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Drought-stricken NM getting little help from winter storms

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Winter snowfall hasn’t offered much relief to drought-stricken New Mexico, according to data released last week by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Weather Service and the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Daniel Porter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said most snowpack is relegated to the mountains of northern New Mexico. Other regions in the state have received little snow.

Cattle get water at a tank north of Roy in late December. Winter snow and rain haven’t brought much relief to drought-stricken New Mexico. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“La Niña certainly has taken its toll on the snowpack and snow water equivalent here,” Porter said.

Snow water equivalent, or water content in the snowpack, is dismal in southwestern New Mexico.

The Upper Gila Basin’s snow water equivalent is 17% of average.

The Mimbres Basin is at 5% of average, and the southernmost portion of the Rio Grande Basin is at 2%.

More than three-quarters of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought.

Northern New Mexico is faring slightly better, thanks to some recent snowstorms.

The Upper Rio Grande’s snow water equivalent is at 66% of average.

New Mexico experienced its fourth-driest year on record in 2020. It was the driest year since 2012.

The statewide average rainfall last year was 8.42 inches, which is 5.57 inches below average. Monsoon season was especially disappointing. The period from May to September was the driest on record for New Mexico.

Southeastern New Mexico usually receives an average of 0.5 inch of precipitation in December. But in December 2020, most locations received less than 0.05 inch.

A La Niña pattern likely means more warm, dry conditions in the coming months for the Four Corners states.

Forecasters predict a higher chance of above-normal temperatures for the region from January through March. Southern New Mexico has the region’s highest probability for above-average temperatures.

Rainfall is expected to be below-average for the Southwest.

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.


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