a drought for the record books, or a drought for the ages?

By Walker Boyd

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported today that

Albuquerque and Roswell are on pace for their driest years on record, mirroring conditions across New Mexico that have bolstered large wildfires, hurt crops and forced ranchers to sell livestock they can’t afford to feed.

Rain has been scarce throughout most of New Mexico, and weather records from Albuquerque and Roswell offer this stark example: The cities have not been this dry during the first five months of a year since 1892, when the state began keeping track.

With wildfires raging all over New Mexico (Emanuele, the mayordomo from last week’s post, sent me an e-mail saying that a fire just over the hill from his house is threatening the valley), it seems all the more important to New Mexicans that we find out whether we are in for a brutal and prolonged drought or whether this is something merely temporary and cyclical. Well, the answer (as with most things), really depends on your perspective. According to the New Mexican article, an University of Arizona study that concludes droughts like this are part of 50-year cycles.

But what if we look on the long run? Clearly friend Elaine Hebard sent along the following graph, which is based on tree-ring analysis conducted by Henri Grissino-Mayer: