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Drought is worst since the 1950s

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s drought conditions are increasingly looking like the infamous “Drought of the ’50s,” federal meteorologists said at a meeting Wednesday of the state-federal Drought Monitoring Working Group.

The last 36 months have been the fourth driest such period since record-keeping began in New Mexico more than a century ago and are the worst since the 1950s, according to Chuck Jones of the National Weather Service.

“It’s not just a short-term drought. This is a long-term drought we’re in,” Jones said.

In the 1950s, New Mexico suffered under seven consecutive years of serious drought conditions. The current drought has been at its deepest for three years.


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Jones also showed sobering historical statistics for water managers who have been hoping for a robust summer rainy season to bail them out. While in past decades a good summer monsoon season has followed a dry winter, that pattern has turned around in the past decade. Since 2000, four out of the five years with dry winters have been followed by sub-par summer rains, according to Jones.

The pain is especially acute in eastern New Mexico, where dry soil moisture conditions rival the drought of the ’50s, according to Deirdre Kann, chief science officer of the Weather Service’s Albuquerque office.

The dry soils have played havoc with the spring runoff. On the Pecos River, for example, mountain snow is already gone, but “not one drop made it into Santa Rosa,” the river’s main reservoir, said Raymond Abeyta of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

That pattern has been repeated elsewhere in the state, with snow disappearing but streams not rising in response as dry soils soak up the water, said federal snow surveyor Wayne Sleep.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal