As firefighters mourn the loss of their friends, they continue to fight seven wildfires actively burning in New Mexico, while watching the skies for rain. They hear thunder and their hearts pound with hope for relief from the Southwest monsoons. Instead, the storms bring cloud-to-ground lightning but little moisture, increasing the possibility of even more wildfires.
The Southwest monsoons start in northern Mexico, which receives moisture from two sides: California and the Gulf of Mexico. When the land reaches its peak of heat late in the summer months, often with triple-digit temperatures, the winds change direction and the monsoons begin.
But Dr. DuBois, the state's climatologist, has few encouraging words for those waiting for the Southwest monsoons.
"There is a chance of some improvement in the situation in the southwest portion of the state, a glimmer of hope, but not for the central and eastern portions of New Mexico," DuBois said in a recent interview. "Some areas have already received good precipitation, but it may take more than a year of rains to bring the forage back that is necessary for livestock and wildlife."
DuBois is working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center in an effort to advise ranchers, city managers, wildlife groups, and wildlife refuge managers on the possibility of rain. He meets quarterly with the governor's Drought Task Force and offers a monthly webinar for residents that explains water levels and flows, and any departures from the seasonal forecast.
The drought, extreme heat, wildfires, and destruction are all part of the circle of life in the Southwest, says Charna Lefton, spokeswoman for the state Fish and Wildlife Department.