Mage at the NRCS was really busy yesterday. Click on the thumbnails to see the current snowpack graphs and statewide map.
Click here to go to the WWA dashboard. Scroll down for the array of graphics and the current assessment. Here’s an excerpt:
A major storm on a southerly track in late November led to much-above-average monthly precipitation for southeastern and west-central Utah and western and south-central Colorado.
Snowpacks are above normal across nearly all of the three-state region, with the wettest basins (>140% of median) in northern Wyoming, southern Utah, and the southern half of Colorado, and the driest basins (80–100% of median) in northern and central Utah and far southwestern Wyoming.
The NOAA CPC climate outlooks show a wet tilt for Wyoming over the next three months, with a slight dry tilt for southern Colorado and Utah for late winter (January–March). The NOAA PSD ‘SWcast’ is more pessimistic, showing a dry tilt for most of Colorado and Utah for late winter.
Click here to give until you hurt. From the website:
Today is Colorado Gives Day! Last year, Coloradans made an astonishing show of support for local nonprofits by donating $15.4 million in just 24 hours. A total of $15.7 million was distributed to the nonprofits, thanks to additional contributions from the FirstBank Incentive Fund and 36 cash prizes. Let’s see what we can do on Colorado Gives Day 2013!
When: 24 hours starting at 12 a.m. on Tuesday, December 10, 2013
How: Donate online through this website
Why: To support the nonprofits that protect and nurture quality of life in Colorado
From KRDO (Emily Allen):
The task force conducted it’s first ever official poll to help brainstorm solutions for the region’s stormwater problems.
“We wanted to have some good, solid data on what citizens are thinking,” said Rachel Beck with the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force. “We wanted to have some good solid data and not just be guessing.”
It worked with an independent group to survey 400 people in the Pikes Peak region.
Ninety-five percent say flood control is important. Ninety-five percent say stormwater has had a serious impact on the community. Some 59 percent say the current stormwater system is in poor or not so good condition.
“This is much stronger support than we would have expected,” said Beck…
Beck said the poll is insightful, but there is still disagreement about how to solve the problem.
“As you drill down to who manages the program and how we pay for it and the real specific things, there is less agreement on that and that’s where we are going to have to have a lot more conversation,” said Beck.
Al Brody said he sat on a stormwater task force between 2005 and 2006. He is no longer on the task force, but he still wants the community’s stormwater issues resolved. He said tackling new projects is not the solution.
“Emergency management becomes the key factor and not building and building and building bigger infrastructure to get the water out because 99.9 percent of the time you don’t need it, you need it for that one flash flood and it’s devastating but it will be devastating to people and property no matter what,” said Brody.
The task force will use results from the poll to come up with solutions. Beck said any solution will be approved by voters before moving forward.
Temps run above average, especially nighttime lows
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — After going gangbusters in October, snowfall tapered off to near average in November, with about 20.1 inches if the white stuff piling up in downtown Breckenridge, where observer Rick Bly tracks daily totals for the National Weather Service. For the weather year to-date (starting Oct. 1), Bly has measured 40.6 inches of snow, about 19 percent above average.
Colorado Basin Roundtable advises the Front Range to look elsewhere for new supplies #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlanDecember 9, 2013
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Colorado can’t have less water running west down the Colorado River, a coalition of water agencies and organizations said in a missive that urged state officials contemplating a state water plan to look elsewhere.
“The West Slope of Colorado, indeed no part of Colorado, can be sacrificed for Front Range growth,” the Colorado River Basin Roundtable said.
It would be “unrealistic to look for significant new supplies of water for the East Slope from the Colorado River as a primary source,” the roundtable said, noting that any new depletions of water from the Colorado River boost the risk that downstream states will demand water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.
The roundtable’s position paper was presented to the Interbasin Compact Committee last week in Golden. The committee will play a role in the drafting of a state water plan. There, said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado River Basin position was largely understood.
Most of the state’s transmountain diversions siphon water away from the Colorado and into Front Range waterworks.
“Somebody has already given at the office,” Kuhn said. “They’ve given and given.”
Kuhn is a governor’s appointee to the Interbasin Compact Committee.
Gov. John Hickenlooper charged the Colorado River Water Conservation Board with delivering a draft plan by December 2014 and a final plan by December 2015. One element of the plan is finding a new supply of water and the roundtable said the term “new supply” amounts to a euphemism for another transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system. Any new transmountain diversion must be a last option “after all means of significant conservation, reuse, land use and agricultural transfers based on substantial improvements in efficient water use are exhausted,” the roundtable said.
Several Colorado River water agencies and Denver Water have signed onto a cooperative agreement that includes additional development of Colorado River water for the Front Range.
Those projects should be completed before any new diversions are contemplated, Kuhn said.
The Colorado River basin already supplies between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water to the East Slope for growing cities, farms and industries. Under the compact, the Upper Colorado River Basin is required to deliver 7.5 million acre feet of water to the lower basin. That amount is figured on a 10-year rolling average.
State officials, including Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund, have urged statewide participation in drafting the plan. A plan emanating from Denver would be “anathema” to the rest of the state, Eklund said at the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Conference at Colorado Mesa University last month.
Whatever comes out of the state plan, it should “protect and not threaten the economic, environmental and social well-being of the West Slope,” the roundtable said.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation or result in other improvements that address water supply sustainability in the West.
The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R14AS00001.
Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:
Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete. It is expected that a majority of awards will be made in this funding group. Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given fiscal year to complete each phase. This will provide an opportunity for larger, multiple-year projects to receive some funding in the first year without having to compete for funding in the second and third years.
Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.
In 2013, Reclamation awarded more than $20 million for 44 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. These projects were estimated to save about 100,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to serve a population of about 400,000 people.
The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.
Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 23, 2014. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.
To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.
More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.
Here’s a recap of a presentation about the future of oil shale at Rifle Community College on November 19, written by Mike McKibbin for the Rifle Citizen-Telegram. Here’s an excerpt:
The long sought-after petroleum product is infamous for its long-held promise of economic benefits, high-paying jobs and what sounds like an almost non-ending supply to meet America’s growing energy needs.
But while that reality has proved elusive for centuries, some, such as Glenn Vawter, executive director of the National Oil Shale Association, are ever optimistic. The nonprofit group promotes factual information about oil shale…
“I firmly believe we will some day see oil shale become a reality, and 75 percent of the world’s oil shale is in the U.S.,” Vawter said. “It’s already been produced commercially for decades in Brazil, Estonia and China.”[...]
The underground mining processes used by companies such as Unocal, which produced 10,000 barrels of shale oil a day during its limited operation, totaled five-million barrels and was proven feasible, Vawter said.
The in-situ process that companies are now developing has the advantage of no mining, Vawter said.
Currently, research, design and development projects on Bureau of Land Management leases are underway by American Shale Oil, ExxonMobil and Natural Soda in western Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, along with Red Leaf Resources and Enefit American Oil in Utah.
“It was discouraging that Shell recently announced they were pulling out,” Vawter said. “But Red Leaf plans to start commercial production of up to 10,000 barrels a day in Utah next year. There’s a lot going on over there in Utah. They have policies that are more welcoming to energy and oil shale industries.”
Enefit has operated shale oil projects in Estonia for decades, Vawter pointed out, with a proven technology.
And Vawter pointed to a recent U.S. Geological Survey estimate of 4.3 trillion barrels of shale oil in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Of that, Vawter said up to 1.14 billion barrels are now considered recoverable. That is up to six times more than the total oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and significantly more than known U.S. conventional oil resources.
“There are places in the Piceance Basin that are estimated to have one million barrels in just one acre,” Vawter said. “The Piceance Basin could have up to 152 trillion barrels.”
Water used in the oil shale process has often been cited by opponents as a large hurdle, Vawter said, but current processes for a 1.5 million barrel per day project would require just 2 to 3 percent of an estimated 8 million acre feet per year of water in the Colorado River.
“That’s not an insignificant amount, but it’s far less than some still believe,” he said…
From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):
Leticia Rivera’s son has a birthday coming up this month and, this year, his birthday wish is simple. He wants a home to live in, Rivera said, as she stood in a semi-circle among her neighbors at Greeley West High School on Thursday, all of them past residents of Eastwood Village mobile home park, which was wiped out in the flood. “Pobrecito,” Rivera said. “Poor thing.” For the past two months, Rivera, her 8-year-old son and her husband have been living out of a suitcase, traveling from one friend’s home to the next each week so that they can stay in the Greeley area and keep their son in the same school, she said.
Rivera said after a community meeting at the high school that the family plans to move into a mobile home provided by FEMA as soon as the agency places them. That should be soon, but like the rest of those who lost their homes in the flood, FEMA has had a hard time finding any vacancies. It’s one of an array of challenges in Greeley and Evans, where apartment vacancies have hit an 18-year low, and in Milliken, where few affordable housing options exist. Read the rest of this entry »
Allen Best: The risk is that water may not be there some years. Or a lot of years. #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlanDecember 8, 2013
Here’s a guest column about the possible effects of low flow into Lake Powell, written by Allen Best that is running in The Denver Post:
Skimpy-clothed people splashing amid the red sandstone canyons of Utah define our images of Lake Powell. But six months ago, engineers and water officials from the seven states of the Colorado River Basin quietly met in Santa Fe to consider a more serious possibility: Continued drought could leave too little water in the reservoir for the eight giant turbines in Glen Canyon Dam to produce electricity.
The turbines can produce great amounts of electricity, 1,320 megawatts at full throttle, or roughly twice as much as the Cherokee power plants north of downtown Denver. In practice, the volume runs half that. Most rural electrical cooperatives in the Rocky Mountains states buy power from Glen Canyon through their wholesale supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, as does Xcel Energy.
The average $150 million in revenues from this power generation are a federal cash cow. The money paid for construction of Glen Canyon and other dams authorized by Congress in 1958, but also funds salinity control such as in the Paradox Valley west of Telluride and the endangered fish recovery program, including the 15-mile segment of the Colorado River from Palisade into Grand Junction.
What if the Colorado River Basin has another bum year for snow? Inflows into Lake Powell during the last two years were 25 percent and then 47 percent as compared to the rolling 30-year average. If the years 2001-2003 were about as bad, here’s the difference: in 1999, Lake Powell was full. In recent years, despite a few big snow years, the reservoir has often displayed big “bathtub rings.” Right now, it’s 43 percent of capacity. Drought has been our more steady companion of the 21st century. This extended drought, in duration and depth, surpasses any since gauges were installed in the Colorado River Basin in 1906. However, extensive study of tree rings in the basin suggest worse and even longer drought sequences have occurred in the Southwest, especially 900 years ago. Whether this drought will also continue is anybody’s guess, but Colorado and other states decided it best to plan in case it does. On Thursday, at a meeting in Golden, officials for the first time shared some of their pending strategies.
John McClow of Gunnison, who is Colorado’s representative on the Upper Basin Compact Commission, said if snow lags again this winter, reservoirs on two tributary rivers — Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green and Navajo on the San Juan — can be tapped to allow the Glen Canyon generators to produce electricity. The trio of reservoirs near Gunnison — Blue Mesa, Curecanti and Morrow Point — are already too low to be of much value, he said. Other federal reservoirs — Ruedi near Basalt, Green Mountain near Kremmling, and Granby — are not part of the same system.
If the drought deepens, other small-gain strategies can be deployed: stepped-up cloud seeding and more aggressive efforts to remove water-gobbling salt cedar, i.e., tamarisk, an invasive species, from river banks. Still other strategies being weighed include idling of agriculture land —even crimping of some transmountain diversions, which normally divert 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water each year in Colorado from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range and eastern plains. But whatever strategies are adopted, McClow stressed, Colorado alone wouldn’t bear the burden.
Why not just forego the electricity? That remains an option, but it would invite the federal government to become a decision-maker in water matters. Almost fiercely, the states prefer to chart their own course.
This newest twist at Lake Powell is different from a curtailment under the 1922 Colorado River Water Compact. Colorado and other upper-basin states are in no imminent danger of failing to deliver the water specified for delivery at Lee’s Ferry, at the head of the Grand Canyon, as required by the compact, said McClow, nor is that likely to occur at any time soon. For that matter, the prospect of a Lake Powell “dead pool”- too little water to generate power – isn’t high probability next summer. Computer modeling suggets a 5 to 7 percent chance.
Yet this sharpening razor’s edge at between water supply and demand may be instructive. At one level it represents the intersection of water and energy. In California, one-fifth of all energy is devoted to moving around water. In Colorado, it’s lower. But everywhere, particularly the West, water is dependent on energy, and producing energy is dependent on water.
More immediately, this reminds us of risk. Some people think that Colorado’s growing urban areas need to develop the state’s remaining raw water supplies from the Colorado River Basin. The risk is that water may not be there some years. Or a lot of years. We just don’t know.
Allen Best of Arvada publishes Mountain Town News (http://http://mountaintownnews.net/).
September’s flooding leaves the question, ‘What if it comes at the wrong time?’: Chris Woodka #COfloodDecember 8, 2013
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
What can the Arkansas River basin learn from flooding in Northern Colorado in September?
Some impacts of the historic floods on ditches will take years to sort out, said Sean Cronin, executive director of the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District in Longmont. He spoke at an American Ground Water Trust conference last week. More than half of the 95 ditches and reservoirs within the district reported damage from the flood.
Damage totals are still unknown, but could easily absorb the $2.3 million in grants and $40 million in loans made available by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Many ditches already have made quick repairs, but some reservoirs and diversions could take years to repair. In some cases streams shifted from their historic channels.
“We got the message out early that nobody’s riding in on a white horse,” Cronin said. “We told our ditch companies ‘you need to do this.’ ”
The district is helping ditch companies navigate through processes to obtain permits or relief through state and federal agencies.
While Cronin described the impacts on areas in Boulder County, implications for the Arkansas River basin could be gleaned from his presentation.
Before the flood
Numerous small gravel-pit reservoirs are in the St. Vrain River watershed between Lyons and Longmont.
“They’re attractive because no permits are required, but they became unzipped from Lyons to Longmont,” Cronin said.
In the Arkansas River basin, a series of small retention ponds has been suggested as a way to reduce peak flows from a large,100-year flood on Fountain Creek, the Arkansas River’s largest tributary. The last 100-year flood on Fountain Creek occurred in 1965, but would be much heavier now because of growth in Colorado Springs. A demonstration pond in Pueblo, similar to the type proposed, suffered some damage to its outer wall from a much smaller flood during September. A U.S. Geological Survey study shows that 10 ponds between Colorado Springs and Pueblo would reduce the peak flow by 47.7 percent, but would have little impact on huge loads of sediment that would be expected in a 100-year flood.
During the flood
There was some capacity in ditches in the St. Vrain watershed to redirect some of the flows as flooding occurred, until reservoirs in the system were completely overwhelmed during five days of rain.
During the same period, in the Arkansas Basin, ditches in the La Junta area cooperatively moved water from a “wave” from El Paso County that migrated down Fountain Creek and into the Arkansas River. Coupled with tamarisk removal from the river channel through La Junta, the peak was reduced to avoid the type of damage North La Junta incurred during 1999 floods.
The historic 1965 Fountain Creek flood in the Arkansas River basin caused $37.5 million in damage, much of it to cities and farms east of Pueblo, as well as Pueblo’s East Side.
Diverting some of the water on Fountain Creek, either to Chico Creek or to an off-channel reservoir, has been suggested and modeled in the USGS study. The alternative would not be as effective as either a large dam or a series of smaller ponds.
After the flood
Protection of junior water rights often is mentioned during discussion of detention of water on Fountain Creek.
After the September flooding in the South Platte basin, the Colorado Division of Water Resources measured the impact of groundwater interception of increased flows during the flood. While groundwater levels rose rapidly during flooding, they decreased quickly as the river level dropped. The net gain to the system after the majority of water rushed past was about 7.8 percent.
“The question comes up, ‘does that erase the depletions from past well pumping?’ ” said Kevin Rein, deputy state engineer.
The state’s answer was “no.” The additional water was not allocated to junior water rights, but divvied up through the same priority system that satisfies senior rights first.
Of course the most devastating impact of a flood is damage to infrastructure. The state has reconstructed the roads destroyed by the September flooding on a temporary basis, and it will be years before they are completely rebuilt. For ditch companies, the questions of rebuilding become more complicated and problematic.
While any ditch would welcome more water, September’s flooding leaves the question, “What if it comes at the wrong time?”
Snowpack news (% of normal): Upper Colorado = 120; South Platte = 116; Arkansas = 143; Upper Rio Grande = 145; Gunnison = 139; Yampa & White = 123; San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan = 141December 7, 2013
From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):
…for meteorologists, climatologists and water district officials, it’s too early to celebrate an already above-average snowpack, or to anticipate reaping the benefits when spring runoff hits.
“Early snow is better than no snow,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We don’t put a lot of emphasis on the early numbers before you get us into February and March.”
Still, the early snowpack numbers for the hills west of Fort Collins look good; levels at two crucial Fort Collins reservoirs, Joe Wright and Deadman Lake, are above average. Averages are measured by snow water equivalents — essentially, a sample of snow that is then melted and measured. At Joe Wright Reservoir, snowpack is 13 percent above average for this time of year, and the snow water equivalent is at 4.5 inches. Deadman Lake snowpack levels are 39 percent above average, with a snow water equivalent of 7.1 inches, according to the National Weather Service…
Until September, when catastrophic floods hit the Front Range, most of Colorado was in some stage of moderate to extreme drought. Even with the heavy snows, it took up to a foot of rain in most places to banish the drought completely in northern and central Colorado.
“September has given us such a shot in the arm that we will end up, in the 2013 calendar year, at least a couple of inches above the long-term (precipitation levels),” said Nolan Doesken, director of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University.
Much of the glut of September rain is still in the ground, and has not yet been depleted by streams, Doesken said. The Cache la Poudre River Basin, the watershed that feeds Fort Collins, has likely retained a lot of moisture after the September floods.
“Our basin has a lot of water in the soils as well as a good start to the snowpack,” Doesken said.
From Transworld.net (Gerhard Gross):
A powerful and well-timed winter storm swept across the western U.S. Tuesday and Wednesday, touching each one of Vail Resorts’ mountains and leaving up to 14 inches of new snow in its wake.
From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):
Despite some decent helpings of early snowfall this autumn, what locals and visitors had been hoping for finally came — an estimated 14-inch dumping of powder atop Aspen Mountain and 12 inches on Snowmass ski area late Tuesday and much of Wednesday.
In fact, Mother Nature was generous throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, dropping about 11 inches in the city of Aspen, 9 or 10 inches in the Basalt area and a similar amount in Glenwood Springs. The estimates from each area vary, depending on the source and the precise location…
The next significant snowfall event is not expected until Saturday, Boudreau said. It’s not predicted to have quite the same impact as the Tuesday-Wednesday storm, but could bring 3 to 5 inches on Saturday and maybe more on Sunday, according to Cory Gates, also of http://aspenweather.net.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:
Weather-watchers reported .54 inches of precipitation on Wednesday — in the form of 5.9 inches of snowfall recorded. That bested precipitation and snowfall totals for the day — .35 in precipitation in 1944 and 3.7 inches of snow recorded in 1972.
Storm snowfall totals from across the region revealed the real impact the storm had in multiple spots.
In Garfield County, 30 inches of snow were measured at Douglas Pass over the course of the storm, and 17 inches of snow were recorded in New Castle.
In Delta County, 8 inches fell in Paonia and 5 inches were recorded in Hotchkiss.
The measurements were similarly mixed across Mesa County.
A measuring site at the Skyway on Grand Mesa tallied 10.5 inches of snow, while 9 inches were recorded on the Redlands and 7 inches on Glade Park, according to weather service data.
Eagle River Watershed Council: Hydraulic Fracturing & Water an informational panel, Wednesday December 11thDecember 7, 2013
From KUNC (Maeve Conran):
There’s popular launch site for rafters a few miles east of Glenwood Springs. It’s right beneath Interstate 70, and is in front of an old tan brick building, set back into the canyon wall. Chances are, highway drivers might not even see this place. But it’s the reason the rafting is so good here all the time.
The Shoshone Hydro Plant, built to harness Colorado River water and turn it into 15 megawatts of electricity has two nine-foot tall turbines, which were manufactured and installed in 1906 and are still humming along today. It’s the linchpin of the river, according to Jim Pokrandt, Education and Outreach Specialist with the Colorado River District.
“Not because of producing electricity,” said Pokrandt. “But because it takes water to produce that electricity, and that water is supplied via a 1902 water right for 1250 CFS. That’s the biggest, oldest water right on the river.”
1250 CFS, or cubic feet per second, is a lot of water. It’s labeled “non-consumptive use,” which means the water is not taken out of the river to grow food or flush toilets. It flows onto the turbines and right back out—sustaining an important part of the local economy: rafting, kayaking and fishing.
Maintaining that primary water right is critical to keeping flow levels adequate for the turbines, and to help create rapids.
Pokrandt says Shoshone also helps towns that draw water from the river, because the high flows the plant requires helps keep the water cleaner.
“Silt, Rifle, Parachute and Clifton are all taking drinking water out of the Colorado River,” said Pokrandt. “The greater the flow, the less intensive you have to treat the water.”
Agriculture in the Grand Valley also benefits from Shoshone’s water right.
Mel Rettig is a vegetable and fruit farmer in Palisade, about 80 miles southwest of the Shoshone plant. Rettig says the higher flows due to Shoshone help keep salinity levels low…
Some West Slope water irrigators who depend on Shoshone would love to buy the plant and its water right to protect the interests of the Grand Valley. A 15-megawatt output is small by today’s standards — modern power plants produce hundreds of megawatts. But Xcel continues to invest millions in maintenance at the plant and the utility says they have no plans to sell Shoshone or its water rights…
“This little, old, two turbine, 15-megawatt 1905 vintage power plant in Glenwood Canyon,” said Pokrandt. “It doesn’t look like much but it’s a big dog on the river.”
Click here to read the discussion. Here’s an excerpt:
Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected to continue into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014.
During November, ENSO-neutral persisted, as reflected by near-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. SST anomalies in all of the Niño regions were small, but showed increases in the Niño-3.4 and Niño-4 regions. The oceanic heat content (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) increased due to the eastward propagation of a downwelling oceanic Kelvin wave. This increased heat content reflects above-average subsurface temperatures across the Pacific. The wind anomalies remained small at lower and upper levels during the month. Equatorial convection was suppressed in the central equatorial Pacific and enhanced over Indonesia. Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic conditions reflect ENSO-neutral. The majority of model forecasts indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) will persist into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014. While current forecast probabilities are still greatest for ENSO-neutral by mid-summer, there is an increasing chance for the development of El Niño. The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).
Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
The Colorado flood recovery team continues to make progress in helping communities rebuild from the September floods. Here is an update of recovery efforts:
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) contracted with a debris removal company to help residents in the Big Thompson Canyon dispose of certain materials removed from homes during flood cleanup efforts. The contractor is scheduled to remove debris during the weeks of Dec. 9 and Dec. 23. Residents in the area will be asked to place debris alongside the U.S. 34 right-of-way. For more information, residents can contact the CDOT flood information hotline at (720) 263-1589. CDOT implemented flood mitigation measures for the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar along U.S. Highway 24 — including stabilizing slopes and creating sediment ponds. Boulder completed the “Left Hand Creek Flood Control Project” that included upgrading bridges and channel capacity to keep storm water in the channel and away from neighborhood homes. The Boulder Creek Path, a heavily used commuting pathway will reopen this week, with only a small section from Pearl Parkway to Goose Creek Path, east of Foothills Parkway still closed. With completion of major sewer line repairs, remaining areas in Estes Park have been removed from the “No-Flush Zone.” Lyons elementary, middle school and senior high students are back in their schools this week. Some 700 students attended classes at the Main Street School in Longmont since the September flood.
Meanwhile, Reclamation has started moving water through the Adams Tunnel again. The pumps had been off since the flooding in September. Here’s a report from Leia Larsen writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. Here’s an excerpt:
The Bureau of Reclamation stopped pumping in mid-September after heavy rains in Estes Park and the Front Range. Crews were working to repair damage and dredge sediment loads from reservoirs caused by the ensuing floods in the Estes Park area. As of Wednesday, Nov. 27, the Bureau began running around 60 cubic feet per second through the tunnel. Most years, it runs around 550 cfs by mid-December to refill Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs. According to public information officer Kara Lamb, the Bureau of Reclamation is still hoping to meet that schedule this season.
Currently, Lake Granby is at about 72 percent full.
“We’re probably going to see that tick down a little bit as we starting running more (water) through the tunnel,” Lamb said. “But right now, Lake Granby is staying pretty even since we’re not taking that much.”
From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:
…IMPROVEMENT IN DROUGHT CONDITIONS CONTINUES ACROSS SOUTHWEST
AND SOUTH CENTRAL COLORADO…
NOVEMBER OF 2013 STARTED ON A WARM AND DRY NOTE ACROSS MOST OF SOUTH CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST COLORADO. A CHANGING WEATHER PATTERN THEN BROUGHT COOL AND WET WEATHER THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE MONTH…ESPECIALLY ACROSS THE SOUTHWEST MOUNTAINS AND THE SAN LUIS VALLEY. UNFORTUNATELY…MUCH OF THIS BENEFICIAL PRECIPITATION MISSED THE SOUTHEAST PLAINS…PERPETUATING THE DROUGHT…ESPECIALLY ACROSS PORTIONS OF THE LOWER ARKANSAS RIVER VALLEY.
WITH THIS IN MIND…THE LATEST US DROUGHT MONITOR NOW INDICATES DROUGHT FREE CONDITIONS ACROSS MOST OF MINERAL COUNTY…AS WELL AS EXTREME SOUTHWESTERN RIO GRANDE COUNTY AND EXTREME NORTHWESTERN CONEJOS COUNTY. DROUGHT FREE CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO BE DEPICTED ACROSS LAKE COUNTY…EASTERN TELLER COUNTY…SOUTHWESTERN THROUGH EXTREME NORTHEASTERN EL PASO COUNTY…EASTERN FREMONT COUNTY AND EXTREME NORTHWESTERN PUEBLO COUNTY.
ABNORMALLY DRY (D0) CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO BE INDICATED ACROSS WESTERN FREMONT COUNTY…WESTERN TELLER COUNTY…SOUTH CENTRAL THROUGH NORTHEASTERN EL PASO COUNTY…NORTHWESTERN PUEBLO COUNTY…CUSTER COUNTY…WESTERN HUERFANO COUNTY AND WESTERN LAS ANIMAS COUNTY. ABNORMALLY DRY (D0) CONDITIONS ALSO REMAIN DEPICTED ACROSS CHAFFEE COUNTY…SAGUACHE COUNTY…NORTHERN MINERAL COUNTY…THE REST OF RIO GRANDE AND CONEJOS COUNTIES…AS WELL AS ALAMOSA COUNTY AND COSTILLA COUNTY.
MODERATE DROUGHT (D1) CONDITIONS REMAIN DEPICTED ACROSS MOST OF THE REST OF EL PASO AND PUEBLO COUNTIES…THE REST OF HUERFANO COUNTY…CENTRAL LAS ANIMAS COUNTY AND MOST OF BACA COUNTY.
SEVERE DROUGHT (D2) CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO BE INDICATED ACROSS EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN EL PASO COUNTY AND EXTREME EASTERN PUEBLO COUNTY…MOST OF THE REST OF LAS ANIMAS COUNTY…NORTHWESTERN BACA
COUNTY…EASTERN BENT COUNTY…PROWERS COUNTY AND EASTERN KIOWA COUNTY.
EXTREME DROUGHT (D3) CONDITIONS REMAIN DEPICTED ACROSS MOST OF CROWLEY COUNTY…WESTERN OTERO COUNTY…WESTERN BENT COUNTY…EXTREME NORTH CENTRAL LAS ANIMAS COUNTY…AND WESTERN AND CENTRAL KIOWA
EXCEPTIONAL (D4) DROUGHT CONDITIONS CONTINUE ACROSS SOUTHEASTERN CROWLEY COUNTY…EASTERN OTERO COUNTY…SOUTHWESTERN KIOWA COUNTY AND EXTREME WESTERN BENT COUNTY.
From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):
Like the crime scene investigators on television, researchers in northern Colorado will be taking an intense look at water wells throughout the oil patch in a demonstration study in the coming months to determine changes in the water over time. Conducted through Colorado State University in partnership with Noble Energy, the Colorado Water Watch demonstration project will soon begin water table monitoring in test wells at roughly 10 Noble production sites in a real-time look at how the water changes.
“It was conceived not so much as a research project but as a tool to provide information to the public,” said project lead researcher Ken Carlson, an associate professor Civil and Environmental Engineering at CSU. “The oil and gas industry is taking the initiative here to provide some visibility.” Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s the article from NOAA:
Models project that extreme dust events combined with global warming could advance the spring thaw in the mountains of the Upper Colorado River Basin by as many as 6 weeks by 2050. The earlier disappearance of snow could amplify water disputes, extend the fire season, and stress aquatic ecosystems.
The maps at right suggest one strategy that water managers in the West could use to lessen the impacts of climate change: reduce blowing dust. Each image shows model projections of how much earlier in the spring the “snow-all-gone” day would arrive by 2050 compared to today based on the same amount of warming but different levels of dust. Positive days (brown) mean the snow disappears earlier in the spring.
The mountain snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin is a natural, frozen reservoir that melts its way into streams and rivers throughout late spring and early summer. Some years, huge amounts of dust blow in from the Southwest, dirtying the snow. The darker snow absorbs more sunlight and melts faster than normal. In those years, the spring thaw—marked by the arrival of the “snow-all-gone” date—can arrive more than a month earlier than normal.
If better soil conservation brought dust down to low levels (left-most map), models project that the average snow-all-gone date would increase by fewer than 20 days (lighter browns) for most of the area (this is for a relatively high greenhouse gas emissions scenario). In a few areas, snow might even linger a bit longer (green areas) than it currently does because models also project some localized increases in snowfall in high, cold terrain.
But regular occurrence of extreme dust levels (right-most map)—which researchers modeled after unprecedented dust conditions witnessed in 2009 and 2010—could lead to winter snows disappearing 40 or more days (darkest browns) earlier in the spring than they currently do. Given that the snow-all-gone date already arrives about three weeks earlier than it once did, the change would amount to a roughly nine-week advance in the snow-all-gone date.
The early disappearance of snow could further add to water supply problems in the already over-allocated river, especially in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which lacks the big reservoirs of the Lower Colorado. Earlier arrival of snow-all-gone dates also means a longer dry season, which would increase fire risk and stress aquatic ecosystems.
The Colorado River supplies water to an estimated 40 million people in the United States and Mexico, and it is already the focal point of heated water disputes among cities, farmers, ranchers, and agencies that protect wildlife. Presently, dust has a bigger impact on spring melt than warming. Climate change alone is likely to advance the snow-all-gone date in the Upper Colorado River Basin, but high levels of dust will only make the problem worse.
The new research identifies a risk to water supplies, but suggests an opportunity for adaptation. The high levels of dust blowing out of the Southwest are due to more than a century of inadequate soil conservation in the area’s dry, fragile soils. Restoring landscapes that have been damaged—by grazing, mining, energy exploration and development, farming, and off-road travel—to reduce blowing dust could keep a potentially manageable problem from turning into a major one.
— John Hickenlooper (@hickforco) December 5, 2013
Meanwhile the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Sarah Jane Kyle) reports that there are snags in the distribution of recovery dough:
Throughout the fall, concerts, T-shirts and feel-good fundraisers championed the hundreds of flood survivors who were put out of their homes and away from their livelihoods. Donors were assured their dollars would make a difference in their lives.
Relief organizations say they’ll soon start using those dollars to get survivors…
The American Red Cross raised $6.3 million designated flood relief funds to put toward the organization’s anticipated $6.7 million cost of flood relief. The Long-Term Recovery Group, a collection of agencies with the United Way as a fiscal agent, has raised $921,750.41 as of Nov. 30. Catholic Charities expects to raise around $50,000 to help with flood-related needs.
Other agencies, such as Habitat for Humanity, have a small fund set aside in case a need arises. Loveland Habitat has about $500 in a fund so far but has not been actively fundraising, according to Executive Director Gwen Stephenson.
The dollars are allocated to various needs, including housing, item replacement and filling “unmet needs.” But most haven’t begun doling out dollars, and others are just beginning that process.