Climate change is making it harder to avoid extreme weather events

Climate change is making it harder to avoid extreme weather events

June 22, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

Air Force One, with US President Joe Biden, flies over New Mexico fires on June 11, 2022. - Biden is meeting with New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in Santa Fe to get a briefing on the fire damage. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Heavy rains during monsoons could lead to much more flooding as water overwhelms burn scars from recent fires in New Mexico.

On its surface, what sounds like relief is coming to fire-choked areas of New Mexico: monsoon rains. The season of winds and rains in the Southwest known as monsoon season begins June 15 and ends on Sept. 30. Monsoons can slightly cool temperatures but quickly overwhelm scorched land. They can cause flooding in areas that may otherwise have previously been able to handle excessive rain. That’s the fear in the Land of Enchantment, where already more than half a million acres have burned this year. Two major fires—the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire and the Black fire—are still raging. According to The Washington Post, the Hermits Peak fire was a prescribed burn that quickly grew out of control due to unusually dry conditions.

To some officials, that combination of dryness and uptick in burn scars just makes flooding inevitable. “The way we’re treating tomorrow is that tomorrow it’s going to flood,” Operations Section Chief Jason Coil told Albuquerque NBC affiliate KOB4 on Monday. It’s extremely difficult for experts to predict how intense a monsoon season may be, though some are hopeful that emerging technology could allow water managers to take advantage of summer downpours. Still, the U.S. is quickly finding out that the windows for preparedness to combat extreme weather events are growing much smaller thanks to climate change. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore acknowledged as much in his report on the prescribed fire that led to the Hermits Peak fire, saying that “climate change is leading to conditions on the ground we have never encountered.”