s at least a tiny chance (of rain) in the long-range models, though it depends on which one you use.”

The Global Forecast System projects a certainty of dry weather at least into the early days of July. The European model indicated there could be moisture possibly by July 3 – “we’ll just have to wait and see,” said Morgan.

To tie the all-time record, Las Vegas would have to go without rain through July 28. Morgan wasn’t willing to offer a prediction on the probability of another 34 consecutive days or beyond without rain. But he noted the monsoon season, which extends from July 1 to Sept. 15 annually, was on the horizon.

Only two times since 1937 – in 1944 and 1962 – has the Las Vegas Valley encountered a dry monsoon season.

“It would be pretty, pretty rare to see a dry monsoon season,” Morgan said.

Meanwhile, summertime is taking over in the Mojave Desert. Extreme temperatures are on the way: For example, Morgan said Tuesday night that the extended forecast called for a high of 110 degrees on July 1.

“It is summer in the desert,” he said.

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