The typical “out with the old” etc. celebrations don’t have much resonance as New Mexico stares down a new water year. From the morning paper:
New Mexico faces three problems in the new water year.
The first problem is the winter forecast itself. There were signs of an El Niño forming, a climate pattern driven by warm water in the equatorial Pacific ocean that tips the odds toward wetter winters in New Mexico. El Niño is no guarantee, but it improves our chances of extra storms to make up some of the long-term drought shortfall.
But this year’s El Niño has been slow and weak, not offering a very hopeful forecast as a result.
Second, after two consecutive drought years, the state’s watersheds are like a dry sponge right now, King said. A big chunk of whatever snow we get this winter will simply soak into dry ground before runoff can start reaching streams and rivers. “The watershed will take its bite first,” he explained.
The third problem may be the most vexing.
In recent years, for a given size snowpack, water managers have seen substantially less water actually making it into New Mexico’s rivers, King noted.
Scientists at both New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico are looking closely at the puzzle in search of answers. While the reason behind the runoff drop-off remains a mystery, it is consistent with what you would expect as New Mexico’s temperatures rise, noted UNM professor David Gutzler, one of the scientists looking at the issue.