Study helps unravel the secret life of clouds

Summit County Citizens Voice

Air pollution can be a big factor in development of thunderclouds

FRISCO — Air pollution can have a significant effect on the development of thunderhead clouds, causing the cloud remnants to persist high in the atmosphere long after thunderstorms dissipate. This, in turn, can affect daily temperature ranges, as the lingering clouds partially cool the Earth during the day with their shadows, but trap heat to keep nighttime temperatures warmer.

The new study, from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, helps answer long-running questions about how airborne pollutants affect climate warming. The findings will help provide a gauge for the accuracy of weather and climate models.

“This study reconciles what we see in real life to what computer models show us,” said atmospheric scientist Jiwen Fan. “Observations consistently show taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds in storm systems with pollution, but the models don’t always show stronger convection. Now…

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Ed Quillen: Water principles of the West begin with blaming California

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives
Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

Coyote Gulch reader Greg sent this link to an Ed Quillen column from the High Country News from April 28, 2003. Greg writes, “Ten years past and its more valid today, than the day Ed wrote it.” Here’s an excerpt:

The new water principles, codified earlier this year after lengthy discussion, contain all the proper modern buzzwords, like “consensus” and “respect.” Who could find fault with “the implementation of consensus-based water resource solutions that respect local authorities”? Or with “maintaining the proper stewardship of the land”? Or with “earnest efforts to find water supply answers that benefit all Coloradans, for this and future generations”?

In other words, these principles are about as controversial as safe streets and neighborhood schools. But there is a problem, and that is that they ignore the traditional principles that have, for the last century or so, pretty well defined water policy in the West.

Thus it only seems proper, if we’re going to adopt some New Water Principles, to remember our Traditional Western Water Principles:

Whenever there’s a water problem, it is always the fault of California. When mountain streams are flooding, it’s because California won’t let new dams be built in the Rockies. When the mountain reservoirs are shrinking, it’s because California keeps taking water it is supposed to get under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. California is a safe party to blame, because it’s so big and rich that nobody there needs to care what we say about it. Besides, it’s a Democratic domain, and our Republican officials need to blame somebody.

In all water development, the federal government should cover most of the cost, and preferably the entire tab. After all, the Winning of the West has been a national priority since about 1777, and there’s no reason to stop now.

No water project is ever built to assist developers and subdividers. Even if they’re the ones who will benefit the most, the official purpose will be to benefit hardscrabble farmers, struggling ranchers or Native Americans.

If there’s not enough water to serve new developments, then current users should make sacrifices. In other words, the more water you conserve, the more water that will be available for big-box stores, shopping malls and sprawling suburbs. These developments generally increase your cost of living and reduce your quality of life, but you will be told that “we’re all in this together” and you’ll be seen as rather churlish and mean-spirited if you object to killing your last tree so that Vista Heights Gated Golf Course Community can continue selling lots.

Any solutions to water-supply problems should feature new structures (dams and reservoirs are best, but canals and tunnels are acceptable) which can be named after their political sponsors — i.e., Hoover Dam in Nevada, Alva Adams Tunnel in Colorado, Theodore Roosevelt Dam in Arizona. Water projects need political support, and it’s easier to get it with the imposing Sen. Josiah R. Claghorn Dam and Reservoir than with the Claghorn-Smith Instream Flow Protection Act of 2003. Construction can confer a degree of immortality on a public servant. It also shows the constituents that they’re getting their fair share from the pork barrel, and that’s important, especially in election years.

These are the principal principles that have guided Western water development over the years, and it seems odd that they were not addressed by the people who came up with the new and improved water principles.

But on the other hand, that could be because no one has ever figured out how to repeal the supreme law of our hydrology, first articulated by John A. Love, a Republican who served as governor of Colorado from 1963 to 1973: “Water flows uphill to money.”

We’re at it again: More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. And so it goes.

Denver: AGWT is hosting a Colorado aquifer management event on Tuesday

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From The Greeley Tribune:

The American Ground Water Trust, based in New Hampshire, is hosting a Colorado aquifer management event on Tuesday in Denver.

The event is a follow-up conference to the two-day program held in Denver in November 2012, where legislators, groundwater experts and water managers discussed stream depletions due to well pumping, and other groundwater issues.

Presenters include Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University; James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Reed Maxwell, director of the Integrated Groundwater Modeling Center at the Colorado School of Mines; Kevin Rein, deputy state engineer at the Division of Water Resources; Don Shawcroft, president of Colorado Farm Bureau; Andrew Stone, executive director of American Ground Water Trust; Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton; Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins; and Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley.

To register for the event or learn more, go to

More HB12-1278 coverage here. More groundwater coverage here.

The State Legislature Disaster Study Committee gets a first hand look at ongoing problems with recovery #COflood

St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call
St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

From The Greeley Tribune (Dave Young):

On Nov. 18 and 19, the state legislature’s Flood Disaster Study Committee visited Longmont, Lyons, Estes Park, Glen Haven, Milliken and Evans, and held public hearings in Longmont, Estes Park and Evans. The fully bipartisan 12-member committee, which I chair with Sen. Scott Renfroe, is gathering information to decide what the Legislature should do to improve the state’s response to the 2013 flood disaster and to better prepare for the floods that, inevitably, will strike our state again.

I and the other representatives and senators on the committee all come from places that experienced some degree of flood damage, and naturally we’ve been focusing mostly on our own constituents. This field trip gave us a broader perspective and reminded us that the flood recovery, like all the other big challenges facing our state, is best confronted if we act together.

In every town, people told us that Gov. John Hickenlooper and his administration have done a fantastic job of responding to the disaster. The last stretch of highway wrecked by the floods reopened Tuesday. My hat’s off to the governor and to the thousands of state, county and local workers and contractors who made the impossible happen. And other state agencies have been on the ball helping flood victims take care of the basic necessities and navigate the red tape of insurance claims and applications for assistance.

But make no mistake: difficult problems remain if we are to avoid what everyone’s calling “the disaster after the disaster.” For example:

» Businesses. Businesses need employees and customers, and both can be hard to find in an area with a lot of displaced residents.

» Irrigation ditches. The floods breached ditches and canals throughout the flood zone. Those ditches fill our reservoirs and water our farmers’ fields. If the ditches aren’t repaired soon, agriculture will suffer badly and entire communities may get thirsty.

» Water and soil contamination. Leaks from oil and gas storage tanks are a concern, especially here in Weld County. Sewage contamination of soil and water is another problem.

» Other infrastructure. Roads and bridges weren’t the only structures damaged by the flood. Other infrastructure — notably wastewater treatment plants — need repairs.

There are other pitfalls to avoid. But I think we’ll come out of this better and stronger than before if we pull together and continue to show the bend-not-break Colorado spirit we’ve seen so far.

For example: Glen Haven, in the mountains west of Loveland, was nearly wiped out. You could understand if folks there had said, “This was great while it lasted,” and then found somewhere else to live. But when the committee rolled into town, one of the first people we saw was Tony Fink. I knew Tony from his days as a doctor in Greeley. Now he’s retired and living in Glen Haven, and we saw him scooting around town on his ATV, coordinating, helping people, making sure they were OK. Tony is basically the emergency manager of Glen Haven now. There is no quit in Tony Fink. And there are people like him in every community we visited. I will not let these people down.

State Rep. Dave Young represents House District 50, which includes central Greeley, Evans and Garden City.

From The Greeley Tribune:

Nearly $12 million is being released to help restore watersheds damaged by September floods.

The $11.7 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection program will help cover 75 percent of the costs for 26 emergency projects, such as the stabilization of riverbanks and rechanneling of rivers and streams that were redirected following the historic floods that swept through Colorado’s Front Range.

The release of funds was welcomed by Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall. Bennet and Udall led the Colorado Congressional delegation in requesting the NRCS — along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to prioritize these projects.

Snowpack news: Weekend storm exceeds forecast in the Upper Arkansas Valley #COwx

Colorado SWE as a percent of normal November 26, 2013
Colorado SWE as a percent of normal November 26, 2013

From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

Salida received more than the 3-5 inches of snow forecast for Thursday through Sunday, with reports of 12-16 inches of snow around town. All of the snow equaled .78 inch of precipitation, bringing the November total to .96 inch, .41 inch more than the average of .55 for the month.

Salida’s year-to-date precipitation totals 11.52 inches, 1.23 inches more than the historical average of 10.29 inches for January through November.

“This was really just a drop in the bucket in the big picture,” said Bill Gardiner of the Colorado Natural Resources Conservation Service. “It would take quite a few years of above average moisture to get us up to where we should be, but this is a good start.”

US Senators Bennet and Udall are urging Congress to appropriate more funding for flood relief efforts #COflood

Evans Colorado September 2013 via
Evans Colorado September 2013 via

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are urging the Senate Committee on Appropriations to provide Emergency Watershed Protection funding following September flooding.

Officials in counties in Northern Colorado, including Weld and Larimer counties, have identified an estimated $216 million in watershed projects related to the flooding. Bennet and Udall asked committee members in a letter to direct additional funding to the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which has less than $25 million available nationally.

The funding is needed for tasks such as stabilizing river banks and rechanneling waterways, the senators wrote.

Kevin Duggan: Larimer County estimates its flood-repair costs will be about $108M #COflood