NOAA: The latest ENSO discussion is hot off the press #CODrought

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Here’s the link to the October 4, 2012 ENSO discussion from the Climate Prediction Center:

Borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions are expected to continue into Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13, possibly strengthening during the next few months.

During September 2012, the trend towards El Niño slowed in several key oceanic and atmospheric indicators. However, the Pacific basin reflects borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions. Equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST) remained elevated across the Pacific Ocean, although anomalies decreased during the month as indicated by weekly index values in the Niño regions. The oceanic heat content (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) anomalies also weakened, but continued to show large regions of above-average temperatures at depth across the equatorial Pacific. Interestingly, low-level westerly wind anomalies were evident over the equatorial western Pacific Ocean, which may portend possible strengthening of the subsurface anomalies in the coming months. Despite these winds, the atmosphere was still largely ENSO-neutral, as reflected by the Southern Oscillation index and near-average upper-level and lowerlevel winds across much of the Pacific. Tropical convection increased near the Date Line, which is consistent with weak El Niño conditions, but also remained elevated over eastern Indonesia, which is further westward than expected. Thus, the atmosphere and ocean indicate borderline ENSOneutral/ weak El Niño conditions.

Compared to the past few months, the chance is reduced for El Niño to develop during Northern Hemisphere fall/winter 2012-13 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast). Due to the recent slowdown in the development of El Nino, it is not clear whether a fully coupled El Niño will emerge. The majority of models indicate that borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions will continue, and about half suggest that El Niño could develop, but remain weak. The official forecast therefore favors the continuation of borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions into Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13, with the possibility of strengthening during the next few months.

This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions.

Ridgway Reservoir: The Tri-County Water Conservancy District hopes to start turning dirt on hydro facility this fall

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From The Watch (Kati O’Hare):

In about a month, district officials are hopeful they it will be able to break ground on the project, which, upon completion, will create about $1 million annually in revenues and produce enough electricity for 3,000 houses each year.

The 8-megawatt project will contain two turbines and two generators — a 1.8-mw system that will operate in the winter months during lower flows, and a 7.2-mw system for the higher-flow irrigation months.

“Winter flows are significantly less than our summer flows, and we can’t get a generator that would operate efficiently for that wide range,” Tri-County Water General Manager Mike Berry said.

The two different systems, both of which can operate during peak flows, is the most efficient method of capturing energy from the dam, he said.

Tri-County Water has gone through the necessary steps to get the project underway, and is now waiting for the completion of just two items before construction begins: the design plans need final approval from the Bureau of Reclamation, and interconnection agreement — to allow the power that’s captured to be transferred onto the grid — must be reached between Tri-County Water and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Boulder: Hydroelectric plant scores $1.18 million grant to help defray upgrade costs

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From The Denver Post (Howard Pankratz):

Originally built in 1910, the facility was in need of the upgrade in order to continue to operate. Without a new turbine and generator, operation of the facility was expected to stop within five years or less, city officials said…

Over the years, the system was owned and operated by numerous companies. In 2001, the city of Boulder purchased the system from the Public Service Co. of Colorado.

The total project cost was approximately $5.15 million and was funded by city water utility funds in addition to the federal grant.

More Hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Grand County Commissioners continue Windy Gap Firming Project hearing to October 30

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Grand County commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 2, continued the hearing for the Windy Gap Firming Project permit to Oct. 30. The decision to continue the hearing was made during the Board of Commissioners regular weekly meeting.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.

Drought news: ‘Greeley has plenty of water to make it through this winter’ — Jon Monson

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From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

City officials asked residents to stop watering their lawns by Monday to save water for next year after drought conditions and wildfires shortened supply in the Poudre Canyon. Normally, officials recommend that residents stop watering by Oct. 14. [Jon Monson] said demand on Monday dropped 30 percent from the previous week — but he said there’s no way to tell how much of that was due to the bout of moisture Greeley saw last week…

He said Greeley has plenty of water to make it through this winter, but water resources could be spread thin if the city experiences another drought.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The rains that fell on Weld County this week finally gave the green light to many local wheat growers needing to move forward with fall planting, and they brought piece of mind to farmers who had already put their seeds in the ground…

Winter wheat planting in northeastern Colorado is typically well under way by now, starting around the first of September and going into mid-October to grow a crop that’s harvested the following summer. But with fields parched and lacking subsoil moisture that’s critical at planting time, few farmers in Weld County have been moving forward.

Finally, for those needing to plant, 0.80 inches rain gradually dropped over the Greeley area from Monday night to Thursday night — the bulk of which came Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service…

A year ago, nearly half of the fields in Colorado had adequate subsoil moisture, and then a pair of storms brought 20-plus inches of snow to Greeley toward the end of October — not long after planting — that helped this past year’s crop get off to a good start. But very little precipitation has come to Weld County since those 2011 snowstorms, with Greeley so far this year experiencing its driest — and hottest — year on record.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Last month, Greeley recorded 1.32 inches of rain — topping the city’s historic average of 1.12 inches by 19 percent, and standing as the 19th wettest September on record, according to figures provided by the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins. But despite last month’s rains, 2012 as a whole still remains the driest year on record for Greeley so far. Through the end of September, Greeley had received 6.12 inches of precipitation for the year ­­— not quite half of the city’s historic average. Prior to September, only two other months this year — February and July — had experienced close to average precipitation amounts, while every other month was well below its historic average.

From the Associated Press via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Jim Gammonley is an avian research program leader for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He says the lack of moisture in Colorado this year may force many birds from the north to migrate elsewhere in search of better conditions.

Governor Hickenlooper on Water Court: ‘we’ve  let the  system run amuck’

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

During a Weld County drought tour that included stops in Greeley and the LaSalle and Gilcrest areas, Hickenlooper said he favors changes to the state’s water court system, stating that “we’ve let the system run amuck,” and referred to water court costs as “insane.”

Hickenlooper further stressed that he wants all sides to come together to find ways for producers to legally use some of the region’s abundant underground aquifer.

“Any time you try to change water law, there’s huge pushback,” he said. “But I think it can be done.”[…]

Hickenlooper and the producers with whom he spoke all said they hope that an ongoing groundwater study in the South Platte River Basin — being conducted by the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University — will provide some of the answers that can lead to changes and solve some of the issues producers face…

Hickenlooper reminded farmers he doesn’t have the authority to allow the curtailed groundwater wells to pump out of priority. Hickenlooper said that, according to the state’s attorney general, he lacks the power to override the prior-appropriations system that’s been in place in Colorado for more than 100 years. Hickenlooper also said a number of water attorneys have told him that if he allowed the wells to pump out of priority, the state would face millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Downstream water users also raised concerns this summer about the push to allow the Weld County groundwater wells to pump — fearing it would prevent them from getting the surface flows to which they’re entitled. Farmers told Hickenlooper the 30 days of well-pumping they were requesting this summer would have used less than 1 percent of the groundwater in the aquifer — which some estimate is more than 10 million acre feet. All of the points made led Hickenlooper to discuss the need for more knowledge of the aquifer and cooperation on all sides moving forward.

“Smart people willing to compromise can figure this stuff out,” he stated.

More Water Law coverage here and here.