NOAA State of the Climate Global Analysis March 2011: ‘The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2011 was the 13th warmest on record’

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Here’s the link to the announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center website. From the intro page:

– The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2011 was the 13th warmest on record at 13.19°C (55.78°F), which is 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F). This was also the 35th consecutive March with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average.

– The March worldwide land surface temperature was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 5.0°C (40.8°F)—the 12th warmest March on record.

– The March worldwide ocean surface temperature was 0.36°C (0.65°F) above the 20th century average of 15.9°C (60.7°F)—also the 12th warmest March on record.

– For the year-to-date, the global combined land and ocean surface temperature of 12.73°C (54.87°F) was the 14th warmest January–March on record. This value is 0.43°C (0.77°F) above the 20th century average.

Here’s Bob Berwyn’s analysis, running in the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Across the planet’s land masses, the most prominent warmth was recorded across most of Siberia, southwestern Greenland, southern North America, and most of Africa. Cooler-than-average conditions were reported from the western half of Canada, most of Mongolia, China and southeastern Asia. A notable exception to global warmth was in Australia, which experienced its coolest March on record, with above average rainfall across the entire country.

The wettest parts of the planet included Thailand, the Philippines, many western Pacific island nations, parts of northern and eastern Australia, and a band across central South America. The driest areas included across eastern Asia, much of Europe, the central United States, parts of Canada, and Argentina.

More Climate Change coverage here and here.

CWCB Water Availability Task Force: Monster snowpack across the northern basins, southern basins not so much

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Below are my notes from Thursday’s meeting:

Flooding outlook

It’s too early in the season to know what to expect from the monster snowpack. The state is watching the Yampa, White and Upper Colorado rivers closely. Localized flooding is expected and could be exacerbated by precipitation events or warming temperatures shortening the runoff season. The large main stem reservoir operators are drawing down right now in anticipation of the above average streamflows expected across the northern part of the state.

The CWCB is watching streamflow gages around the state and has set alarms for 5 or 10 year flows for advance flood warning.

The state’s Flood DSS website startup is May 1. There is some information there now. Here’s the URL:

[Macintosh users: The viewer app doesn’t work in Safari. I hope the state fixes that.]

Report from the CWCB:

Veva DeHeza mentioned the drought workshops taking place over the first part of the summer:

At the CWCB meeting, May 17-18 in Durango, the board will consider, for the first time, a set of revised guidelines for approving municipal drought plans.

Another round of outreach is planned for phase one of the Colorado River Water Availability Study. Phase one of the study is not yet complete and phase two is on hold.

Report from the State Climatologist

Colorado had above average temperatures over most of the state in March. For the period of April 1-11 the northern mountains are doing very well with 1-2 in. of precipitation. Becky Smith reported above average precipitation for the Upper Colorado River. Fort Collins was near normal until March and has dropped since then. Boulder is showing below average precipitation for the water year.

Report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Snowpack/reservoir storage/streamflow forecast:

Yampa/White — snowpack 131% of average (the best since 1996 and second highest since the SNOTEL program began), this year has exceeded maximum values for the basin, streamflow forecast for the North Platte is 174% of average and the Yampa forecast is 157% of average.

Colorado — Snowpack is 131% of average, again the highest since 1996, reservoir storage is 113% of average.

South Platte — This is an interesting year for this basin. Echo Lake (Bear Creek watershed) is below average and the SNOTELS above Antero are all below average. Overall the basin is 120% of average and reservoir storage is 99% of average.

The forecasted streamflow for Clear Creek is 136% of average up from 121% of average last month. The streamflow forecast for the South Platte River is 112% of average and the forecast for the Poudre is 135% of average.

Gunnison — Snowpack is 114% of average, reservoir storage is 96% of average and inflows to Blue Mesa Reservoir are forecasted to be 111% of average.

San Miguel/Dolores/San Juan — Snowpack is 86% of average. Things have flattened down there with precipitation coming in at 94% of average — most of that due to a big storm in December. Without that storm things would now be very alarming. Reservoir storage is 105% of average. The streamflow forecast for inflows to McPhee Reservoir is 70% of average.

Rio Grande — The April 1 snowpack is 76% of average and reservoir storage 82% of average. The Sangre de Cristos are very dry. For example, the streamflow forecast for Culebra Creek is only 42% of average. That’s down from the forecast of 57% of average in March.

Arkansas — Snowpack is 103% of average but the number is misleading. The upper Ark valley is doing very well but the southern tributaries are very dry. Precipitation for the basin is 91% of average and reservoir storage is 90% of average. The streamflow forecast for the Arkansas River at Salida is 129% of average.

Long Term Weather Outlook

According to Klaus Wolter the current La Niña is the biggest event in 35 years. He forecasts a slight chance of above normal precipitation in May and June. The next week should be on the cool side helping to preserve the snowpack. There have been 3 dust events, “in the San Juans at least,” he said. Over the next two weeks he is forecasting that the northern mountains could get 1 – 2 inches of moisture and if those storms hit the plains some areas could see one half – 1 inch. The next two weeks may be wetter than normal.

Other task force reports

The representative from the Ag Task Force said, “Conditions have gone from bad to worse.” There are record low numbers of cattle in Colorado due to sell-offs of herds during the 2002 — numbers have not recovered and won’t this year. 60% of pasture and rangeland is in poor to very poor condition. 80% of the winter wheat crop is poor to very poor.

The representative from Colorado Springs Utilities said that there is virtually no snowpack above their South Slope collection system.

Wiggins: The town is gearing up to file a substitute water supply plan for their new well

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The ditch company [Weldon Valley] also did not have any objections to discharging the concentrated remains after the town uses reverse osmosis to clarify its water, said Tim Holbrook of Industrial Facilities Engineering, which is overseeing the project. Once Weldon Valley gives its approval, the town can file its water plan with the water court, Nation said.

That begins a time of waiting on a number of issues.

The case will wait for 60 days while other water users have a chance to file objections to the plan, and then a substitute water plan will be filed, Nation said. Usually, a town cannot file for a well permit until the substitute plan is filed, but it is possible Wiggins could receive an exception through an emergency filing, he said. If that happened, Wiggins could have authority for a well as quickly as two to three weeks after filing, but otherwise it will take longer, Holbrook said.

Wiggins can probably begin pumping water as soon as the substitute water plan is filed, but the best-case scenario for that is three months, Nation said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Local landowners around the proposed South Slope project upper reservoir are assessing impacts

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

Colorado Springs developers Jim and Mark Morley want to build a pumped hydroelectric storage plant here, in which water is pumped uphill to a reservoir when demand is low and released downhill to power turbines when demand is high or other parts of a system, such as solar or wind, are not generating much power. It has the support of lawmakers, who passed a bill [HB 11-1083] to encourage such projects, signed by the governor last month; energy giant TransCanada, which may be interested in building and running the plant; and some in Penrose, who say the 300 temporary and 30 permanent jobs will be a boost to the economy. Said Collins, “Are we fighting a losing battle up here? Probably. But for the tenacious, no road is impossible.”[…]

Residents in the Red Rocks at Beaver Creek subdivision, 25 homes on 72 lots above the Morleys’ property, say they knew nothing about the bill or the project. They only recently launched a website,, to voice their opposition. They worry about noise from turbines and pumps, extra truck traffic, ground vibrations from the equipment, impacts to the view, and declining property values. They worry eminent domain could be used to seize land. And some have a larger critique of the project: that it isn’t renewable energy at all.

The water, 13,000 acre-feet, or 4.2 billion gallons, a one-time purchase from a still-unidentified water-rights holder, would be piped from the Arkansas River, and then reused over and over again. But it would take power, equal to about 20 percent of what the plant generates, to pump the water uphill, which would come from elsewhere in the power grid. Opponents say that means it should not be considered “renewable.”

“What we’re trying to do is uncover the truth about the South Slope project,” said resident Robert “Hutch” Hutchison.

“Everybody’s going to be in favor of a hydroelectric plant that is renewable and green, but that’s not what this is,” said Collins.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities brings ultraviolet disinfection system online

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From (Bill Folsom):

Intense UV light is applied at the end of the treatment process; killing bacteria in the waste water. It is safer and more eco-friendly because it decreases the use of gas and chemicals for treatment. “Having that much chemical stored down here is a risk,” says Manager, Jed Chambers, “it was hard to handle with our employees and then bottom-line and most importantly the environmental aspect.”

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Colorado Division of Wildlife: Commissioners begin water plan reviews

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From the Summit Daily News:

On Thursday, the Colorado Wildlife Commission received fish and wildlife mitigation plans from Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District that describe the water providers’ proposals for addressing expected impacts from two transmountain diversion projects that would provide more reliable water supplies to the Front Range…

The May meeting in Salida should allow additional time for the public to comment and provide input on the two plans as well as two voluntary enhancement plans also being submitted by the water providers. That’s in addition to numerous public and stakeholder meetings since October…

When the Wildlife Commission submits its recommendation to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the board will then have 60 days to affirm the Commission’s recommendation as the official state position or modify the recommendation. If the board makes revisions, the governor will have 60 days to affirm or further modify the recommendation, which then becomes the official state position with regard to mitigation.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

Irrigation return flows sustain the wetlands around John Martin Reservoir according to Arkansas Basin Roundtable report

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The irrigation returns nearly match the wetlands evapotranspiration, so it’s a good indication of why the wetlands are there,” said Hal Simpson, a former state engineer who works for CDM engineering. The roundtable is looking at wetlands near John Martin Reservoir and at Nee Noshe, in Kiowa County, as part of its effort to identify nonconsumptive water needs in the Arkansas River basin.

Nee Noshe is a different situation. It’s significant among the numerous shallow lakes on the Eastern Plains because threatened species like the piping plover and least tern live there, said SeEtta Moss, of the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society. Nee Noshe has shrunk over the past 10 years to about one-fifth of its dead pool — the point where water can no longer flow out — and is evaporating. It would take about 1,000 acre-feet annually to sustain it, but the water is not available through the Amity Canal.

Simpson said the wetlands at John Martin developed before the reservoir started filling after 1948. “They were not dry and existed independent of John Martin Reservoir,” Simpson said, explaining that wildlife habitat expanded in the valley after irrigation began.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.