1.18 is the number of inches of rain Santa Fe received between Jan. 1 and July 22, 2011.
6.05 is the average number of inches of rain Santa Fe has received between Jan. 1 and July 22 each year since recording began in 1892.
The La Niña pattern set up last fall was probably the primary driver of the low snowpack through the winter and spring months, which has been a big contributing factor to the drought we’re having so far this summer..—Wayne Sleep, hydrologic technician with the National Resources Conservation Service (New Mexico office)
Don’t call it your hija; the La Niña weather pattern caused both the February freeze and the present drought conditions.
La Niña is a phenomenon related to, but opposite from, El Niño—while the latter consists of weather conditions caused by warm temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, La Niña is characterized by colder-than-average ocean temperatures. Cool sea temperatures restrict the number of moisture-bearing storms that move up through the jet stream, leaving the southern part of the country parched, Sleep explains.
The US Drought Monitor has declared the Santa Fe area situation an “extreme” drought, defined as a one-in-20-year aberration from the norm. Almost half of the state falls into the single category more severe than extreme, known as “exceptional”—a one-in-50-year occurrence.
Before you blame Public Service Company of New Mexico’s coal plants, Gov. Susana Martinez’ assault on green regulations or anything else spewing hot air, note that the La Niña/El Niño cycle is a natural phenomenon, according to Zach Guido, associate staff scientist with Climate Assessment for the Southwest%u2028at the University of Arizona.
However, global warming is exacerbating the situation, Guido notes, and not even average rainfall could counteract the effects of too much moisture evaporating from our desert soil.
“The most robust connection between global warming and droughts is that, regardless of what precipitation does, we know [warmer] temperatures dry out the landscape,” Guido says. “So there needs to be more rain.”