30th Anniversary of the Macintosh computer

Here’s the link to the iconic Apple commercial announcing the Macintosh:

New Yorker podcast: Elizabeth Kolbert on the Sixth Great Extinction

Arapahoe snowfly
Arapahoe snowfly

From the New Yorker (click through to listen to the podcast):

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer who is perhaps best known for her reporting on global warming. In 2006, after a series on the subject in the magazine, she published her book “Field Notes from a Catastrophe.” Her reporting on climate change led her to investigate species extinction, which climate change is exacerbating. According to many scientists, we are now in the midst of the sixth great extinction, a massive die-off of species around the globe. In recent issues, The New Yorker has published pieces by Kolbert on species extinction, from chapters in her forthcoming book, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” Here, she talks to Sasha Weiss about the enormity of the problem. Also, Calvin Trillin samples the hot tamale on the Delta.

Thanks to Dave Winer for the link. Here’s his reaction to the podcast. Here’s an excerpt:

First, there’s nothing special about humanity. We’ve only been here about 200,000 years. Long enough to destroy everything, but in the grand scheme of things, when the destruction is finished, the planet will probably evolve new species, a different cast of characters, that do what we do, more or less. It may take tens or hundreds of millions of years to clean up after us. But this is not a problem for the planet. It has the time.

We may be insignificant, but what we are doing re destruction of the planet’s ecology is unprecedented. It’s never before happened here. We don’t know about other planets elsewhere in our galaxy or the universe. But we’re in the process of recreating climates that haven’t existed on earth for 50 million years. That’s something. Not something to be proud of, of course.

Second, the mundane things we do every day, the example she provided was driving to get groceries, are actually totally extraordinary. When we get in the car to run errands we’re burning the bodies of animals that lived millions of years ago. We’re moving the carbon from their bodies from deep below the earth, into the atmosphere and the oceans, transforming them. Destroying old habitats, and creating new ones. This is not something that “natural” processes do. You need a supposedly intelligent species to do this.

Her book is coming out next month. Asked if she was suggesting things we might do to solve the problem, in the book, she says she is deliberately not doing that. My guess is the reason for that is the next epiphany that hit me after digesting a bit of the podcast.

Third, there is nothing we can do. We might as well enjoy consuming the last resources of the planet, and perhaps should turn our attention to leaving an adequate record of our civilization for the next one to come along, millions of years from now, in the hope of helping them avoid the catastrophe that ended us.

BTW, in case you’re feeling guilty — don’t. This process was not caused by anything we consciously did. Certainly not anything you or I did. Just the existence of a species capable of doing such big things was probably enough to destroy life on the planet. You can listen to the podcast and let me know if you hear anything different. It seems this story is full of revelations about our reality.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

‘If the only time you walk on lawn is to mow it, get rid of it’ — 7 water smart landscaping strategies

Drought news: 34% of lower 48 in moderate drought or worse #COdrought

US Drought Monitor January 21, 2014
US Drought Monitor January 21, 2014

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Rest of the Contiguous 48 States
Very little if any precipitation fell. As a result, drought and dryness remained unchanged in most areas as moisture deficits crept upward on all relevant time scales (which varied depending on location). In a few areas it seemed appropriate to indicate one-classification deteriorations in the dryness and drought depiction. Specifically…

D0 was expanded into western Iowa and adjacent areas where 60-day precipitation totals were under half of normal.

A few areas in southeastern Texas and the Texas Panhandle worsened to D0 or D1 levels which were on the cusp of classifications last week.

D0 was downgraded to D1 in south-central Louisiana where 6-month precipitation totals were at least 9 inches below normal. In a larger surrounding area of central and southern Louisiana and adjacent Mississippi, D0 expanded into areas at least 4 inches below normal for the last 60 days and recording under 4 inches of precipitation since late December 2013.

Looking Ahead
During January 23 – 27, 2014, between 0.25 and 0.75 inch of precipitation (with locally higher totals) is forecast in the dry areas of the Northeast, central Florida, and southern and southeastern Texas. Light precipitation is anticipated in areas adjacent to these and in most of the Rockies. No measurable precipitation is expected elsewhere. The pattern of above-normal temperatures in the western U.S. and below-normal temperatures farther east is expected to continue.

For January 28 – February 1, 2014, the odds favor above-normal precipitation in the central and northern Rockies and along the northern tier of states from the northern Rockies through the Great Lakes region. Above-normal precipitation is also favored in the dry areas of Alaska. There are enhanced chances of below-normal precipitation in the southern Rockies and in central and southern sections of the rest of the contiguous 48 states from the Appalachians and Piedmont westward to the Pacific coast, except Florida and southern Texas. Neither dryer- nor wetter-than-normal conditions are favored elsewhere. The pattern of above-normal temperatures in the West and below-normal temperatures farther east is expected to continue.

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

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through January 19, 2014
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through January 19, 2014

Click here to read the current summary from NIDIS via the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to go to the website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

Snowpack news: It’s drying out in southwest Colorado #COdrought

From The Durango Herald (Vanessa Guthrie):

The snowpack in Southwest Colorado – the Animas, Dolores, San Juan, Mancos and San Miguel drainages – was 100 percent of average three weeks ago. As of Tuesday, the snowpack had dropped to 77 percent.

Snowpack has been dissipating throughout the region.

On Jan. 14, Molas Pass snow depth was measured at 41 inches. As of Tuesday, the snow depth was measured at 38 inches. Red Mountain Pass was at 51 inches and dropped to 46, Cascade Creek decreased from 19 to 18 and Wolf Creek Pass dropped from 48 to 46.

Rege Leach, a division engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said it’s too soon to worry about the consequences of a quick-melting snowpack. Though it’s always good to monitor the numbers, February, March and April remain to compensate for water loss, he said. In the case of a shortage, water supply for irrigation and municipal uses would be affected…

It also helps that water levels in reservoirs in the San Juan and Dolores drainages have remained fairly average, he said.

“We have a good water supply even if we don’t get an average snowpack runoff,” Leach said…

Tom Renwick, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the San Juans have been drier than in past years because of the northwestern track storms have been taking. Generally, storms that affect the Durango area come for the southwest, but the recent systems steered northwest, favoring central Colorado, he said.

Colorado River Gains Recreational Flow Rights for Whitewater Parks


From email from White & Jankowski, L.L.P. (Melanie Cabral):

The Grand County Board of County Commissioners was awarded historic water rights for two whitewater parks on the Colorado River in a recent water decree entered by Judge Boyd in Division 5 Water Court. The Hot Sulphur Springs Whitewater Park was granted water rights for flows ranging from 250 to 850 cfs. The Gore Canyon Whitewater Park was granted water rights for flows ranging from 860 to 1500 cfs. Uniquely, the decree also protects deliveries of water up to 2,500 cfs to the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park.

“This decree represents a significant investment by Grand County to gain water rights for recreational use by river rafters and kayakers, which is a huge economic driver in the area,” Commissioner Gary Bumgarner said. These water rights were part of an agreement reached in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement with Denver Water and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement with the Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Although there was a lot of pushing and shoving to get these water rights through water court, the decree represents a good balance of the multiple uses that are made of water in our state” said Commissioner Merrit Linke. “We had 25 objectors in our case, but were able to reach a settlement with everyone,” Commissioner James Newberry said.

Recreational in-channel diversions (RICDs) have had a controversial history due to concerns that RICDs “tie-up” stream systems and impede more traditional, consumptive uses of water. As a result, the Colorado General Assembly substantially revamped the law in 2006 to require the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) provide findings that RICDs: 1) will not impair Colorado’s ability to develop water under its compacts: 2) will promote maximum utilization of waters of the State; and 3) will not injure CWCB’s instream flow water rights. The CWCB made favorable findings on the Grand County RICDs in March 2012.

“This is the first RICD decree entered under the new statutes,” noted David Taussig, an attorney with White & Jankowski, LLP in Denver who represents Grand County on water matters. “It is the largest RICD water right decreed in Colorado and the only one on the Colorado River mainstem to date,” he said. “The beauty of Colorado water law is its ability to accommodate new uses of water and to fit them into the prior appropriation system,” Taussig said.

Grand County is presently planning construction of the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park, with hopes to begin construction as early as this fall. Grand County has secured a grant from the CWCB for $500,000. Eagle County has pledged to contribute $340,000, and the County is raising the remainder of funds for the $1.2M project. Contributions to complete the project may be made to the Grand Foundation at http://www.grandfoundation.com/page/49/gore-canyon-whitewater-park/.

For more information, contact Lurline Underbrink Curran (970) 725-3347, or David Taussig or Mitra Pemberton (303) 595-9441.

More whitewater coverage here and here.

CWCB: Alan Hamel, Travis Smith and April Montgomery reappointed to the board

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Water Conservation Board Chairman Alan Hamel of Pueblo was tabbed for reappointment recently by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Hamel represents the Arkansas River basin on the CWCB.

Also named for reappointment by Hickenlooper were Travis Smith of Del Norte and April Montgomery of Norwood.

The state Senate must confirm the appointments, which are for three-year terms.

“One of the reasons I reapplied was to see the Colorado Water Plan through the final report to the governor,” Hamel said. “It’s been an exciting year as chairman with the floods, fires and continuing drought.”

Hamel, the retired director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, was appointed to the CWCB in 2011. He previously served on the board from 1994-99.

Smith, a rancher and superintendent of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, was appointed to the board in 2005.

More CWCB coverage here.