The climate of New Mexico
New Mexico mainly has a semi-arid to arid climate with small areas of continental and alpine types. It lies in the Southwestern part of the United States of America. Oklahoma in the northeast, Texas in the east and southeast, Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora in the south, Arizona in the west, Utah in the northwest, and Colorado in the north, share borders with the state. The climate is arid in the west and south, while northern and eastern parts of New Mexico have alpine climates at high altitudes.
New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, has an average elevation of 1741 meters above sea level. Wheeler's Peak has the highest elevation of 4013 meters in the state, while Red Bluff Reservoir is at the lowest elevation of 868 meters. The topography consists of vast deserts, high plateaus of rosy mesas, canyons, valleys, forests, and snow-capped peaks. The north has pastures and dense mountain wilderness, along with a section of the southernmost part of the Rocky Mountains. Mountain ranges and highlands, oriented north-south, divide the state longitudinally into three major areas. New Mexico is one of the Mountain States that forms the Four Corners region with Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.
Summers are hot in the majority of New Mexico with low relative humidity. Daytime temperatures often exceed 100°F (37.8°C) at low altitudes below 1500 meters, even though the average high temperatures peak at 97°F (36.1°C) in July. Summer nights are usually comfortable due to rapid cooling after sunset and low humidity. Winter nights drop below freezing in many places, with a few even dropping below 0°F (-17.8°C). The days are warm and sunny, even at the peak of the cold season. Temperatures vary significantly across seasons and between day and night. The elevation is a more important factor than latitude to determine the temperature. Spring and autumn have warm temperatures and generally comfortable conditions.
New Mexico has scanty rainfall that averages 14" (355.6mm) in the year, with a peak during the summer. Southern desert receives less than 10" (254mm) of rain, while higher elevations in the state register above 20" (508mm). The sunshine is abundant, and the state averages 270 sunny days annually. Snowfall is heavy in the mountains and ranges from 60" (1524mm) to 160" (4064mm) in the winter. Northern and Central New Mexico register 20" (508mm) to 40" (1016mm) of snow, while the southern part is warmer and rarely records above 5" (127mm). The average relative humidity is low in the 30% to 50% range and seldom crosses 60%.
Loving recorded the highest temperature of 122°F (50°C) on June 27, 1994, in New Mexico, while Gavilan recorded the coldest temperature of -50°F (-45.6°C) on February 1, 1951.
The best time to visit New Mexico
The best time to visit New Mexico is in the fall season from September to November when the temperatures are in the comfortable 65°F (18.3°C) to 85°F (29.4°C) range. The heat is bearable during the day, while the nights have pleasant weather. Low humidity and dry weather ensure that fall nights are great for stargazing. Spring has similar temperatures, but fall is less susceptible to storms and has many festivals. Summer is hot in New Mexico with intense sunshine, and temperatures often cross 100°F (37.8°C). Additionally, June to August is the peak tourist season with costly flights and accommodations.
The worst time to visit New Mexico
The worst time to visit New Mexico is during the winter from December to February when the temperatures drop below freezing in many places. Snowfall is heavy at high altitudes, but even at low-lying plateaus, frost comes in to play. Winter days need sunscreen in many areas of New Mexico. Temperature varies vastly between day and night and drops rapidly after sunset. Mountain slopes often witness snowstorms in the winter. Skiing enthusiasts find excellent conditions for the sport in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
New Mexico is prone to thunderstorms, floods, and tornadoes in spring and summer, and snowstorms in the winter. Thunderstorms are frequent in late spring and summer and bring most of the rainfall. Flash floods occur after storms as the sparse vegetation, and uneven terrain in many areas is unable to hold even a moderate amount of water. Dry arroyos overflow banks and halt traffic for several hours. The melting of snow from April to June and occasionally heavy rainfall may cause flooding of large rivers. Tornadoes sporadically hit New Mexico from May to August but rarely cause damage to life and property due to the sparse population of the state. New Mexico has an average of nine tornadoes in a year.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in New Mexico as the night temperatures remain in the freezing zone. The bottom may hit extremes below 0°F (-17.8°C) in the upper mountain ranges but generally keeps above it in the rest of the state. The average low temperatures are in the frigid 2°F (-16.7°C) to 35°F (1.7°C), while the average high temperatures are in the 38°F (3.3°C) to 54°F (12.2°C) zone. Northern New Mexico is the coldest region with Eagle Nest and El Vado Lake Dam reporting low temperatures in the 2°F (-16.7°C) to 8°F (-13.3°C) range.
January is also the snowiest month of the year as many cities register snowfall in the 6" (152.4mm) to 8" (203.2mm) range. The mountain town of Red River receives a massive 21" (533.4mm) of snow. Many ski enthusiasts spend the New Year in mountain lodges and ski valleys that offer picturesque views in the backdrop of the warm sunlight. Watch out for snowstorms in the mountains. Remember that even the coldest days of January receive bright sunshine in New Mexico!
Weather in February
February is cold in New Mexico with freezing nights in the north and cold but above freezing temperatures in the south. Temperatures vary widely from a warm 63°F (17.2°C) in the day in the plains to a freezing 6°F (-14.4°C) during the night at high altitudes. Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, records average temperatures in the 22°F (-5.6°C) to 48°F (8.9°C), while Taos lies between 17°F (-8.3°C) and 46°F (7.8°C).
Precipitation is negligible in February, but snow averages a healthy 5" (127mm) to 7" (177.8mm) in the north, with places like Sugarite Canyon Park recording above 16" (406.4mm).
Skiing, tubing, and sleigh rides are delightful winter activities in the warm sunlight. A horseback ride through the magical forests of New Mexico in February is straight out of the magical realm. Winter coats provide much-needed warmth as the sunshine wanes rapidly during the short days. Strong winds can increase the chill factor in the evenings, which is the time to warm the cold feet in the comfort of a mountain lodge.
Weather in March
March sees the arrival of the spring season in New Mexico with warm and pleasant days. Temperatures often remain in the comfortable 50°F (10°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) range during the day. The temperatures at the southern end of the Rockies in New Mexico vary considerably with altitude and cross into the alpine zone at a height above 1500 meters.
The combination of snowfall, cold nights, and warm sunshine is a boon for activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and camping. Snow thaws rapidly in the lower plains, and the trails display a combination of black, brown, and white colors. Many state parks have large boating lakes with warm waters during the spring days. Woodland forests see blooming of flowers, while the trails below are full of wildflowers that arise from the winter slumber. Expect the days to warm rapidly and the sun to chase away the remaining cold of winter. Pack in layers as nights are cold in March in New Mexico.
Weather in April
April is a beautiful spring month in New Mexico with brilliant sunshine and clear skies. The state records an average of 23 sunny days that rapidly melt any remaining snow on the ground. The rivers, lakes, and creeks are full of freshwater from the melted snow, rather than from the light rainfall. Snowfall is over except for a few areas in the high mountains. Agriculture activities begin with the start of the frost-free period.
The average high temperatures are between a warm 61°F (16.1°C) to 79°F (26.1°C), while the average night temperatures drop to the mild 23°F (-5°C) to 48°F (8.9°C) zone. White Sands National monument is a great place to bask in the sun and sand and take pictures, with beautiful, warm weather between 40°F (4.4°C) to 79°F (26.1°C).
April has negligible rain and low humidity and is mainly sunny in the south. Storms are few during the first half of the month. Keep a warm jacket ready for the relatively cold evenings in April in New Mexico.
Weather in May
May is sunny in New Mexico with long daylight hours and mild, comfortable nights. The average high temperatures reach up to 88°F (31.1°C) in the south in places like Hobbs, Carlsbad, and Roswell. Albuquerque, the largest city in Central New Mexico, records average temperatures between 53°F (11.7°C) to 79°F (26.1°C). Nights are pleasant with temperatures in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 57°F (13.9°C) range in the majority of the state.
The sun stays on the horizon for at least 8 hours a day, yet evenings see a rapid cool down under the influence of the clear skies. Thunderstorms bring the majority of the 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) of rainfall in May in New Mexico.
Biking, hiking, fishing, and kayaking are popular activities during the warm spring days. May offers an opportunity to beat the summer crowds and high accommodation prices. A light sweater makes night stays comfortable during camping trips. Watch out for storms and lightning. Heed to flash flood warnings and clear the area as quickly as possible.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the hot summer season in New Mexico with bright sunshine and moderate rainfall. The average high temperatures hit the high range of 80°F (26.7°C) to 96°F (35.6°C) range, while average low temperatures are between a comfortable 40°F (4.4°C) to 62°F (16.7°C). Temperature variations are extreme as the clear skies, and low humidity cools the land rapidly after sunset.
June sees occasional thunderstorms with rain and even a tornado. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a popular tourist spot in Southern New Mexico, receives up to 2.2" (55.9mm) of rainfall. Most of the areas register between 1" (25.4mm) to 3" (76.2mm) of precipitation.
Summer is the busy tourist season, even though the days are hot. Rafting and kayaking through the narrow canyons, fishing in the calm rivers, biking over the mountain trails are popular activities. Mornings provide better weather for outdoor excursions, while there is a museum waiting for almost any interest in the afternoons. Light summer clothing is sufficient during the day in June in New Mexico.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in New Mexico as the average high temperatures climb in the hot zone of 84°F (28.9°C) to 96°F (35.6°C), while the average low temperatures remain in the comfortable 50°F (10°C) to 64°F (17.8°C) range. Alamogordo, in the south, is between 68°F (20°C) to 93°F (33.9°C), while Gallup in the central region registers 54°F (12.2°C) to 88°F (31.1°C). Night temperatures are comfortable even at the peak of the summer.
Precipitation is moderate from 2" (50.8mm) to 4" (101.6mm), with frequently stormy weather that brings the majority of the rainfall. The conditions are dry and hot as the humidity is in the range of 30% to 50%, and the sunshine is intense. Temperatures often touch 100°F (37.8°C) as the state averages 25 sunny days in the month. Sun goggles and sunscreen are mandatory for a significant part of the day. Avoid the midday sun as far as possible. New Mexico swells with tourists in July as there is something to do for everybody.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month in New Mexico with average high temperatures in the 80°F (26.7°C) to 94°F (34.4°C). Gila Hot Springs in the south averages between 54°F (12.2°C) to 85°F (29.4°C), while Farmington in the north is between 60°F (15.6°C) to 87°F (30.6°C). Eagle Nest, which registers between 42°F (5.6°C) to 76°F (24.4°C), is an apt example of temperatures decreasing with altitude. Rainfall averages from 2" (50.8mm) to 4" (101.6mm) statewide, and the conditions remain dry due to intense sunshine throughout the day.
August is prone to thunderstorms, mostly in the highlands in the afternoons. Night skies are clear and offer fantastic stargazing opportunities. Backcountry camping is popular in the summer and offers great adventure. Wildlife and wild flora are abundant and often cross paths in the numerous state parks. An insect repellent is an excellent idea when camping in open tents during the nights. Heavy showers can quickly flood dry arroyos and cause significant problems. Expect the weather to steadily cool down by the end of August in New Mexico.
Weather in September
September sees the arrival of the wonderful autumn season with comfortable conditions in New Mexico. The intensity of the sun drops from the peak with the passing of the summer. Breezy evenings are great to drive through the scenic byways with the wind in the face.
The skies remain bright as the month records an average of twenty-three sunny days. Precipitation is light, and many cities record 1" (25.4mm) to 3" (76.2mm) of rain. Moisture from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico hardly reaches the interior of the state.
The average high temperatures are in the warm 72°F (22.2°C) to 88°F (31.1°C) range, while the nights are relatively colder - in the average low-temperature zone of 42°F (5.6°C) to 62°F (16.7°C).
Early fall season sees fewer thunderstorms than the summer as the winds seldom cross the 15 miles per hour barrier. Wildlife is active in the nights and mornings, especially in the state and national parks. The hunting season is in full swing in September in New Mexico.
Weather in October
October is one of the best times to visit New Mexico at the peak of the fall season. The sunshine is optimum, and the conditions are pleasant. The average high temperatures are in the comfortable 61°F (16.1°C) to 78°F (25.6°C) range, while average low temperatures are in the range of 30°F (-1.1°C) to 48°F (8.9°C). Las Vegas in the central portion registers between 36°F (2.2°C) to 65°F (18.3°C), while Taos in the north ranges from 32°F (0°C) to 66°F (18.9°C).
Fewer crowds, light precipitation, and gentle breezes are perfect for a family-filled fiesta at the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally in mid-autumn. Visitors and locals rejoice as the aspen leaves display shades of a vibrant gold while driving through the scenic byways. Fall foliage is at its peak by mid-October and displays brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and magenta. Days become short as the fall season starts to unwind. Light sweaters are suitable for encountering the breezy evenings in October in New Mexico.
Weather in November
November is the end of the autumn season in New Mexico with temperatures in the average range of 25°F (-3.9°C) to 65°F (18.3°C) in the state. Places like Hobbs, Roswell, and Ruidoso in the north average between 28°F (-2.2°C) to 66°F (18.9°C), while Raton, Taos, and Clayton in the north are between 22°F (-5.6°C) to 57°F (13.9°C).
Rainfall is scanty and seldom exceeds 1" (25.4mm) to 1.5" (38.1mm) in most of the regions. Sunshine is bright and lasts for a daily 6 to 7.5 hours. The first sprinkling of snow occurs in the highlands, while mountain slopes receive moderate snowfall.
The peak of the fall foliage is over, and trees show bare limbs. Stormy weather is rare in November, which makes it an excellent time to visit the warm south. Night temperatures dip significantly in the north and at high altitudes. Rocky Mountain upper ranges experience an alpine climate. Ski enthusiasts have to wait for the beginning of the ski season as the snow depth is moderate at best. November sees fewer crowds and is perfect for budget travelers with fair weather and cheap accommodations.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the cold winter season in New Mexico with little precipitation amid regular sunshine. Extreme variations are common in temperatures between day and night. High deserts in the Colorado Plateau in the northwest corner experience a drop of 25°F (-3.9°C) to 30°F (-1.1°C) during the night. The average high temperatures are in the mild 39°F (3.9°C) to 46°F (7.8°C) range in the north and warm 43°F (6.1°C) to 57°F (13.9°C) in the south. The average low temperatures remain in the 11°F (-11.7°C) to 31°F (-0.6°C) zone in the south, while the north is cold in the 5°F (-15°C) to 21°F (-6.1°C) range.
Southern New Mexico rarely receives heavy snowfall, while the rest of the state registers between 4" (101.6mm) to 6" (152.4mm), barring the high mountains where it is between 15" (381mm) to 20" (508mm).
The conditions are mostly dry with the sunshine in a pleasant mode. Arctic chill rarely makes it to the south of New Mexico. Frozen waterfalls and Christmas train rides over the white, snowy landscape remain in memory for a long time.