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New Mexico climate change and water impact report receives top national honor

From left, Dr. Fred Phillips, Anne Tillery, Dr. Nelia Dunbar, and Dr. John Metesh, Montana state geologist and president of the Association of American State Geologists (AASG), at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 15. 2023. Metesh presented the report authors from New Mexico with the John C. Frye Memorial Award from the AASG.
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October 25, 2023

A landmark report developed by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources that provides a scientific foundation for efforts to mitigate negative effects of changes to the state’s climate and impacts on water resources over the next 50 years has received a prestigious national award. Bulletin 164, Climate Change in New Mexico Over the Next 50 Years: Impacts on Water Resources, received the John C. Frye Memorial Award from the Geological Society of America (GSA) and the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) at its mid-year meeting held during the GSA annual meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 15, 2023.

Three of the report’s co-authors were on hand to accept the award: Dr. Nelia W. Dunbar, director and state geologist, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources; Dr. Fred M. Phillips, emeritus professor of hydrology at New Mexico Tech; and Anne C. Tillery, surface systems specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey New Mexico Water Science Center in Albuquerque. The three represented the publication’s authors and contributors, all leading experts in climate and weather science. Along with Dunbar and Phillips, the publication’s editors include Dr. David Gutzler, Kristin Pearthree, and Dr. Paul Bauer. In addition to Tillery, other contributing authors include Dr. Craig Allen, Dr. David DuBois, Mike Harvey, Dr. J. Phillip King, Dr. Leslie McFadden, and Dr. Bruce Thomson.

The John C. Frye Award is given each year to a nominated environmental geology publication published in the current year or one of the three preceding calendar years either by GSA or by a state geological survey. The award was established in 1989 in memory of John C. Frye, a glacial geologist by training who served as the director of the Kansas Geological Survey (1945–1954), the chief of the Illinois State Geological Survey (1954–1974), and the executive director of the GSA (1974–1982). Frye’s work is considered influential in the growth of environmental geology as a field of study.

In his nomination letter, Dr. J. Michael Timmons, deputy director of the Bureau of Geology, lauded the publication for its examination of different facets of the state’s water budget, which he said “comprehensively provides critical data and analysis of climate impacts in each area. The combined effort is compelling and the results are stark.”

Patrick D. McCarthy, water policy officer with the Santa Fe-based Thornburg Foundation, said in his nomination letter that water managers, water users, and policymakers need the best available scientific information for planning and management.

“This authoritative and well-edited publication offers information about climate impacts on water resources that is well-supported, stark, and challenging—a straightforward approach that was welcomed by New Mexico water users, community leaders, journalists, and conservation professionals alike,” he said.

John Fleck, professor of practice in water policy and governance at the University of New Mexico Department of Economics and writer in residence at the Utton Transboundary Resources Center at the UNM School of Law, praised the exceptional work of the report’s authors and its lasting impact on water resource management and climate change policy in New Mexico.

“This report serves as a prime example of the critical role that scientific boundary work plays in providing a strong foundation for good government policy,” he said in his nomination letter.

Click here to read the full report.