New Mexico climate center

ESTABLISHED DuRING THE 1980s, the New Mexico Climate Center is located on the campus of New Mexico State University and is in charge of collecting and disseminating data on the state's weather. The center is the home of the state climatologist, Ted Sammis. It collects its data through electronic data-logger machines, both from its own network of 27 weather stations at its Agricultural Science centers and from station networks from other agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resource and Conservation Service, and NOAA. In total, the New Mexico Climate Center collects daily climate data from 138 automated climate stations around the state, including irrigation districts and NAPI (Navajo Agricultural Products Industry). These stations monitor air temperature, relative humidity, soil temperature and moisture, precipitation, solar radiation, and wind speed and direction. These data are then disseminated for the benefit of policymakers, administrators and the public. In addition to this electronic collection of data, more than 50 volunteers record their daily local temperature and rainfall across the state and send this information to the National Center for Data Collection. The services of the New Mexico Climate Center can be accessed through the world wide web. The center's web site processes climate data daily and makes it available to the public.

In addition to the state climatologist, the center is staffed by a group of students. The purpose of the center is to assist the state's efforts to understand and respond to natural and human-induced climate processes, including global warming, to cooperate with federal government activities relating to climate studies, and to promote and disseminate a general knowledge of the climatology of the state. Some of the activities carried out at the center are: assessing the impact of climate on the natural environment, agricultural production, land and natural resources, and human health; coordinating studies and schemes to understand more fully natural and human-induced climate changes, and the social and economic implications of climate changes; developing methods and procedures to encourage the participation of interested state agencies and public institutions of higher education in the climate-related programs; and disseminating climate data, information, advice, and assessments to state agencies, local public bodies, and the public.

During its two decades of operation, the State Climate Center has supplied climatic information for the needs of industry, tourism, state agencies, and private individuals. This information has contributed to the economic growth of New Mexico and the bordering regions through applied research and development. The center's web site receives an average of more than 6,000 requests for climate information per day. In addition to these, more than 300 requests are answered by phone and email each year. Besides climate data, the New Mexico Climate Center supplies information on irrigation arrangements for native, landscape, and commercial crops. It provides heat and cooling degree-day calculation, for the construction industry, and economic irrigation software. The center has a variety of teaching material on soil and land use, instrumentation, and irrigation science.

The efficient use of water has been a long-standing interest of the center, given that water is a scarce resource in the state and that droughts are often severe. The New Mexico Climate Center devotes part of its official web site for the New Mexico Drought Task Force with information about current drought status and future climatic conditions. The web site also provides tools to use climate data for determining when to apply pesticides, based on growing degree-day models. Researchers working at the center have developed water production functions (relationships between yield and crop water-use) and crop coefficients (for irrigation scheduling) for many crops. These functions can be used to assist in efficient irrigation management and in making important economic decisions related to water and crop production.

The center has acknowledged that global warming is a stark reality. The state climatologist and his staff have calculated that the temperature in New Mexico was 3.6 degrees F (2 degress C) hotter in the year 2000 than during the 1961-1990 period. Yet, the New Mexico Climate Center has been more cautious in making predictions about local weather. According to State Climatologist Ted Sammis, the global models that look at 50-year scenarios and indicate increased weather chaos are difficult to apply to state weather predictions.

SEE ALSO: Climate; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); New Mexico.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Richardson Benedict Gill, Great Maya Droughts: Water, Life and Death (University of New Mexico Press, April 2001); New Mexico Climate Center, www. weather.nmsu.edu (cited November 2007).

Luca Prono University of Nottingham

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