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Chaves County residents learn Weather 101


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Potential Chaves County storm weather spotters learned all sorts of weather terms during two training classes held Tuesday at New Mexico Military Institute.

Kerry Jones is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque and participants learned about the pauses in the atmosphere to the dry line.

“I really enjoy doing this,” Jones said of the SKYWARN Spotter Training.

He said the NWS office in Albuquerque covers nearly 90,000 square miles from Chaves County to the Four Corners in northwest New Mexico.

“We focus our attention on severe weather, specifically thunderstorms,” Jones said.

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Jones highlighted how technology has changed weather forecasting. However, he said there are parts of New Mexico where technology can’t reach and that’s where the weather spotters come in.

He specifically talked about new satellite technology that updates weather information every minute.

He said the doppler radar nearest Roswell is located at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, which is 111 miles away. He said the limits of radar are beam blockage, which means the radar beam is blocked by mountains, towers and buildings, and general lack of coverage.

He said the other doppler radar locations are also miles and miles away from Roswell at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo and in Midland,Texas.

Jones also explained about the basic flow of severe weather information, which is “ready, set and go.”

The “ready” portion means the NWS issues a hazardous weather outlook briefing, which Jones said are issued every day, they generally cover weather information from a one-day to a seven-day timeframe.

The “set” portion means a watch or warning has been posted for a specific area. Jones said that thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings come from the Storm Predicition Center in Norman, Oklahoma, while flash flood watches come from Albuquerque.

The “go” portion means that warning conditions are imminent. He said severe thunderstorms producing hail around 1 inch and gusty winds in excess of 58 miles per hour or more are considered severe thunderstorm criteria. Warnings are also issued for flash floods and tornadoes.

Jones also emphasized the dry line boundary that pops up every spring in eastern New Mexico and western Texas.

He said the boundary means moist air stays to the east and dry air stays in the west.

“The dry line is important to us, it provides a sense of lift,” he said.

Jones also emphasized signing up for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network or CoCoRaHS.

He said that was started in Colorado more than 20 years ago and there are nearly 1,200 active members in New Mexico.

He said the U.S. Drought Monitor gets most of its input from CoCoRaHS. “That’s used every single day,” Jones said.

He added that the drought situation in the state has also gotten worse in the last year.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.

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