After Hottest Year On Record, Ocean Warming Is Now ‘Unstoppable’ — IFL Science


From (Josh L Davis):

Sea levels, warming of the surface and upper layer of the oceans, greenhouse gases and land temperatures all hit a record high in 2014. In addition to this, glacier melt and tropical storms were also at a high, while sea ice loss continued. These are the findings from the annual State of the Climate report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The results are based on the work of 413 independent scientists from 58 countries.

“This report represents data from around the globe, from hundreds of scientists and gives us a picture of what happened in 2014,” explained Thomas Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who carried out the report, which has been produced every year for the last 25.

“The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” he added.

The report also hints at something even more worrying. Even if greenhouse gas levels were cut immediately, the researchers claim the warming of the oceans is predicted to continue for centuries and millennia. It seems we might have reached the tipping point, and crashed over the edge.

Water managers dodge bullet with ‘May miracle’ rains — The Los Angeles Times #ColoradoRiver

Upper Colorado River Basin May 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal
Upper Colorado River Basin May 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal

From The Los Angeles Times (Rong-Gong Lin and Rosanna Xia):

For drought watchers, it has become known as the May miracle.

At a time when water levels in Lake Mead were getting so low that officials prepared for drastic cutbacks, it started raining. A series of powerful storms pummeled the mountains that feed the Colorado River, a key source of water for California, Arizona and Nevada.

Water from the rain and snow flowed down the river and into reservoirs that are essential to modern life in the American West.

Lake Mead, where the water level this spring had fallen to lows not seen since Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s, began filling up again — enough to avoid the first cutbacks ever imposed in water deliveries, which the public had been warned could happen next year.

“It’s taken us out of that potential red zone for this year. There is a 0% chance of a shortage” for next year, said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s general manager. “That really good May offers us some breathing room.”

Bill Hasencamp, the MWD’s Colorado River program manager, was more blunt: “We dodged that bullet.”

Had it not been for those storms, Southern California could have faced 30% to 40% reductions in imported water, Kightlinger said.

That’s because Nevada and Arizona wouldn’t have been as willing to lend California their unused river water if a shortage affects them.

Southern California is already draining its largest reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake, to keep faucets flowing in Los Angeles. Without more loans of river water, Diamond Valley Lake could have been drained down to its emergency reserve by the end of the year…

The May miracle was so stunning that some officials could not believe how much water was flowing into Lake Powell, the reservoir upstream from Lake Mead…

The storms came as the jet stream — a powerful flow of winds that moves from west to east — bypassed much of California and slid into the Great Basin over Nevada and Utah. It then transformed into spinning vortexes of energy, known as a cutoff low, Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken said.

Beginning in late April, the vortexes were supercharged by subtropical moisture off Mexico’s coasts, Doesken said…

The result? Six powerful storms moving slowly across the southern and central Rocky Mountains and dumping rain that was unprecedented in the modern historical record.

“By the end of May, it was like, ‘Whoa! What did just happen?’ ” Doesken said…

But the storms don’t resolve the long-term problems that California, Nevada and Arizona face in their water supply from the Colorado River.

For decades, Lake Mead’s water reserves, even in previous droughts, had remained generally stable because of low demand.

It wasn’t until 2000 that demand for river water soared just as a 15-year drought along the Colorado River basin began, Hasencamp said. Since then, we have been taking water out of the bank.

“Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the Colorado River: There is a long-term imbalance that we can’t continue to operate in the future as we have in the past,” Hasencamp said…

A shortage at Lake Mead could force further draining of Lake Powell, which could eventually affect the water supply in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, which must share river water with states further downstream, said James Eklund, who works to protect Colorado’s interests on the Colorado River…

A shortage could create a catastrophic domino effect. If Lake Powell is drained too much, water won’t be able to get into the pipes that power turbines that generate electricity at Glen Canyon Dam. That could raise electricity prices, Eklund said.

“It’s kind of the — hang together, or we all hang separately — deal,” Eklund said.

Flooded confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River June 2015 photo via Andy Cross, Getty Images and The Denver Post
Flooded confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River June 2015 photo via Andy Cross, Getty Images and The Denver Post

El Niño ends dry run in Southwest Colorado — The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

Higher-than-average precipitation in the region could continue into the winter if El Niño patterns persist, said Jim Pringle, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“It looks highly likely La Plata County should stay out of any drought classification,” Pringle said.

Browns Canyon Dedicated as a National Monument —

From (Andrea Chalfin):

The nearly 22,000-acres of public land that stretches from Buena Vista to Salida in Chaffee County along the Arkansas River is well known for its recreation and wildlife…

Comments during the nearly 90-minute ceremony centered on thanking those involved for cooperation and dedication during the decade-plus long process, everyone from local residents to government officials, past and present.

It’s a sentiment that strikes a chord with Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

“The significance of this is an example of what can be done when communities come together and deal with differences, address each other’s concerns, but do it in a way where they really value those differences,” says Tidwell…

“It’s a great form of rural economic development, to get more tourists to come into the state,” says Hickenlooper. “They come into Denver or Colorado Springs or Fort Collins, they’ll spend a couple of days there, and then they’ll go off and come to these amazing places. And having Browns Canyon be a National Monument, I think will significantly increase tourism, the number of people coming through Colorado Springs.”

National Monuments can be created by an act of Congress, but legislation there stalled. President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the land as a National Monument earlier this year.

It’s a move criticized by some, including Republican Representative Doug Lamborn, whose district includes Chaffee County. Lamborn issued a statement Friday, calling the designation an abuse of executive power and a land grab.

But U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell dismisses those concerns, and in her prepared remarks during the dedication ceremony, she called the country’s public lands a gift.

“And as we grow and we urbanize and we diversify as a nation, and we get more and more disconnected from the outdoors and nature, it is more important today to protect these special places than ever before,” said Jewell.

Management of the area will remain with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Historic uses, including cattle grazing, hunting, and fishing will continue, and a management plan to come will include input from the local and state levels, as well as tribal concerns.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Aspinall Unit operations update: Current inflow forecast for Blue Mesa = 105% of avg

Black Canyon via the National Park Service
Black Canyon via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 3000 cfs to 2000 cfs, over the next 3 days. Releases will be decreased by 400 cfs on Wednesday, July 22nd, by 350 cfs on Thursday, July 23rd, and by 250 cfs on Friday, July 24th. This reduction is in response to the declining inflows to Blue Mesa Reservoir which have allowed the reservoir elevation to drop to 2 feet below the maximum water surface elevation. The current forecast for April-July unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 710,000 acre-feet which is 105% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1500 cfs for July and 1050 cfs for August.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are 2000 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 1000 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

“There is not consistent political leadership in Colorado Springs” — Jay Winner

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In order to ensure stormwater control in Colorado Springs in the future, Colorado Springs Utilities needs to take over the job, or the city will face further legal action over the issue.

“Everything’s in place to do this,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “If this were an enterprise of Utilities, the work would be brought up to speed immediately.” Utilities controls water, sewer, gas and electricity in Colorado Springs.

Winner is suggesting adding stormwater as a fifth utility. The idea has been discussed, but has not had a champion until now.

Attorneys for the Lower Ark are wrapping up the final draft for a federal district court complaint over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act by Colorado Springs. The lawsuit has been contemplated for two years, based on Colorado Springs’ inability to find a permanent stormwater funding source. A filing is expected within 60 days.

Making stormwater a fixture within Utilities might be a way of avoiding the lawsuit, Winner said.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and City Council President Merv Bennett on July 6 gave assurances to Pueblo City Council that the city would find ways to fund $18 million in stormwater control activities annually from its general fund.

Winner, who attended that meeting, was not convinced.

“They’re constantly telling us how they are doing these wonderful things,” Winner said. “But their political leaders can be recalled or choose not to run again. There is not consistent political leadership in Colorado Springs. One of the things Utilities is good at is leadership.”

Bennett also has made appeals to the Lower Ark board to hold off on the lawsuit while Colorado Springs gets its house in order. But Winner said there are no actions to back up the rhetoric.

“Merv Bennett turned it over to Colorado Springs staff. I’ve had no meaningful conversations with them in the last six months,” Winner said.

Colorado Springs voters last November turned down a regional stormwater fee concept that sprung from two years of political meetings in El Paso County.

Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater fee following a 2009 vote on a proposal launched by Doug Bruce, a tax activist who became an El Paso County commissioner and state lawmaker before he was convicted for tax evasion.

Funds totaling about $29.6 million for six Colorado Springs enterprises, and transfers from Utilities to the general fund, were to be phased out over eight years under Issue 300 on the 2009 Colorado Springs ballot. Before the election, council members had talked about making about $3.7 million in cuts annually until the total was reached. After the election, council has opted only to eliminate the stormwater enterprise, which would have generated about $15.4 million in 2010.

“Springs City Council made the wrong decision,” Winner said. “If there’s one thing that Utilities knows how to do, it’s make good decisions.

They would not have made that decision to eliminate the stormwater enterprise.”

Council in August 2010 made the determination that Colorado Springs could keep “surplus payments” from Utilities without violating Issue 300. Those payments have totaled more than $30 million annually since that time, according to a 2014 bond rating statement filed by Utilities.

“Seems like there would already be some funding available for stormwater,” Winner said. “Plus, Utilities has the engineering, equipment and experience to do the sorts of projects that need to be done.”

While council oversees Utilities, future members would be less likely to arbitrarily end stormwater funding, any more than they would remove water, sewer, gas or electric service, he added.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

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

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 through July 19, 2015
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 through July 19, 2015

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.