State climatologist: Communities need to prepare for climate change

Local communities need to prepare for the impacts of climate change, New Mexico State Climatologist David DuBois said during the Four Corners Air Quality Group meeting Wednesday in Farmington. The air quality group consists of state agencies from Colorado, Utah and New Mexico as well as federal and tribal agencies working together to address air quality in the Four Corners region. 

This group started more than 15 years ago. At the time, the area was on the verge of violating federal ozone standards, Michael Baca of the New Mexico Environment Department Air Quality Bureau said. He said the air quality has improved, but ozone levels remain a challenge and federal standards have become more strict. 

“We have a tremendous task ahead of us to address the climate challenge,” Claudia Borchert, climate change policy coordinator for NMED, said. 

Borchert highlighted the state’s efforts to address emissions including the Energy Transition Act, the natural gas waste rule and the ozone precursor rules. 

DuBois provided statistics focused on the northwest corner of the state. Since 1970, the area has warmed on an average rate of 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. 

At the same time, the southwest United States has been gripped by drought for more than 20 years. 

While the drought isn’t as dry as past droughts, DuBois said the warmer temperatures exacerbate the conditions. 

“Drought is more complex than just lack of water,” he said. 

DuBois said dry soil and increased evaporation means less water is available even when it does rain.

Bill funding statewide weather station network moves forward

Weather stations in New Mexico tend to be located at airports, which leaves some rural parts of the state without good weather monitoring. That impacts agricultural producers who need weather data to apply for federal disaster relief through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies. House Bill 108, sponsored by Rep. Martin Zamora, R-Clovis, and Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, would change that by appropriating $2.578 million from the state’s general fund to New Mexico State University. This would allow the office of the state climatologist to expand the network of weather stations throughout the state. The House Agriculture, Acequias and Water Resources Committee unanimously gave the bill a do pass recommendation on Thursday.

Legislators hear about improving shorter-term drought conditions

It’s not just your imagination: Things really are greener around New Mexico this year. And the state Legislature’s interim Water and Natural Resources Committee heard the good news in an update from State Climatologist Dr. David DuBois. “We’ve done really well (for) this time of year,” DuBois told the committee. Not only has this water year, which begins on Oct. 1, been well above average, the temperatures have also been cooler than in the past few years, which also helps with the water situation.