NOAA: What’s the hottest Earth has been “lately”?

September 21, 2014

Ride the global temperature anomaly -- NOAA September 2014

Ride the global temperature anomaly — NOAA September 2014


This article is the second of two articles describing the hottest time periods in Earth’s history.

Throughout its 4.54-billion-year history, Earth has experienced multiple periods of temperatures hotter than today’s. But as far as the “recent” past, a study published in March 2013 concluded that global average temperature is now higher than it has been for most of the last 11,300 years.

The scientists assembled dozens of temperature records from multiple studies, including data from sediment cores drilled in lake bottoms and sea floors, and from ice cores. Assembling data from 73 records that overlap in time, the scientists pieced together global average temperatures since the end of the last ice age.

The 11,000-year temperature reconstruction shows global average temperature increasing after the end of the last ice age and leveling off about 7550 and 3550 BC. After that time, global temperatures dropped until the “Little Ice Age,” bottoming out somewhere between AD 1450 and 1850. Afterwards temperatures rose again, first slowly then very rapidly. (The estimated temperatures for the past 1,500 years correlated with previous research that covered the same time period.)

Natural variability can explain much of the temperature variation since the end of the last ice age, resulting from factors such as changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Over the past century, though, global average temperatures have “risen from near the coldest to the warmest levels” in the past 11,300 years, the 2013 study authors explain. Over this same period, emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have increased.

Given the uncertainty inherent in estimating ancient temperatures, the scientists conservatively concluded that the last decade has brought global average temperatures higher than they have been for at least 75 percent of the last 11,300 years. The recent increase in global average temperature is so abrupt compared to the rest of the time period that when the scientists make a graph of the data, the end of the line is nearly vertical.

What about the future? To project future temperatures, the research team used greenhouse gas emission scenarios outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis report, and the authors expect the steep increase to continue through the year 2100 regardless of which one of the emission scenarios from the 2007 report is considered.

For most of the past 10,000 years, global average temperature has remained relatively stable and low compared to earlier hothouse conditions in our planet’s history. Now, temperature is among the highest experienced not only in the “recent” past—the past 11,000 years or so, during which modern human civilization developed—but also probably for a much longer period.

Carrie Morrill of the National Climatic Data Center explains, “You’d have to go back to the last interglacial [warm period between ice ages] about 125,000 years ago to find temperatures significantly higher than temperatures of today.”

Leading the way with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

September 19, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System opened in 2004

Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System opened in 2004

By Dave Noel,who recently retired from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science after serving for 10 years as vice president of facilities, capital projects and sustainability.

In 2009, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science initiated the design process for the Morgridge Family Exploration Center, a new addition designed with the primary goal of being a green facility to support the museum’s mission of being a leader in sustainability.

And, with water being the most valuable commodity in the West, the museum partnered with Denver Water to implement an innovative and efficient system using recycled water. The recycled water runs through pipes that are buried deep underground in a process known as geothermal exchange. The earth maintains consistent temperatures throughout the year, so the water in the pipe is cooled by the earth in…

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Colorado River District Annual Seminar #ColoradoRiver

September 19, 2014
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

I’ll be live-Tweeting the Colorado River District Annual Seminar today assuming that I can find Two Rivers Convention Center from the bike trail from my camp spot in Fruita. I don’t know what hash tag we’ll be using yet so follow along (@CoyoteGulch).

Study: We found the evidence suggested that fracking was not to blame…was actually a well integrity issue

September 19, 2014
Groundwater movement via the USGS

Groundwater movement via the USGS

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Seth Borenstein):

The drilling procedure called fracking didn’t cause much-publicized cases of tainted groundwater in areas of the states of Pennsylvania and Texas, a new study finds. Instead, it blames the contamination on problems in pipes and seals in natural gas wells.

After looking at dozens of cases of suspected contamination, the scientists focused on eight hydraulically fractured wells in those states, where they chemically linked the tainted water to the gas wells. They then used chemical analysis to figure out when in the process of gas extraction methane leaked into groundwater.

“We found the evidence suggested that fracking was not to blame, that it was actually a well integrity issue,” said Ohio State University geochemist Thomas Darrah, lead author of the study. He said those results are good news because that type of contamination problem is easier to fix and is more preventable.

The work was released Monday by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

In at least two cases around one well in Texas, scientists saw people’s homes have their water supplies go from clean to contaminated during the year of study, with methane levels jumping ten-fold, said Stanford University environmental sciences professor Rob Jackson, co-author of the study. Methane, while not particularly toxic, is explosive and a potent greenhouse gas.

“I don’t think homeowners care what step in the process the water contamination comes,” Jackson said. “They just care that their lives have changed because drilling has moved next door.”

The scientists reached their conclusions by chemically analyzing methane and other chemicals in the groundwater. That let them link the contamination to particular wells, and then to discover what part of the drilling process was responsible. For example, they studied the precise proportions of methane, helium, neon and argon. Those proportions pointed to leaky pipes and seals, because the results would have been different if the contamination had come from fracking…

Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who wasn’t part of the study, praised it, adding that he’s worried because “it’s impossible to drill and cement a well that will never leak.”

“There’s still serious and significant harm from what’s coming before fracking and what’s coming after fracking,” Ingraffea said.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

September 18, 2014


Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Lower Ark board meeting recap: “We’re trying to see if a lease-fallowing program is viable” — Jay Winner

September 18, 2014

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board last week approved a pilot project that will provide the town of Fowler water from several farms on the Catlin Canal over the next 10 years. The project is the first to be attempted under 2013 legislation, HB1248, that authorized demonstration projects that determine if lease-fallowing projects are a viable alternative to permanent dry-up of farms. It is also the first test of the viability of the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch.

Participating farms would be dried up no more than three years of the next 10 in order to supply 500 acre-feet (163 million gallons) annually to Fowler. Seven farms with 1,128 acres will be dried up on a rotational basis to provide the water under a plan filed by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch.

The CWCB reviewed comments on the project expressing concern from Aurora, the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Colorado Beef, a Lamar feed lot. The comments were similar to filings made in the past in water court cases that sought to permanently change water rights. Most expressed concern that their water rights would not be injured by the program and sought to assure that measurements in the program are accurate. Some were supportive of the program and all wanted to be notified of progress or changes in the program.

“We’re trying to see if a lease-fallowing program is viable,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We’re trying to keep the water in the Arkansas basin. That’s what it’s all about.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

How much water is staying down on the farm?

The state will spend $175,000 to study the amount of water returning to the Arkansas River from fields on the Fort Lyon Canal. That will be matched with $50,000 from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the grant last week as a way to address contentions from farmers that the amount of tailwater return to the Arkansas River has been overestimated. The outcome could affect the formulas used by the Colorado Division of Water Resources in administering the Arkansas River Compact and rules that govern wells or surface irrigation. It could also make more water available to farmers to lease under the Super Ditch or other rotational lease-fallow programs.

The grant was approved in July by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

The state now recognizes a 10 percent return of water from fields, or tailwater, that are flood irrigated. That water must be replaced under state rules adopted during the 24-year Kansas v. Colorado court case.

The Fort Lyon Canal is 100 miles long and irrigates 94,000 acres, so farmers contend water soaks into the ground and never makes it to the river. It is anticipated that the collection and analysis of data will take about two years to complete, at which time further work could be contemplated.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Leaky ponds are good news for farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley. The second year of a pond study in a normal water year is showing similar results as last year, when drought gripped the region.

“We’re not seeing a significant difference,” said Brian Lauritsen, a consultant on the study being funded through the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Water leakage on more than 20 ponds averaged about 20 percent this year, compared with 18 percent last year. Most are on the Fort Lyon Canal. It had been thought the numbers would be higher when the ground was drier.

“Usually, you don’t want to see ponds leaking,” said Jack Goble, engineer for the Lower Ark district.

But in this case, there is a chance the state will adjust its formula used to determine how much water irrigators owe for return flows that are reduced through more efficient irrigation techniques such as sprinklers. More leakage means less water owed to the river.

The Lower Ark also has built two ponds on the Catlin Canal designed specifically to leak. Called recharge ponds, they are designed to return water to the Arkansas River over time, the way that water flows through the aquifer in farming operations. One pond fills part of the need for Rule 10 surface irrigation plans, while the other is credited to Rule 14 well plans. One pond contributed 135 acre-feet (44 million gallons) in a month, while the other leaked 120 acre-feet (40 million gallons) in 21 days.

“I hope we’re able to get more of these ponds, especially in the lower part of the basin,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark District.

More HB13-1248 coverage here. More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

The EPA is coming to get us … or not — the Colorado Springs Independent

September 17, 2014
Big Wood Falls photo via American Whitewater (2011)

Big Wood Falls photo via American Whitewater (2011)

From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

Just before the El Paso County commissioners passed a resolution opposing a proposed change to the federal Clean Water Act last week, Commissioner Sallie Clark had something to say.

“Imagine if every little drainage way was considered a navigable waterway as it relates to requiring permitting,” Clark, who brought the resolution, said from the dais. “It’s just one more example of the [Environmental Protection Agency's] overreach on everything from the Endangered Species Act to everything that they do.”

The Endangered Species Act is not administered by the EPA. But that didn’t stop Commissioner Amy Lathen from chiming in.

“Our fundamental responsibility is the protection of private property rights,” she said, “and what the feds do [has] a chilling, chilling impact on land. They sterilize land, they erode private property rights.”

The resolution was approved unanimously, with Commissioner Dennis Hisey absent.

The commissioners aren’t the only ones crying foul about the proposed change, which would define the “waters of the U.S.” and therefore the bodies subject to the Clean Water Act, enacted in 1972 to prevent pollution. However, a representative of the EPA, which is proposing the change along with the Army Corps of Engineers, says concerns like those of the commissioners are unfounded, and rooted in a misunderstanding of how the act works.

Lots of concern

Hours after the commissioners took their Sept. 9 vote, Republican U.S. Congressmen Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both of Colorado, sent out press releases noting that a bill they cosponsored, the Water Rights Protection Act, had passed the House and moved to the Senate. H.R. 3189 aims to prevent the EPA and the Corps from making the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act, which Tipton calls “a gross federal overreach” that would expand the act to cover virtually every form of surface water. Gardner says the proposal would even regulate a “puddle.” (Gardner’s “puddle” claim is one of many addressed at the EPA’s Ditch the Myth site,

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is usually a proponent of the environment. Asked whether he supported the change, his office issued a statement saying simply that he encouraged constituents to give feedback to the EPA, which has extended a comment period to Oct. 20.

County public services executive director Jim Reid says the changes would mean that every time the county tries to approve a water project, it would need to pay for two permits relating to water quality, which could take as long as a year and cost thousands of dollars. The change would mean that instead of just protecting “navigable waters,” there would suddenly be federal protection for any waterway, he says, even a dry streambed. That could affect the ability to control stormwater and floods.

“There could be more infrastructure damage while we’re waiting for those permits to get through,” he says.

A different explanation

But is that really true?

No, says Karen Hamilton, chief of the EPA’s aquatic resource protection and accountability unit. Many are confused about what the Clean Water Act already regulates, she says. The EPA has jurisdiction over most surface water, not just “navigable waters,” and this proposed change wouldn’t add any new waters.

The point of the change, she says, is to make permitting for water projects easier. It was proposed after over 100 parties complained to the EPA that new rule-making was needed to clarify the act — everyone from Susan Gordon of Venetucci Farm to the American Petroleum Institute. Projects sometimes required lengthy jurisdictional reviews to determine if a permit was needed.

Hamilton says the EPA considered over 1,000 scientific articles when it assembled ways of determining which waters are covered. (The regulation also includes a list of types of waters that are not covered.) It should mean that fewer projects require jurisdictional review.

Two entities in Colorado issue permits related to the Clean Water Act: the state and the Corps. Allan Steinle, regulatory division chief for the Albuquerque District of the Corps, which includes our area, says of the change, “I don’t think it’s going to be very significant … It will actually make things easier for us and for the public.”

Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs for the state, agrees that permitting requirements for projects should not increase, as Reid and others fear. But she understands where those fears come from, saying the proposed regulation sometimes sounds like an expansion of powers. So the state has asked the EPA to change that language so that it doesn’t look like a power grab.

“I would agree that there needs to be some clarification in the regulatory language,” she says, “to make that abundantly clear.”

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


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