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NMSU water lecture looks at how tree rings help put drought into perspective

LAS CRUCES - Aged trees are providing new insight into drought conditions and helping water management agencies plan for the future, according to Connie Woodhouse, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Paleoclimatology Program.

se, of Boulder, Colo., will present "Upper Rio Grande Streamflow Reconstructions from Tree Rings: Placing the Current Drought into a Long-Term Context" at the semester's first Water Lecture Series at 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, in Wooten Hall Room 105 on the New Mexico State University campus.

The lecture series is sponsored by NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics' Water Task Force, the NMSU College of Civil and Geological Engineering and the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute.

Extended records from tree-ring data, which can be used to reconstruct past hydroclimatic conditions, provide a longer context from which to assess drought. Over the past year, NOAA has formed working partnerships with a variety of water management agencies who have expressed interest in incorporating tree-ring reconstructed flow records in their planning.

Of immediate interest to water management agencies is the assessment of the unusualness of drought, as well as information for managing possible continuing drought conditions.

"The tree-ring reconstructions of streamflow can provide a 300- to 500-year context for assessing the frequency of an extreme magnitude drought," Woodhouse said.

"Analyses of streamflow reconstructions for the Upper Colorado and South Platte river watersheds suggest that the severity of the 2002-year drought in Colorado has been matched or exceeded about five times in the past three centuries," Woodhouse said. "When considered as a three-year drought (2000-2002), this event is much less rare."

The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program is part of the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NOAA Satellites and Information), the nation's primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. NOAA Satellites and Information operates the nation's environmental satellites used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring and sea surface temperature measurements.

Other lectures planned during the semester include "Modeling Tools for Integrated Water Policy: Spain vs. USA" on Oct. 5 and "It Finally Rained: Are We Out of the Drought?" on Nov. 2.

For additional information concerning the Water Lecture Series, please contact Leeann DeMouche, Water Resource Specialist, NMSU, at ldemouch@nmsu.edu or (505) 646-3973.

Darrell J. Pehr
Sept. 15, 2006