For the first time since 2011, less than half of New Mexico in drought

For the first time since January 2011, less than half of New Mexico is classified in “drought” this morning in the weekly federal “Drought Monitor” (“drought” is the oranges and browns): Driving back across the state from a meeting in Arizona last week, things looked greener than I’ve seen in a long time, though I …

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New Mexico’s Rio Grande, on the rise (finally)

Water from our recent storms, combined with the some clever twiddling by federal and local water managers, is pushing the Rio Grande through Albuquerque in the next few days to the highest spring runoff levels we’ve seen since 2010. Water managers are taking advantage of the May storms to add some water and create a …

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“Enough water will never be enough”

California’s water problems will never be solvedĀ Faith Kerns and Doug Parker argue, because cities and farms will always expand to the edge of available supply, overshoot, and then face trouble during the dry times: There are other arenas where this phenomenon is well understood. For example, when it comes to freeways, congestion leads to demand …

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In defense of “vapor pressure deficit”

If you follow weather forecasts, you’ve heard about “relative humidity” (RH). But it’s one of those maddeningly less-than-useful measures of our weather that probably needs to be just retired. That’s wishful thinking, of course. But in an interesting introduction to their latest research into the increasing dryness of the air and the risk of fire …

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Warm in the West, but not as dry as you might have thought

update: Jeff Lukas, in the comments, notes that I missed something important, which is the distinction between statewide averages and the east-west precip divide. As he correctly points out, that statewide blob of wet-looking Colorado hides the fact that it’s been extremely wet to the east, and relatively dry west of the continental divide. Here’s …

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Lake Powell spring runoff forecast this year now less than half of average

At the risk of nickel-and-diming you with bad forecast news, today’s Bureau of Reclamation mid-month report is bad forecast news. April-July flow into Lake Powell is now forecast to be just 3.4 million acre feet, 47 percent of average (pdf). That’s down from 3.75 maf (52 percent) just two weeks ago. Runoff for the full …

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Precipitation-runoff relationships in sustained drought

ThisĀ paper is measuring stuff in Australia, but seems to mimic the dropoff in runoff we’re seeing on the Rio Grande and other western U.S. rivers compared to the precipitation deficits we’re experiencing: Annual rainfall and runoff records from south-eastern Australia are used to examine whether interdecadal climate variability induces changes in hydrological behavior. We test …

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Southwest monsoon!

Sorry, that was a clickbait headline. Let me walk it back: Odds shifted slightly toward a wetter Southwest monsoon this summer!   The usual forecast explainer: this shifts the odds from the climatological one-in-three-years-is-wet statistical binning to a 33-40 percent chance of wet in the light green area, upwards of 40 percent in the dark …

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What do we mean by drought?

Darren Ficklin at Indiana University has a new paper exploring trends in drought in the United States which notes that the trends are not universal: [F]our regions of increasing (upper Midwest, Louisiana, southeastern United States (US), and western US) and decreasing (New England, Pacific Northwest, upper Great Plains, and Ohio River Valley) drought trends…. But …

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