Curious about the North American Monsoon? #COdrought


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Flashes of lightning, loud thunder and heavy rains Friday marked the start of Colorado’s summer monsoon season. The one- to 2-month period when moist and warm air flows northward from the subtropics may not be as dramatic as the Asian monsoon, but it’s still a critical piece of the state’s overall weather picture, providing abundant moisture just at the time when forests and fields are reaching their driest point.

This seasonal switch in the dominant atmospheric circulation pattern over Colorado often makes July the wettest month of the year in Summit County, which is slightly amazing, considering that February and March often dump several feet of snow in the area. But you have to consider the fact that, when you melt down all that snow, it often only is the equivalent to an inch or two of water, while July delivers, on average, 2.32 inches of moisture.

The U.S. southwestern monsoon season occurs when winter and spring’s jet stream-driven westerlies retreat to the north. Instead of being dominated by incoming cyclonic storms off the Pacific, the weather in the Southwest and the Rockies is influenced by the clockwise rotation of air around a big area of high pressure parked in the center of the country, often over Texas. The rotation draws moist air northward from the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of California and the eastern Pacific.

According to the National Weather Service, the pattern is also driven by an eastward shift of a big high pressure system over the Pacific Ocean, which also helps displace the westerlies that prevail for much of the year and reinforces southerly winds that carry moisture into the desert Southwest and Colorado.

Yampa River Watershed: Yampa River Awareness Project float trip recap


Here’s a report from Tom Ross writing for Steamboat Today. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The float trip was part of the Yampa River Awareness Project and was hosted by the national conservation organization American Rivers, Friends of the Yampa and OARS river outfitters. The intent was to bring attention to the Yampa as the last free-flowing tributary of the Colorado River.

American Rivers Senior Communications Director Amy Kober posed the question: “What is the value of the Yampa?”

“On the Yampa, you see the river as it should be,” Kober said. “At every scale, there is something interesting going on. For endangered fish like the Colorado pikeminnow, the Yampa may be our best chance to save species that are thousands of years old from being lost forever.”

Expedition videographer and former longtime river guide Michael Bye, of Steamboat Springs, spoke about the values that humans draw from wild rivers.

“If you can go down this river, you can shake the outside world off” if only temporarily, Bye said. “The difference between Yampa Canyon and other river trips is that it is wilderness, and there are almost no signs of civilization. So many other rivers have railroad tracks and roads” running alongside of them.

Members of the expedition that took place just after high water June 7 to 11 included conservationists, water policy makers and scientists from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Water Trust, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River Water Conservation District…

What makes the Yampa special is the fact it is largely undammed, allowing it to behave the way it has for millennia. But it’s that same fact that suggests the river will become a target for water interests from Colorado’s Eastern Plains to Nevada. More and more, water users are looking at the Yampa as human demand for water to build cities, extract energy and feed the world in an era of climate change has begun to exceed supply.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Less than a month before we launched our rafts at Deer Lodge Park, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order calling on the Colorado Water Conservation Board to act on the state’s grass-roots Basin Roundtables process to draft a statewide water plan by December 2014 and finalize that plan by December 2015. Hickenlooper’s executive order issued in May takes note of the fact that the past two decades have been the warmest on record since the 1890s and that the state is faced with a gap between water supply and demand that could grow to 500,000 acre-feet by 2050. To put that number in perspective, Dillon Reservoir’s capacity is a little more than half that amount at 257,304 acre-feet. And the capacity of Stagecoach Reservoir in South Routt County is just 33,275 acre-feet…

Ken Brenner, of Steamboat Springs and a board member of Friends of the Yampa and the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, pointed out that basing the upper basin states’ obligation to the lower basin states on a 10-year average creates opportunity for filling reservoirs. “On a year where there is 10 (million acre-feet), they get their 7.5,” and the upper basin can store water. “We’ll never renegotiate it better,” Brenner said…

“Most of us accept that the [Colorado River Compact] is here to stay,” he said…

The implications of Hickenlooper’s order for the Yampa aren’t clear, but the question of the week could be boiled down to: “Will the new plan result in new water storage projects or the expansion of existing storage projects on the Yampa River system?”

Seven years ago, two water developers were looking at hugely expensive plans to pump unappropriated Yampa River water hundreds of miles eastward to the hungry Front Range of Colorado. Matt Rice, director of Colorado conservation for American Rivers, said in the midst of last month’s float trip that those proposals are not the immediate threat that they once appeared to be. “Right now, the Yampa pumpback project is not (economically) feasible, and there is no proponent,” Rice said.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.