Drought could hang around New Mexico longer than expected
August 05, 2011
It looks like the drought may last longer than expected in New Mexico and the southwest. Federal climate scientists are now predicting a long term weather system may not be on the way out after all. It's all about La Nina and El Nino, and it's looking like the dry one, La Nina, may be sticking around, while the wet one, El Nino, won't be showing up anytime soon. Back in May the same National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center told us La Nina was going away, to be followed by a "neutral" period of normal rainfall and snow, and that would bring on El Nino. But now the climatologists are seeing a renewed pattern of cooling in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean - a sign that La Nina is returning. "Right now it looks like there's a good potential that we could be in La Nina conditions this fall and this winter," said Ed Polasko, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. "Those conditions generally mean New Mexico stays drier than normal throughout the winter and all the way into spring." That would mean another huge fire season next year, right on the heels of the worst one in modern New Mexico history. "With the kind of helter-skelter summer monsoon season, and we had a very dry winter, going into next year certainly the timber fields would be very dry, especially across the southern part of the state," said Brent Wachter, a fire meteorologist with the Weather Service. The return of La Nina would mean yet another rough year for New Mexico farmers and ranchers and anybody who grows anything, from grass to gardens, but the key word is all of this is "maybe". "This is an early forecast," said Polasko. "This is something that is not likely to really give up all its secrets until we get into the fall and then we'll know better that this La Nina is really on track to return." La Nina has stuck around New Mexico before, creating a long and disastrous drought for our state and Texas back in the 1950s. The current drought started at the beginning of the year in the northern half of the state, the Weather Service meteorologists say, and last fall in the south. But that's if you're talking rain and snow. If you're talking about a pattern of dried-up rivers, dwindling lakes, low-water reservoirs and inadequate irrigation water, it's been 5 years!