Santa Fe's Weather

By Richard McCord

Articles by Richard McCord

March 1998-With the city elections staring us in the face, I suppose I should reflect upon it here. But instead I'm going to write about . .  . the weather. So many, many words have already been said about the election that they drift into a monotone. But every day we are shocked by another weather-related calamity.

Florida gets the worst tornadoes in its history, with 38 dead and counting. Weeks after week torrential rains inundate California, sweeping people to horrible deaths in gigantic mudslides. Fishing boats are capsized off the Carolina coast. Entire New England forests are leveled by ice storms. And that's just in America-much of the world is hurting, too.

Most of this year's devastating weather is being blamed on El Nino, the periodic massing of abnormally warm water in the mid-Pacific. Yet meteorological catastrophes strike with or without such an excuse. Not a year passes without disaster.

Just last winter the northern plains were buried under record snows, followed by the worst spring flooding ever in North Dakota and Minnesota. We all remember the litter-strewn nothingness where Florida communities were blown off the Earth by Hurricane Andrew. We recall when the Mississippi River was three or four miles wide in 1993, and levees were giving way all along its course. We recall blizzards that paralyzed cities like Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York, and tornadoes that cut swaths through Louisville and Dallas. I remember flash floods in Arizona and California that obliterated desert Interstate highways and drowned hikers and campers.

My point is this: Whether from luck, geography or the grace of God, Santa Fe never seems to get any killer weather! Is our little corner of the world the only place so blessed?

With the city's political course now up for grabs, perhaps it is frivolous to be talking weather. Yet faces at City Hall come and go-but during all my years here, since May 1971, Santa Fe's gentle climate has been remarkably constant.

Curiously, the last truly severe weather to hit Santa Fe came just months before my arrival. In January 1971 the worst cold spell in New Mexico history took Santa Fe down to 47 below zero. Despite the cold, however, only three deaths were reported statewide.

Over the next 27 years, Santa Fe and New Mexico have seen enough extremes in weather to keep things interesting, but not to wreak havoc. On three occasions I have shivered through 12-below-zero nights, but nothing lower than that. And believe it or not, until 1994 Santa Fe had never officially registered a 100-degree day in National Weather Service records. But then the mark fell, and recent heat waves have notched it up a bit.

We've had some fierce snowstorms through the years, and people and livestock have died in them. But none really counted as monumental disasters. The 1996 drought, with forest fires and water shortages, qualified as a crisis-but not when compared to the hellish droughts and infernos that tormented California this year. We never even rationed water.

No, when asked my idea of a perfect climate, I simply describe Santa Fe's: four distinct seasons; cold nights and sunny days in winter, with snow mixed in; hot days and cool nights in summer, with clouds and rain and hail mixed in; glorious sun-drenched autumns, with bracing temperatures; and unpredictable springs, sometimes mellow, sometimes windblown.

And even now, in this year of the mighty El Nino, look what we're getting: mild winter days, week after week yet with plenty of snow in the mountains for skiers and for next summer's water. Nowhere in the country has it any better.

Now if only the new crew at City Hall can do as well. Whatever happens on Election Day, I feel we'll be OK. And unless I jinxed it with this article, I think the weather will be, too.


Santa Fe averages 300 days of sunshine, 14 inches of rain and 17.5 inches of snow a year. High temperature is usually just after midday; low is just before dawn.

                                                Average                      Average

                                                High/Low                   High/Low

Month                                     Fahrenheit                  Celsius

January                                    42/19                           5/-7

February                                  48/24                           8/-4

March                                      55/28                           13/-2

April                                       64/33                           18/0

May                                         72/42                           22/5

June                                         83/51                           28/10

July                                          86/56                           30/13

August                                     83/54                           28/12

September                               78/48                           25/9

October                                   67/37                           19/3

November                               52/26                           11/-3

December                                44/19                       6/-7 


Articles by Richard McCord

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