Snowpack news: Aspen snowpack dust-free for first March in a decade — The Aspen Times

March 26, 2015
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 25, 2015 via the NRCS

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 25, 2015 via the NRCS

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, a nonprofit organization based in Silverton, said no dust has been observed at 11 high-elevation sites that it monitors around the state, including McClure Pass on state Highway 133. The organization has operated the Dust-On-Snow Program since 2005.

Last winter, there were three major dust storms at the Senator Beck Basin, a sentry site for the organization in the San Juan Mountains. The dust affected many other sites, as well. Skiers at the Aspen-Snowmass ski areas negotiated a red layer of grit on the snow.

The dust does more than mess up the slopes. It reduces the reflective ability of the snowpack, said Chris Landry, a former Roaring Fork Valley resident who is executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanches. Clean snow reflects solar energy from the sun pretty effectively, he said. Dust is “the 800-pound gorilla” because it absorbs the sun’s energy and the snowpack melts more quickly.

“That’s why dust is so important — it completely alters the absorption,” Landry said.

The snowpack isn’t in the clear yet. History shows that dust gets deposited in April and May, as well. Spring storms on the Colorado Plateau blow in dust from the south and west of Aspen. When accompanied by rain or snow, it sometimes creates a scenario where it rains mud.

The snowpack — the lifeblood for much of the arid West — needs any break it can get this year. The overall snowpack level for the Upper Colorado Basin, which covers much of the Central Mountains, is 89 percent of average for this time of year, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Not only is the snowpack below average, but it is already substantially eroded on sunny slopes on east, west and south aspects, Landry and his colleagues discovered on a tour of the center’s 11 sites March 17 through Friday. Lower elevations are already melted out in many areas, according to an update on the center’s website.

In addition, the center found that the snowpack has ready warmed to 0 degrees Celsius in many places. That means any energy consumed by the snowpack will result in melting rather than cooling the layers down.

“People refer to this as a ripe snowpack,” Landry said. “Just add energy and you’ll get water.”


How the warming climate is transforming your garden: Planting zones are marching northward — @AssaadRazzouk

March 26, 2015


$1.5 Million Contract Awarded to Repair Colorado-Big Thompson Infrastructure Damaged by 2013 Flooding — Bureau of Reclamation

March 25, 2015
The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post

The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a contract totaling nearly $1.5 million to Lillard and Clark Construction Company Inc., Denver, for repair to the Big Thompson Diversion Structure, an element of the Colorado-Big Thompson project that was damaged during the September 2013 flood, known as one of the worst natural disasters in Colorado history.

“Reclamation is addressing the infrastructure damage that occurred during the 2013 Colorado River flooding,” said Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López, while announcing today’s $1,457,570 contract award. “This work will ensure the project’s continued reliability.”

Big Thompson Diversion Structure, located 8.5 miles west of Loveland, Colorado, in Larimer County, requires removal and restoration of flood-damaged concrete areas, installation of a precast concrete building, repair and replacement of electrical systems, gates, gear boxes, electric motors and other rehabilitation tasks. The work is expected to begin in April 2015.

The Colorado-Big Thompson project spans approximately 250 miles in Colorado. It stores, regulates and diverts water from the Colorado River on the western slope of the Continental Divide to the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, providing supplemental water to irrigate about 720,000 acres of land for municipal and industrial uses, hydroelectric power and water-oriented recreation opportunities. Major features of the project include dams, dikes, reservoirs, power plants, pumping plants, pipelines, tunnels, transmission lines, substations and other associated structures. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District apportions water used for irrigation to more than 120 ditches and 60 reservoirs. Eleven communities receive municipal and industrial water from the project. Electric power produced by six power plants is marketed by the Western Division of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


EPA: We considered over 1,200 pieces of peer-reviewed & published scientific literature when writing the Clean Water Rule

March 25, 2015


Snowpack news (Part 2)

March 25, 2015

Snowpack news

March 25, 2015
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 24, 2015 via the NRCS

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 24, 2015 via the NRCS


Paonia: The Western Slope Switch 2020 Climate Challenge, May 1-3

March 25, 2015
Colorado average temperature 1895 thru 2015 via the Colorado Climate Center

Colorado average temperature 1895 thru 2015 via the Colorado Climate Center

From email from Mountain West Strategies (Pete Kolbenschlag):

Our Goal? To deliver and follow through on a strong action plan that produces concrete steps toward solving the Colorado climate challenge. The Switch 2020 mission asks all of us (individuals, businesses and governments) to work together to move toward carbon neutrality by improving our energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy. Plus reduce our water use by half. Together we can do it!

Your ideas are going to pave the way to real change in Colorado!

We are bringing a diverse group of people together from all over Western Colorado. We are going to meet, focus on our challenges and hash out a firm action plan to change the course our future. We look forward to you joining us!

Why Participate and Engage?

Many projections see Colorado heading into a drier future and the earth’s climate heading toward crisis. Changing our energy consumption acting now and to protect our precious water resources are challenges vital to all of us. We can get this done today without it being done for us by someone else tomorrow.

Can Colorado single handedly reverse the course of the Climate Crisis? Maybe not, but it is possible for Colorado to become the global leader in showing how to do it.

With our can-do spirit, know-how and efforts to take on these challenges, our local communities, residents, environment and economy can immediately benefit by our actions.
As we make concrete steps toward solving this critical challenge, we can leverage our shared business and environmental expertise, engineering genius, and entrepreneurial spirit to improve all our lives.

The Western Slope Climate Challenge is a working conference where leaders of industry, activists, politicians and concerned citizens use the proven methods of rapid prototyping to explore issues and find agreed upon solutions. Presenter/Guides will lead participants into breakout session to identify a problem, discuss solutions, agree on action and write a working blueprint to tackle our challenges. Everyone self selects into a team of their choice to take on a specific challenge, then help implement plans to achieve the goals the team establishes. Going forward, everyone who participates plays an active role individually and together to make these plans happen. Once we leave the conference each of us must continue to be accountable to ourselves and our team’s objectives to make the difference. Together we can do this!

Click here to register.

Click here to go to the conference Facebook page.


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