Forecast news: El Niño ‘is on life-support right now’ — Klaus Wolter

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

There is an El Nino brewing in the Pacific Ocean right now, and that normally means a wet fall, dry winter and wet spring.

“This is a weak El Nino,” Wolter said Thursday at the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s 2012 Statewide Drought Conference. “It’s something we haven’t seen in quite a long time.” Not seen at least since the 1950s or early 1960s, he said.

The El Nino, he said, “is on life support right now.”[…]

He said he is optimistic that the next two months may be wetter than expected, especially for Colorado’s Eastern Plains.

Here’s the link to last Monday’s ENSO Discussion from NOAA. Here’s an excerpt:

• ENSO-neutral conditions continue.
• Equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST) are greater than 0.5°C above average across the eastern Pacific Ocean.
• The atmospheric circulation over the tropical Pacific is near average.
• El Niño conditions are likely to develop during September 2012.

Glenwood Springs: The next meeting of the Colorado River Roundtable is Monday #coriver

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Here’s the link to the meeting notice. Here’s the link to the agenda.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Drought news: Fish kill due to low water at North Sterling State Park

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Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Due to low water levels and oxygen deprivation, North Sterling State Park has suffered a nearly complete fish kill, as of Tuesday, Sept.18.

North Sterling State Park employees began seeing a few dead fish on top of the water on Saturday, Sept. 15. By Tuesday, Sept. 18 dead fish littered the entire south and east shorelines of the reservoir. Due to the species and the number of fish found, this appears to be a complete fish kill, meaning all of the fish that used to inhabit the reservoir are likely dead.

“Based on the fish that I and park staff observed at the reservoir, the fish kill is due to low oxygen levels in the reservoir,” said Mandi Brandt, aquatic biologist. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife will begin work to rebuild the fishery as soon as better conditions are available, hopefully next spring.”

As the primary function of North Sterling Reservoir is to store irrigation water, the water level has been severely drawn down during 2012, leaving a relatively small pool of water for fish to inhabit. Recent winds across the shallow pool resulted in a turnover, where water near the surface of the pool was forced to the bottom of the pool and water near the bottom of the pool is forced to the top, effectively mixing the whole pool. Water at the bottom of the pool is low in oxygen due to decaying organic matter. When this water is mixed throughout the pool the oxygen level throughout the entire pool is driven down, leaving little oxygen for fish to survive.

CPW employees found dead wiper, walleye, saugeye, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, freshwater drum, common carp, and gizzard shad.

Due to severely low water levels in Jumbo Reservoir, Prewitt Reservoir, and Jackson Reservoir, anglers who would like to fish in the upper northeast corner of the state are encouraged to fish at Jumbo Annex Reservoir or Stalker Lake.

2012 CWCB Statewide Drought Conference recap: Colorado’s weather will become more volatile and unpredictable

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Here’s and in-depth look back at this week’s conference from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

…as the El Nino sputters in the Pacific Ocean, hardly guaranteeing a dramatically better snow season than the dry winter that ushered in this year’s drought, Coloradans are asking deeper questions about what Colorado might look like if extended drought becomes a disastrous reality…

Little is certain about that future, except that most scientists and climate watchers agree that Colorado’s weather will become more volatile and unpredictable…

“Colorado is at a transition point where some seasons are wet with El Nino and some are dry,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatologist Klaus Wolter.

Northern Colorado usually experiences a wet fall and spring but dry winter during an El Nino year. Wolter said he’s still refining his forecast for the upcoming snow season, but it doesn’t look promising. “In the winter, if you want powder, pick a La Nina year,” he said.

And yet, last year’s dry winter came at the height of a strong La Nina. Most drought years come after a two-year La Nina.

“I share that attitude — the high country may not fare so well (this winter),” said Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken.

More CWCB coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Lake Granby at 63% of capacity

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we move into fall, operations on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project start to shift gears a little bit.

I mentioned earlier this week that the pump to Carter has gone off for the season. Water we were sending up to Carter, we are now taking over to Horsetooth to begin bringing that water level up a little bit as we start to get ready for next year. This is good news for Horsetooth as it is currently just over 30% full.

We could still see some more demands come out of both Carter and Horsetooth in late September and well into October, but right now, the water level elevation at Horsetooth has started to gain, just a little bit and the water level at Carter has held fairly steady. It remains just above 50% full. We are currently delivering around 500 cubic feet per second to Horsetooth.

Pinewood Reservoir is back to more average operations, fluctuating with power generation down at the Flatiron Power Plant.

Similarly, Lake Estes has maintained a typical operation schedule as we continue to bring C-BT water over from the West Slope, generate hydro-electric power and deliver the water to Horsetooth. We are no longer releasing project water through Olympus Dam to the canyon. We are bypassing what is natively in the Big Thompson River on through Lake Estes down the river. That’s been about 50 cfs all week this week.

With the diversion from the West Slope still on and the Adams Tunnel running, the water level elevation at Granby will continue to go down. That is typical for this time of year, but more noticeable than in years past because of the heavy draws the entire C-BT system has seen this summer due to drought conditions. As a result, Granby is around 63% full.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.