Is the Drought Over?

Monday afternoon, I was sitting in a meeting of federal drought scientists up in Santa Fe when Nora pinged me this text message:

Yes, it is raining really hard here.

It was something of an understatement. When I got up Tuesday morning and checked my rain gauge, it had recorded 1.93 inches in the previous 24 hours – the highest single-day total in the “period of record” here on Aliso Drive (and by “period of record,” I mean “since Spet. 1, 1999, when I put up the rain gauge.”

That’s about as perfect a setup as you can get for a story about a drought meeting, because it embodies the uncertainties in our definitions of drought, and how therefore we ought to go about measuring and talking about it. My story:

So is the drought over?

That was probably the most-asked question in New Mexico last week, as long-awaited rains hit the state with so much force that floodwaters damaged neighborhoods from Rio Rancho and Belen to Silver City and Sunland Park.

If your living room was flooded with muddy water, the answer to the drought question must have looked pretty obvious: what drought?

But to 50 of the nation’s top drought scientists meeting at a Santa Fe hotel last week, the answer appeared as blurred as the view out the rain-streaked hotel windows.

The answer really depends on what you mean by “drought,” said Kelly Redmond, a Nevada climatologist and leading expert on western drought.


  1. Matt –

    The best publicly archived Albuquerque data is at the Western Regional
    Climate Center:

    It’s an ungainly framed thing. Scroll down the left column/frame to:

    Monthly Precipitation Listings
    Monthly Totals

    Throw out the data for those first few years with the “z”s next to the
    numbers. And also note that the last few months are inaccurate. For

    You want the “Preliminary Climatology Data (CF6)” monthly tables.


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