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A Glimpse at the Future

Potential effects of climate change in New Mexico

August 27, 2008, 12:00 am

According to a state report put together several years ago, the potential effects of climate change in New Mexico include:

  • Warmer temperatures, reducing snow pack and shifting spring runoff to earlier in the season. Longer and hotter warm seasons will reduce the amount of water in surface systems, such as streams and acequia systems; large reservoirs may also suffer shortages.
  • The increased potential for flash floods during the warm season, along with warmer temperatures, impacting flood control and drainage systems, air conditioning systems in buildings, electrical power distribution systems, sewage and water supply systems as well as transportation infrastructure.
  • Warmer temperatures, leading to longer growing seasons. Increased precipitation will increase yields of crops and forage; decreased precipitation coupled with warmer temperatures will decrease yields. Also, warmer conditions “may affect pest populations, requiring new strategies for pest control.”
  • Changes in ecosystems, particularly aquatic ones, but the breeding time of birds and insects and the flowering of plants may be impacted as well. Invasions of non-native species are likely. More catastrophic wildfires, drought, stress and insect infestations may cause more massive diebacks in forests and alpine meadows may disappear altogether.
  • Increased air pollution (higher temperatures and air stagnation will cause more smog, while wildfires and dust storms will boost particulate air pollution.) Ecosystem disruptions may cause outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as hantavirus, plague, dengue fever, West Nile virus and Valley Fever.
  • Impacts will disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income communities. Traditional American Indian subsistence systems will likely suffer and local extinctions of plants and animals considered sacred will “disrupt cultural identity.”



As part of August 27, 2008 cover story, "Feel the Heat"


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