Critical Thresholds for Extreme Weather Events: Las Cruces, NM Case Study

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Overview

Las Cruces is located in the arid desert region of south-central New Mexico, 46 miles north of the Mexican Border. The Rio Grande flows through the city and much of the city lies within the geologic floodplain of the river. Las Cruces is the economic and geographic center of the Mesilla Valley. The primary climate and weather related concerns are monsoon thunderstorms and flooding, extreme temperatures (hot and cold), drought, and dust storms.

The study team work with local participants, who identified more than 30 thresholds of concern ranging from hot days and warm nights to potential shifts in the growing season and dust storms. While the project could not provide information on dust storms, climate projections highlight that by the end of the century, summer high temperatures will be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for two or three months. Figures below show observations and projections for the future with a lower climate change scenario (RCP 4.5 - Lower Scenario) and higher climate change scenario (RCP8.5 Higher Scenario).

The City developed and installed a demonstration rainwater harvesting project at the Safe Haven Community Center Complex, in the heart of a low-to-moderate income neighborhood, and created a green infrastructure plan for the same neighborhood. The projects aim to lessen the impacts of extreme heat events, lower the Urban Heat Island effect (through planting additional vegetation and shade trees) and reduce the impacts of flooding (through green stormwater infrastructure).

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