Year 4, Month 5, Day 29: Happy Birthday

The Southwest is in for a rough summer. The Albuquerque Journal (NM):

With the preliminary April 1 runoff forecast numbers in hand, this is “the worst year ever” on the Rio Grande, according to Phil King, New Mexico State University professor and the water management adviser to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. “Ever” in this case translates to a century of water management on the river system through modern New Mexico.

The most likely forecast calls for just 14 percent of the long term average for spring runoff into Elephant Butte Reservoir, according to federal forecasters. That’s not a surprise – King and others were watching the March weather and knew the numbers would be bad. But still… “It hurts to get slugged in the stomach,” King told me this afternoon, “even if you were expecting it.”

EBID will begin releasing what limited water it has to lower Rio Grande farmers beginning in early June, and hope for a big monsoon, King said.

Upstream, farmers in the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District are seeing water already in their ditches, but it’s not clear how long that will last, according to David Gensler, the agency’s water manager. The District will run out of stored water in upstream dams sometime in late June, according to Gensler, after which farmers will depend on whatever meager supply comes from natural river flow.

“This is going to be one of, if not the worst years in memory,” Gensler said.

Synchronicity, I call it. May 17:

While climatology cannot state definitively that this summer’s projected extreme drought is a direct consequence of climate change, observations and analysis do allow us to understand that the burgeoning greenhouse effect is having an alarming impact. For exmple, atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere was distorted for several months following the breakdown of the polar vortex, and extreme high pressure above the Labrador sea pushed the normal storm track south of its usual Atlantic position. All of these changes happening across the globe will hardly leave the Southwest untouched, and in fact it looks like a third straight year of tinderbox conditions lies ahead for New Mexico.

Sure, it might be just a “coincidence” that climatologists have predicted just the sort of harsher droughts and extreme weather that are now making headlines. But if so, it’s a coincidence that’s happening all over the world, with steadily increasing frequency and intensity.

Warren Senders

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