Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 130 cfs in the Blue River below the dam


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning [November 13], before noon, we cut back the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are now releasing about 130 cfs.

We’re doing our best to balance inflows and outflows. Inflow to the reservoir via the Blue River has been declining over the past week, so that’s part of the reason for our change. But, we are also voluntarily participating in the Shoshone Outage Protocol–helping with Colorado River flows below the power plant just east of Glenwood Springs. So, with that in mind, we are matching our outflow to the inflow, plus 30 additional cfs.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

18th Judicial District Judge Paul King affirms his ruling regarding Sterling Ranch


From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

18th Judicial District Judge Paul King’s order on Friday states he followed the letter of a 2008 Colorado law when ruling the board “exceeded its authority” in approving Sterling Ranch’s development plan without requiring the company to prove an adequate water supply for the entire development. He denied the development company’s reconsideration request and denied the motion to remand the case back to Douglas County so it could make the water adequacy determination…

King ruled that the county Board of Commissioners had “exceeded its jurisdiction and abused its discretion” by approving Sterling Ranch’s water plan. His ruling stated Colorado law requires all developers to prove they have enough water to serve the entire development before any construction starts.

His Friday order stated pursuant to the 2008 law (Section 29-20-301), “our legislature has determined that securing an adequate supply of water for development can have a broad regional impact and it is imperative that local government be provided with reliable information concerning the adequacy of a proposed development’s water supply to aid local government in the exercise of its discretion.” He also restated his position that the law defines “adequate” as “a water supply sufficient for build-out of the proposed development in terms of quality, quantity, dependability and availability.”[…]

Sterling Ranch “confessed that they did not submit proof of a water supply to the Board during the lengthy approval process,” Friday’s order stated…

“I didn’t write the law. The judge didn’t write the law,” [Attorney Jim Kreutz] said. “Legislators chose to enact it, so opponents need to hire lobbyists and change the law I suppose.”

More coverage from the Associated Press via the San Antonio Express-News:

A Colorado River District official says a judge’s ruling on the proposed Sterling Ranch community in Douglas County could lead to new legislation. A judge this year reversed the county’s approval of a permit for the Sterling Ranch development, citing a state law that requires counties to first affirm that large new developments have an adequate water supply. County officials had argued they planned to incrementally evaluate Sterling Ranch’s water supply, as construction proceeded in phases.

According to the latest Colorado River District newsletter, district external affairs manager Chris Treese says he expects legislation next year addressing the ruling, though it’s too early to say what direction it could take.

More Sterling Ranch coverage here.

Precipitation news: Good moisture over the weekend for the White River and Yampa River basins #CODrought


From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The snowy pattern that brought winter to the upper Yampa Valley from Friday to Sunday left more than an inch of moisture behind at 10 different snowpack-measuring sites in the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs. Together, they feed the Yampa and White river drainages.

The Flat Tops mountains, in particular, received significant moisture. Crosho Lake, on the edge of the Flat Tops near Phippsburg, has a modest 7 inches of snow on the ground, but the 0.8 inches of water that snow contains represents 100 percent of average for the date…

Ripple Creek Pass, on the way from Phippsburg to Trappers Lake, has 13 inches of snow on the ground that contains 2.1 inches of water. That measurement is 66 percent of average.

Closer to Steamboat, the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass has 7 inches of snow on the ground, representing 1 inch of water, or about 36 percent of average for the date.

To the north of Steamboat, on the edge of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, the Elk River snowpack measuring site at 8,700 feet contains 0.8 inches of moisture in the 6 inches of snow on the ground, representing 89 percent of average for the date.

‘We show on a local scale that there are significant changes in summer temperatures’ — Irina Mahlstein (CIRES)


Here’s the release from Cires (Irina Mahlstein/Jane Palmer):

That summers “just aren’t what they used to be” no longer seems to be the wistful chant of the world weary looking back on their salad days: Analysis of 90 years of observational data has revealed that summer climates in regions across the globe are changing—mostly, but not always, warming—according to a new study led by a scientist from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

“It is the first time that we show on a local scale that there are significant changes in summer temperatures,” said lead author CIRES scientist Irina Mahlstein, who works in NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. “This result shows us that we are experiencing a new summer climate regime in some regions.”

The technique, which reveals location-by-location temperature changes rather than global averages, could yield valuable insights into changes in ecosystems on a regional scale. As the methodology relies on detecting temperatures outside the expected norm, it is more relevant to understand changes to biota—the animal and plant life of a particular region—which scientists would expect to show sensitivity to changes that lie outside of normal variability.

“If the summers are actually significantly different from the way that they used to be, it could affect ecosystems,” Mahlstein said.

To identify potential temperature changes, the team used climate observations recorded from 1920 to 2010 from around the globe. The scientists termed the 30-year interval 1920 to 1949 the “base period,” and they compared each 30-year interval—in steps of 10 years later than the starting 1920 date—to the “base period.” The comparison involved statistical tests to determine whether the test interval differed from the base interval beyond what would be expected due to yearly temperature variability for that geographical area.

Their analysis found that some changes began to appear as early as the 1960s, and the observed changes were more prevalent in tropical areas. In these regions, temperatures vary little throughout the years, so the scientists could more easily detect any changes that did occur, Mahlstein said. They found significant summer temperature changes in 40 percent of tropical areas and 20 percent of higher-latitude areas. In the majority of cases, the researchers observed warming summer temperatures, but in some cases they observed cooling summer temperatures.

“This study has applied a new approach to the question: ‘Has the temperature changed in local areas?’” Mahlstein said. The study is in press in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The study’s findings are consistent with other approaches answering the same question, such as modeling and analysis of trends, Mahlstein said. But this technique uses observed data only to come to the same result. “Looking at the graphs of our results, you can visibly see how things are changing,” Mahlstein said.

In particular the scientists were able to look at the earlier time periods, note the temperature extremes, and observe that those values became more frequent in the later time periods. “You see how the extreme events of the past have become a normal event,” Mahlstein said.

The scientists used 90 years of data for their study—a little more than the average lifespan of a human being. So if inhabitants of those areas believe that summers have changed since they were younger, they can be confident it is not a figment of their imagination.

“We can actually say that these changes have happened in the lifetime of a person,” Mahlstein said.

Co-authors on the study were Gabriele Hegerl from the University of Edinburgh and Susan Solomon from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Thanks to Bob Berwyn (Summit County Citizens Voice) for the heads up. Here’s an excerpt from his article:

After crunching numbers from 90 years worth of observational data, scientists with the Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences say they’ve shown that summer climates are, for the most part, warming.

More coverage from Brittany Anas writing for the Boulder Daily Camera.

More Climate Change coverage here.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin #CODrought #CORiver


Click here for the summaries from yesterday’s webinar from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary for November, so far.

Meanwhile, Bruce Willoughby (The Denver Post), has inked a report on some of the ramifications for Lake Mead and Lake Powell after 7 months of drought in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s no secret that precipitation in the Upper Colorado River Basin has been well below average this year, and the data from the seven drought months leading up to October offer continued cause for concern. Six of those months have seen significantly diminished precipitation in the basin, falling as low as 10 percent of average upstream of Grand Junction in June. Only July, at 160 percent upstream of Grand Junction and 130 percent above Utah’s Lake Powell, saw above-average precipitation. Four of those months saw precipitation 55 percent of average or less.

The ramifications aren’t limited to Colorado. Total inflow into Lake Powell in September was just 100,000 acre feet, 25 percent of average, and 104,000 acre feet in August.

“These are the two lowest months on record for inflow into Lake Powell. That tells you how dry things are,” CRD general manager Eric Kuhn said at the district’s October board meeting. “Even if we have a moderately dry winter, things will be pretty bad. If we have average precipitation in the next two years, Lake Mead levels will be approaching the first shortage trigger in 2014.”

The Colorado River Basin Study to be released later this month by the seven river basin states and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts a potential shortfall of as much as 2 million acre-feet between water supply and water demand in the coming decades. That news has spurred a call for action.

“The question is, a call for what action?” Kuhn said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.