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Amid driest conditions on record, New Mexico sweats every spark

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The Southwest monsoons

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.

Competing interests

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.

"In the Old West people had a popular saying about water," Ms. Lefton says. "They said whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. That's the way it's been for many years in the American West. Everyone wants to make sure their personal interests are met."

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