On the seventh day, God rested.
But after seven days of over 100-degree weather in July, there’s little reprieve in sight for Albuquerque.
Monday afternoon, the temperature reached 104 degrees at the airport. Todd Shoemake, a meteorologist at the Albuquerque office of the National Weather Service, said the city has seen far more 100-degree days than usual — and it doesn’t look like the heat will be letting up anytime soon, with little chance for a July monsoon.
“(It) doesn’t look like the monsoon will make an appearance in the month,” Shoemake said, although he said some light showers could potentially bring a cooling effect.
Shoemake said that typically, Albuquerque will see between two and three 100-degree-plus days in a year. He said the temperature could reach 105 degrees Tuesday, triggering Albuquerque’s — and likely Roswell’s — first extreme heat warnings for the year. A few degrees of relief are expected for the weekend, as the temperature melts down under 100.
It’s not just thermometers that are skyrocketing.
Last week, PNM came close to hitting an all-time load peak — and company spokesman Ray Sandoval said projections indicate that Monday’s peak hours, between 4 and 8 p.m., might be a record-breaking day for energy consumption. The last record was set last summer, when usage peaked at 2,071 megawatts on July 19. On July 11, energy usage unofficially came in just under at 2,038 MW.
So far, the utility hasn’t experienced grid overload due to the heat, Sandoval said, although there’s still a typical number of outages throughout the state due to other causes. At 4:35 p.m. Monday, there were eight ongoing outages affecting 26 customers throughout the state.
Last year, there were concerns that the state could experience rolling blackouts as the utility grappled with the loss of two major energy sources — the San Juan Generating Station and some of the power that PNM receives from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona. The San Juan plant shut down in September last year, and one of the state’s leases with the nuclear generating station expired in January 2023. The utility company is now still working to fully replace the 497 MW of capacity from San Juan, and 104 MW from Palo Verde.
The utility hasn’t had to resort to rolling blackouts this summer yet, Sandoval said. And the utility has only had to take advantage of the less-extreme “demand response” measure — where customers have voluntarily given PNM permission to adjust their AC for short periods to lessen grid stress — once this summer. That was last Tuesday, when temperatures reached a high of 101 degrees between 4 and 6 p.m.
There are a couple of reasons the grid has been able to weather the weather, Sandoval said. One is that California — the “800-pound gorilla in the room” — which is typically a major competitor for electrons, has recently seen slightly cooler temperatures, leaving more energy to go around for New Mexico and other Western states.
Another is that the Pacific Northwest has seen an influx of snow and rainfall this year, creating an abundance of hydropower. In April 2021, PNM joined the Western Energy Imbalance Market, which allows the utility to buy surplus energy from other western states in lean times, and sell extra energy when there’s a surplus. Buying energy can at times be more cost-effective than using PNM’s own resources, Sandoval said.
David Morris, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, said water use has actually been down a minimal amount — about 2% — since the beginning of the year when compared to the same time last year.
But water usage spiked this month due to heat and a lack of precipitation. Water usage increased 22% when compared with last July for a total of 127 million gallons per day. Morris said the water authority is still on track to meet its goal of 136 gallons per capita per day. July is typically the top month for water usage.
Earlier this month, the water authority started an advertising campaign to raise awareness about the Water Waste Ordinance, which prohibits overspray or overflow of water onto neighboring properties, sidewalks and public rights of way, and bans sprinkler use between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. during watering season. Last watering season, the authority issued 1,300 water waste notices and 75 fines.
What’s next for weather
Shoemake said there’s currently a high pressure system sitting right on top of the state, bringing dry air and a lot of heat — the worst place for a pressure system. If the pressure system moves east toward Texas, the air, which tends to circulate clockwise around the system, should kick up some moisture from the South, creating the best monsoon conditions for the state. Moving west should also turn down the heat, Shoemake said.
The meteorologist stressed it’s important to take the heat seriously, wear light clothing, and check up on neighbors, especially young children and the elderly.
“There’s a tendency in the Southwest to say, ‘It’s a dry heat’ and ‘It’s not that bad,’” Shoemake said. “But it still can be deadly.”