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New Mexico Science

Science, climate, weather and water from a New Mexico perspective

Report: climate change likely to sap the Rio Grande

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update: Here’s the full story and the full report.

The southwest has warmed more rapidly since the 1970s than at any time in more than 10,000 years, and a projected continued warming trend is projected to reduce the Rio Grande’s flow on average by as much as a third, according to an analysis by federal scientists made public today.

“It is sobering,” Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle told a group of Albuquerque water managers and community members at a meeting this morning.

The Upper Rio Grande Impact Assessment, done by scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, found:

  • from 1971 to 2011, temperatures in the Rio Grande Basin rose on average 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. “Such rates are unprecedented over the last 11,300 years,” the report’s authors concluded.
  • By the end of the century, temperatures are projected to rise another 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit as a result of rising greenhouse gases
  • While precipitation trends as a result of climate change are unclear, increased evaporation and other impacts of the warmer temperature suggest substantially reduced streamflow: a one-third reduction in the Rio Grande, for example.
  • While available water supply is projected to decline, water consumption by farm crops and other plants is projected to rise in response to increasing temperatures.

I’ll have more in tomorrow’s newspaper.

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