ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — National weather forecasters warned of more showers and thunderstorms across New Mexico on Thursday as the state celebrated the disappearance of any signs of drought or abnormal dryness from the map.
Weekly reports on the impacts of drought across the United States show New Mexico is free from any of the colors that indicate dry conditions, marking the first time that has been the case since 1999. That’s when the U.S. Drought Monitor was established.
The latest map shows New Mexico is the only western state in the clear right now.
Like many places in the West, the arid state struggled to recuperate from an unprecedented drought that peaked in 2013. Even in March, the sting had yet to go away as a month of record-setting temperatures and little rain left dry conditions across the eastern plains and parts of southern New Mexico.
Royce Fontenot, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said the latest map represents some positive news for New Mexico but it doesn’t mean there are no dry areas in the state. He pointed to northwestern New Mexico, where it’s more difficult to assess the level of dryness thanks in part to poor radar coverage and a lack of rain gauges.
Some areas have missed out on the summer rains, but Fontenot said those spots are isolated and not large enough to make their way onto the map.
There are also the lingering effects of the drought, which have been exacerbated by a string of years with lackluster snowpack. In eastern New Mexico, monitoring of the soil moisture shows the deeper levels have yet to recover.
“At what point do you say we’re out of drought?” Fontenot said. “It depends on how you want to look at it, but we do live in a high-elevation desert climate so that’s normally kind of dry. If you look long term, we probably have more dry periods than wet periods.”
Heading into the fall, forecasters are predicting that temperatures are expected to be above normal but there will likely be equal chances that it could go either way when it comes to precipitation.