Decision Maker’s Toolbox: Outlooks — NOAA

From NOAA:

The tools from the Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, allow users to view color-coded maps of categories of forecast conditions for their region relative to their average norms. The maps are available as either extended-range (6 to 10 days and 8 to 14 days) or long-range (1- and 3-month periods) forecasts. The latter predictions are available for up to one year in the future.

For extended-range forecast maps, red and blue areas show regions that are favored to experience above (red) or below (blue) normal five- or seven-day mean temperatures. Greens and browns show areas that are favored to see above (green) or below (brown) average 5- or 7-day total precipitation. Areas in white show places where 5- or 7-day mean temperature or total precipitation are favored to be near average.

On the long-range outlooks, white means something slightly different: white indicates equal odds for above, near or below average 1- or 3-month mean temperature or total precipitation.

On each map, outlines around areas of color indicate the probabilities for above- or below-average conditions with darker colors indicating a higher likelihood for the forecast category. These forecasts can help decision makers such as water managers improve productivity and reduce potential risk that could threaten the livelihoods and health of the people in their regions.

Highlands Ranch water rates to go up in 2014

Highlands Ranch
Highlands Ranch

From the Highlands Ranch News (Ryan Boldrey):

Following spikes of 2 percent in 2012 and 3.8 percent in 2013, Highlands Ranch residents are expected to see rates go up 6.8 percent this coming year. This year’s proposed increase is due to the district’s involvement with both the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE) and Chatfield Reallocation Project, said Bruce Lesback, CWSD director of finance and administration…

“We held off as long as we could before increasing rates to this level for our customers, but it appears both projects are now going forward,” Lesback said.

For CWSD, the two projects are a major step toward cementing a long-term water supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water.

“We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” CWSD General Manager John Hendrick told Colorado Community Media earlier this year. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources.

“We’ve got ample groundwater for droughts, but in wet years we’ll now be able to take in more than we need to and top off our reservoirs with surface water.”[…]

A public hearing was held Nov. 25 on the proposed CWSD budget. The board of directors will vote to adopt the 2014 budget at its Dec. 16 meeting.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Snowpack news: The Upper Rio Grande gets a dumping, now at 150% of normal #COwx

Colorado snow water equivalent as a percent of normal November 30, 2013
Colorado snow water equivalent as a percent of normal November 30, 2013

From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas instead of Thanksgiving.

…a snowstorm left the Valley under 13.2 inches of snow, according to National Weather Service (NWS) reports. The three-day event dropped 42 inches at Wolf Creek, making Monday a pristine day to hit the slopes under the sunshine. The ski resort has a total of 105 inches.

The storm kicked off on Friday, sending 7 inches down, according to NWS reports. On Saturday, it slowed, leaving only .4 inches on the ground before another 5.8 inches fell Sunday night. This the most snow the Valley has seen in November since 1964 when the month’s total was 13.6 inches, according to historical weather data. The most snow ever seen in the eleventh month was in 1972 when 19.8 inches covered the ground, and in 1957 16.5 inches were recorded. Sunny skies and cooler temperatures are in store for the holiday, according for NWS reports. Monday night temperatures were forecasted to drop to 1 degree F, and today should reach 32 degrees F with a low of 6 degrees F. The rest of the week should bring highs in the mid-40 s and lows around 11 and 12 degrees F, which are considered average temperatures for the time of the season.

‘In water, we never use the word fair. It is not part of the vocabulary’ — Nathan Coombs

Students pulling samples
Students pulling samples

From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

Colorado youth are tomorrow’s water leaders, and in the Valley they are getting a head start. Natural resource education opportunities are abundant between the Sangre de Cristos and the San Juans, and teachers are connecting their students to one of the Valley’s most priceless resources – water – through Colorado Academic Standards approved lessons in nature’s classroom.

“Water, where it comes from affects us and what happens in our community,” explained Conejos Water Conservancy District Manager and Conejos County Conservation District Supervisor Nathan Coombs to a group of North Conejos School District students earlier this year. “And we have to measure water to know if it is going to the right places… the value of water is tremendous.”

After breaking down water management in the Conejos District to a few key vocabulary words – priority, compact, curtail, diversion, aquifer, ground water and surface water – Coombs brought it to life standing over the Conejos River on the Manassa Ditch No. 1 with the 65 middle school students, discussing the 97 diversions between the Platoro Reservoir and where they were standing. “In the river, it doesn’t matter where you are,” Coombs said. “It’s all about your number.”

He added, “In water, we never use the word fair. It is not part of the vocabulary.”

After detailing how the rivers in Colorado deliver water to seven states, Rio Grande Compact obligations and how it takes 44 hours in a raft to float on the Conejos River from the reservoir to Las Sauces, the students couldn’t stop asking questions and volunteering answers.

Water leaders like Coombs make these experiential lessons an option for Valley teachers with help from interested classroom teachers and environmental educators like the Rio Grande Water Conservation Education Initiative (RGWCEI) specialist Judy Lopez.

“This gives the students a real life connection,” said Conejos science teacher Andrew Shelton while watching his students turn on to their natural environment this fall. “This is a farming community , and it really hits home with them.”

RGWCEI works with the Valley’s conservation districts , school districts, community members and producers with a goal to create an educated populous that not only respects the Valley’s natural resources, but also understands the big part agriculture plays in conserving those resources, Lopez said.

“Not only are they getting lectures, but hands on experience that will ultimately build an intrinsic value system,” she said. “Science today tends to be taught within the context of labs and boxes. These experiences create problem solvers.”

About 85 percent of Valley students either stay here or return after college, she added, making natural resources lessons during younger years much more important .

“The youth are going to value the Valley more,” Lopez said. “They will be responsive to the natural resources as citizens, parents and families.” Students of all kinds Natural resource education in the Valley isn’t limited to the K-12 classroom. Last spring, the Rio Grande Leaders Course graduated a number of locals looking to understand and protect the Valley’s water. The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District (SLVWCD), Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP) and RGWCEI sponsored course provided 25 community members the opportunity to engage in education and networking to prepare to take a future role in safeguarding , developing and managing the Valley’s water resources. It included information on Valley hydrology, water rights administration, notable court cases, current events and local partners and projects. Course attendees included young farmers, federal agency employees and other interested individuals , making for interesting dialogue and numerous perspectives on water use.

“It opened my eyes,” said Aliesha Carpenter, originally from La Jara and now married to a fourth generation Center potato farmer during the course’s closing ceremonies in March. “It wasn’t just about agriculture. It was about wildlife, the Sand Dunes and life for people. Without it, our agricultural economy would disintegrate. There needs to be a younger generation in agriculture.” Bureau of Land Management (BLM) assistant field manager Paul Tigan added, “I think the course helped with the understanding of the long term context of water management in the Valley. Federal employees have a tendency to come into a place, stay for a few years and then move on. This is a good opportunity to develop a context and to understand .”

RGWCEI is also reaching out to education professionals through its annual teachers workshop series. The series, now in its seventh year, offers educators from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn how to teach in the outdoors and from the outdoors. It includes a one-week experiential learning course annually over a three-year timeframe. The series is broken into three sectors: From Watershed to Cup Year One: Following Water Through the “Creekulum;” From Watershed to Sustainability Year Two: Building a “Stream” of Consciousness; and From Watershed to Table Year Three: Following Water Down the Food Chain. The series is based out of the Trinchera Ranch in Fort Garland, but uses the entire Valley as its classroom.

“It’s a way for teachers to reconnect,” Lopez said. “They learn how to teach in the outdoors, and it gives them a background. A teacher’s biggest fear is that they don’t know enough. They get to be on the ground with natural resource specialists and leave with hands on lessons , creating more confident educators.”

Completion results in three graduate credits, an extensive education in the Valley’s natural resources and their systems and the ability to build natural resources-based activities through the K-12 Project Wet curriculum, an outdoor environmental education tool. State supported initiative

In May 2010, the Colorado Kids Outdoors Grant Program Legislation, HB10-1131 was signed into law, recognizing the importance of the outdoor environment on the health of the state’s residents, especially youth.

It aims to prepare students to address present and future environmental challenges and innovations that impact quality of life, according to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Colorado Environmental Education Plan (CEEP) published in 2012. Colorado’s environment , economy and communities depend on informed citizens who can make decisions about air and water quality; the health of farms, ranches, forests and wildlife; how to meet energy and other resource needs; how to create and sustain healthy communities; and how to provide opportunities for residents to partake in the state’s natural beauty while protecting it for future generations.

In 2011, a partnership was born between CDE and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to write CEEP, and to foster awareness needed to promote, coordinate and sustain standards-based environmental education across the state.

The plan is designed to support implementation of the Colorado Academic Standards while developing students’ knowledge and skills related to the environment and getting students to spend more time outside, according to CEEP. The timing of this plan is advantageous as districts, schools and teachers are revising curricula and improving instructional practices to address the strategic imperative of developing all students’ postsecondary workforce readiness. Its strategies support teachers in addition to encouraging the integration of high quality environmental education opportunities and use of the outdoors in ways that are relevant, connected and meaningful for their students.

More education coverage here.

Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics’: U.S. Agricultural Producer Perceptions of Climate Change

Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003
Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003

Click here to read the article from the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics (Roderick M. Rejesus, Maria Mutuc-Hensley/Paul D. Mitchell/Keith H. Coble/Thomas O. Knight). Here’s an excerpt:

Given the clout agricultural producers have in Congress, the perceptions of this small but influential group may have a significant effect on the policy debate and on laws that are eventually enacted. There are no recurrent surveys of the agricultural sector’s perceptions of climate change in the United States and empirical studies are limited in number and in scope. Weber (1997) found that approximately half of the 48 farmers surveyed in east–central Illinois did not believe in the existence of global warming. Diggs (1991) showed that after a drought experience, three-fourths of farmers surveyed in the Great Plains believed that the climate is changing. In contrast, Saleh Safi, Smith, and Liu (2012) showed that vulnerability to climate change did not affect climate change risk perception among Nevada farmers and ranchers.

This study examines U.S. crop producers’ perceptions of climate change and its likely effects on crop agriculture. Based on a mail survey of over 1,300 farmers in four states, we investigate producer characteristics to identify those that affect producer beliefs about climate change, its impacts, and likely farmer responses. Our study is the first to measure climate change perceptions of U.S. agricultural producers over a broad geographical range and to identify characteristics that influence their perceptions. Our results suggest that a large proportion of producers in our survey do not believe that cli- mate change is scientifically proven nor do they believe that climate change will adversely affect crop yields. However, a large percentage of farmers also do not have an opinion. There is some evidence that climate change perceptions vary with education, age, willingness to accept risk, the amount of farm assets, the percentage of farm assets in land, and the extent of importance of off-farm employment. Also, most farmers believe that crop diversification, crop insurance, lease/rental modifications, and exiting farming are likely producer responses to climate change…

Responses to the statement: “I believe climate change has been scientifically proven” indicate that 15–20% of producers in the four states strongly disagree with this statement. When the strongly disagree and disagree responses are summed, the total negative response is nearly 50% in Mississippi and Texas. However, in all four states, between 20% and 30% of respondents indicated that they have no opinion about the issue. In fact, the largest single response in Wisconsin (31%) was no opinion. Responses of agree and strongly agree sum to 36% for North Carolina and roughly 24% to 25% for Texas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. These results reveal that although crop producers who doubt that climate change has been scientifically proven outnumber those that do not, there remain a significant proportion of respondents that have no opinion on the issue…

Responses to a set of questions asking producers to assess the likely impacts of climate change on crop production in their region are summarized in Table 3. Some of the results in this table are to be expected given previous tables indicating that many producers do not believe that climate change is occurring. The results in Table 3 indicate that roughly 70% of producers in all four states do not believe that climate change will affect (increase or decrease) their primary crop yield by more than 5%…

This article contributes to the scientific literature on climate change as one of the first to examine U.S. crop producers’ perceptions of climate change and its possible effects on the agricultural sector. In general, although there is a significant fraction of crop producers in these four states—Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin—who are skeptical of the climate change evidence and even less likely to believe it has been scientifically proven, the number of producers without any strong opinion on the matter cannot be ignored (21–31%). Our data suggest that not only is there relatively little acceptance of the existence of climate change, but also little belief that climate change will have negative effects on crop yields.

Excluding farmers who have no opinion, there is some evidence that climate change perceptions vary with education, age, willingness to accept risk, the amount of farm assets, the percentage of farm assets in land, and the importance of off-farm employment; also, no geographical disparity is observed. A caveat in interpreting these results, however, is that excluding the group with no opinion, although it clearly delineates responses, raises some concern about selection issues (see footnote 2). Nonetheless, the significance of these factors underscores several themes in understanding climate change perceptions and also points to several implications.

First, climate change is a gradual process with effects that are obscured by random weather events and cyclical climate patterns so that farmers are more skeptical about whether they are observing its effects (Weber, 1997). Because farmers do not directly perceive the consequences of climate change, previous re- search has suggested the need to provide scientific and statistics-based information about climate change from multiple sources to influence perceptions about climate change risks (Weber, 2006). In particular, Weber (2010, p. 6) suggests that “we should find ways to evoke stronger affective reactions towards the risk of climate change in citizens, managers, or public officials, by making the expected climate effects more vivid or concrete.” There seems to be interest in providing more information or outreach efforts, but the challenge is how to effectively deliver it to U.S. agricultural producers and the general public.

Second, it appears that farmers with more assets invested in farming tend to be skeptical about the science of climate change but are likely to believe that normal weather explains recent climate changes. One wonders whether this skepticism about climate science provides a screen for those with a lot more at stake if mitigation policies were implemented such as a cap-and-trade policy.

Third, we find the climate change issue and the lack of acceptance from some lay audiences to suggest scientific skepticism [ed.emphasis mine]. It is not clear whether this skepticism is likely to remain or change in the future. We suggest that it merits further study to see if the observed attitudes reported in this study will evolve over time.

Finally, notwithstanding the influence of certain variables on the perceptions of climate change, the four perception questions cannot give any strong indication about the source of skepticism. Undoubtedly, however, if belief in climate science is embraced, measures necessary to mitigate climate change would require sacrifices that not all people are willing to make; oftentimes they require a change of habits at the individual and societal level. Future research may want to examine farmers’ willingness to pay (or the payments/subsidies they are willing to accept) to implement climate change adaptation strategies, especially differentiating between those farmers who believe and those who do not believe in the existence of climate change. The current research is only an initial step in understanding farmers’ perceptions about climate change and the possible strategies to implement climate mitigation/adaptation policies.

Please note that the data was submitted in March 2012 and accepted March 2013.