Drought news: Much improvement in Colorado over last year

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website for the current skinny on drought. Here’s an excerpt:

The Plains
Precipitation in northwest Kansas allowed for improvements to the D3 conditions. In South Dakota, D1 was pushed out of eastern portions of the state as well as along the southern border with Nebraska. D0 conditions were also improved along the border with Nebraska. In Nebraska, the D0 and D1 conditions were pushed to the south along the entire northern border. A full category improvement was made in the panhandle of Nebraska as a further of assessment of recent precipitation events has the area recovering on multiple time scales.

The West
The wet pattern continued with upper elevation snows and lower elevation rains in both Colorado and Wyoming. In Colorado, D1 was improved in the northwest and southern portions of the state and into northern New Mexico. Wyoming had widespread improvements as a reassessment of the last few months of precipitation prompted improvements to the D1 and D2 in the southwest portion of the state and a full category improvement in the northeast.

Looking Ahead
Over the next five days (October 24-28) temperatures are expected to be below normal over the eastern half of the United States and above normal over the West. With a trough setting up over the East, temperatures will be 6-9 degrees Fahrenheit below normal over the Ohio River Valley and 3-6 degrees above normal over the Southwest. Precipitation over the next 5 days is projected to be greatest over the Great Lakes and east Texas as most of the country will remain dry.

The CPC 6-10 day forecast (October 29-November 3) has the continued chance of below-normal temperatures centered over the central Plains and extending over much of the central United States. Temperatures are expected to be above normal over Alaska and in the Southeast. The best chances for above-normal precipitation are over the Ohio River Valley and covering much of the eastern two-thirds of the country as well as Alaska. Precipitation chances are trending below normal in the Pacific Northwest.

Global warming: USGS study shows 20 percent decline in Rocky Mountain snow cover since 1980

Summit County Citizens Voice

Drop linked primarily with warmer spring temperatures

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Long-time skiers often say that skiing was better in the good old days, and new research from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that those claims are based on more than nostalgia — notwithstanding the occasional bumper crop of powder like in 2010-2011.

After taking an in-depth look at snowfall and temperature records, federal scientists said warmer spring temperatures since the 1980s have caused an estimated 20 percent loss of snow cover across the Rocky Mountains of western North America — especially at lower elevations where temperatures have the greatest effect.

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Global warming: Researchers document profound cascading ecological effects as Rocky Mountain snowpack diminishes

Summit County Citizens Voice

Winter browsing by elk results in decline of habitat for songbirds

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A steady decline in Rocky Mountain snowpack the past few decades has led to a classic cascading ecological effect, with “powerful” shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities, according to scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Montana.

“This study illustrates that profound impacts of climate change on ecosystems arise over a time span of but two decades through unexplored feedbacks,” said USGS director Marcia McNutt. “The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences.”

As the high-elevation snowpack dwindles, elk can stay at higher elevations during the winter and browse on plants that just a few short decades were inaccessible during the snow season, the researchers explained in their study, published Jan. 8 in the

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Rising temperatures cause snow to melt earlier, which alters flows in rivers w/sources in the mountains

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Click here for the current assessment.

NRCS: Wet September across Colorarado Basin helps with soil moisture deficits

H.R. 3080: Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 passes the US House now on to the US Senate

Boustead Tunnel Construction via The Aspen Times
Boustead Tunnel Construction via The Aspen Times

Click here to go to GovTrack.us’ web page for the bill.

From the Associated Press (Henry C. Jackson) via Northern Colorado 5:

Bucking some of the same conservative groups that encouraged the government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats united Wednesday to overwhelmingly pass an $8.2 billion House bill mapping out plans for dams, harbor, river navigation and other water projects for the coming decade…

The water bill’s sponsors attracted support from members of both parties by including projects from coast to coast and labeling the measure an engine for job creation. To attract conservatives, sponsors emphasized the measure’s lack of earmarks, or projects for lawmakers’ home districts, and changes including an accelerating of required environmental reviews that have dragged out many projects for years…

Congress last enacted a bill approving water projects in 2007, a lapse that created pent-up demand among lawmakers for such work…

Added Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., “Repairing our nation’s aging infrastructure, including our water infrastructure, is the best jobs creator out there.”[…]

The legislation would allow work to proceed on 23 shipping channel, flood management and other water projects that the Corps of Engineers has started studying. Actual money for the work would have to be provided in future legislation [ed. emphasis mine].

The bill gives the go-ahead to a slew of projects, including a more than $800 million flood protection project in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn.; a $461 million on expansion of the Savannah, Ga., port; and up to $43 million for the San Clemente, Calif., shoreline. The measure increases the share of federal dollars for the Olmsted Lock and Dam project on the border between Illinois and Kentucky.

It also would shelve at least $12 billion of old, inactive projects approved in the last water resources bill while accelerating environmental reviews, which Republicans said had slowed many projects almost to a halt…

Some Democrats and environmental groups objected to the speedier reviews, saying they would weaken environmental protections. Many Democrats said they would back the bill anyway and try to change the language when House and Senate bargainers try to put a compromise version together later. The Senate passed its version of the water bill in May with a broad, bipartisan vote.

“The real problem is lack of money, not environmental reviews,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.

More infrastructure coverage here.