Forecasters: New Mexico should brace for worsening drought

Dec 23, 2021, 11:18 AM | Updated: 3:47 pm
A finger of the Rio Grande flows near Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Forecasters wi...

A finger of the Rio Grande flows near Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque say the last three months have been very dry for many parts of New Mexico and more warm, dry weather is expected through the winter. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

(AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The last three months have been very dry in New Mexico and it’s only going to get worse.

That’s the word from forecasters with the National Weather Service and other climate experts in the state. They said during a meeting this week that New Mexico reservoirs continue to be far below historical averages and that ranchers are bracing for a winter with little moisture out on the range.

Some snow is expected in the higher elevation on Christmas Eve, but it will be less than the precipitation that has helped to ease drought conditions elsewhere in the West in recent weeks. Parts of California are in line for even more snow, but the latest drought map shows nearly half of the western region is still dealing with the most severe categories of drought.

Andrew Mangham, a senior hydrologist with the weather service in Albuquerque, shared a series of maps that showed chances are good for above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation for the next two weeks, the next month and into April.

“Really the story is we had a dry year that is getting worse and worse as we move through this second La Niña,” he said.

The benefits of a decent monsoon over the summer have all but evaporated and most of New Mexico missed out on any meaningful moisture in the fall, Mangham said. The far northern reaches of the state saw some snow earlier this month, but he said New Mexico would need a lot more of that to get snowpack levels closer to normal for this time of year.

Stream flows? Soil moisture levels? Mangham said it’s the same story and it doesn’t look good heading into the next year.

“Everything is just getting drier,” he repeated.

Ranchers say they are feeling the pinch, and farmers who rely on traditional irrigation systems called acequias say they’re worried about having water for crops next spring.

Bone dry with winds that make it even drier is how Paula Garcia described the conditions. As head of the New Mexico Acequia Association, she hears firsthand about the challenges from family farms and individual growers.

“Last year, we had some snow in late 2020 and we had a very dry spring with little or no runoff. This year, the past few months are worse. If this continues, we wonder if there will be any snowmelt in the spring,” she said.

The association is planning a series of meetings among acequia leaders to talk about the year ahead in terms of sharing observations about the drought, dealing with scarcity and conflicts, and addressing the need for more water-sharing agreements for those areas that will need it most.

In Nara Visa, a small village near the New Mexico-Texas state line, rancher Cliff Copeland talks about the dust and its effects on his cattle. He and other ranchers already had cut back their herds last year due to dry conditions then. Summer rains helped the grasslands recover somewhat so that in combination with smaller herds will help heading into the winter but growing feeds costs are worrisome, he said.

“It’s very seldom you go and not get hardly any measurable precipitation this time of year so it’s very concerning,” he said. “It’s possibly devastating and it sure has everyone’s attention.”

For Copeland, who serves as a regional vice president with the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, doing more with less is a key part of the equation that has helped to keep the family ranch humming for four generations.

“It’s part of the evolution,” he said. “… So being able to pass this along to the children and grandchildren and sustain our operation as we’ve done for so long is extremely important to us.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Cargo vessels are anchored offshore near oil platforms, before heading into the Los Angeles-...
Associated Press

Federal study: New climate law to slice carbon pollution 40%

Clean energy incentives in the new spending package signed this week by President Joe Biden will trim America’s emissions of heat-trapping gases by about 1.1 billion tons (1 billion metric tons) by 2030, a new Department of Energy analysis shows. The first official federal calculations, shared with The Associated Press before its release Thursday, say […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Los Angeles man sentenced to life for 5 random killings

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles man who opened fire on people at random in 2014, killing five people and wounding seven others, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Alexander Hernandez, 42, from the city’s Sylmar neighborhood, was sentenced to multiple consecutive life terms for the rampage. The […]
20 hours ago
Nyamal Dei, a school board member in Fargo, N.D., is greeted by Vietnam veteran David Halcrow follo...
Associated Press

North Dakota school board reinstates Pledge of Allegiance

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The school board in North Dakota’s most populous city reversed course Thursday on its decision to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at its monthly meetings, following complaints from conservative lawmakers along with widespread bashing from citizens around the country.. Seven of the nine members of the Fargo Board of Education, […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Louise Billiot, left, a member of the United Houma Nation Indian tribe, walks around the hom...
Associated Press

FEMA declares new strategy to engage Native American tribes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed a new strategy to better engage with hundreds of Native American tribes as they face climate change-related disasters, the agency announced Thursday. FEMA will include the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in discussions about possible future dangers from climate change. It has earmarked $50 million in grants for […]
20 hours ago
FILE - This photo provided on Aug. 14, 2022, by the North Korean government, Kim Yo Jong, sister of...
Associated Press

North Korea dismisses Seoul’s aid-for-disarmament offer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said her country will never accept South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s “foolish” offer of economic benefits in exchange for denuclearization steps, accusing Seoul of recycling proposals Pyongyang already rejected. In a commentary published by state media Friday, Kim Yo Jong […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Suspect in I-85 shootings had 2,000 rounds of ammo

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A man arrested in connection with three interstate shootings in Alabama and Georgia had more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition and an alarming number of firearms in his car, police said Thursday. The Auburn Police Department also said they so far have not found a motive for the “seemingly random shootings.” […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Forecasters: New Mexico should brace for worsening drought