#Drought News: Cooler-than-average temperatures over parts of Colorado this past week

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

This week a southwesterly flow returned to the Southeast, ushering in a tropical like air mass that produced widespread precipitation across the region. Meanwhile, a strong upper level low developed in the Midwest, producing heavy rains, which prompted flash flood watches. Warm, dry air continued to dominate the West…

Northern Rockies / Plains and Northwest

Above-normal precipitation effected western South Dakota, southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming during the period. Temperatures in those areas were running as much as 6 degrees above normal. As a result of the recent rains, the remaining D0 was removed in Nebraska and South Dakota. Warmer-than-normal temperatures and large precipitation deficits continued to hold their grip on Washington and Oregon this week. D3 conditions were expanded in Washington where hay growers are suffering from millions of dollars in losses due to the ongoing warm, dry conditions. It was also reported that pear and apple trees are stressed along with hops…

Southwest

The monsoon season brought some good rains into Arizona prompting drought improvements in southeast Arizona. Cooler-than-average temperatures were seen in portions of Colorado and Utah. It was reported that eastern Colorado had started to dry out, but thanks to the spring moisture and cooler than normal temperatures for much of the summer, evaporative demand has been lower than average. Consequently, the soils have been able to retain the moisture and prevent drought degradation. Temperatures for the period were generally warmer than average across the region. Drought was contracted in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico…

West

California continues to deal with its ongoing drought. Water managers and farmers are adapting their practices to help conserve water and reduce economic loss in the state. Temperatures in California were warmer than average in the south, gradually transitioning to cooler than average northwards. The only precipitation that fell during the period was in south and east Nevada…

Looking Ahead

During the next 6-10 days, the probability of cooler than normal temperatures are high in the Ohio and Tennessee River Valley’s extending into the Great Lakes and Midwest. Chances are likely that the rest of the country will experience warmer than normal temperatures, especially in the Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest.

Over the same period, precipitation associated with the large system centered over Wisconsin will move through the Great Lakes area. Further south, the precipitation will slowly move eastward and dissipate as the low pressure moves into Canada. Another, less powerful and dryer system will follow producing the heaviest precipitation in the Midwest. Ridging continues to hold its grip in the West while monsoonal precipitation may bring light drought relief in the Southwest.

seasonaldroughtoutlook0820thru11302015

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July 2015 was the hottest month on record for Earth

Summit County Citizens Voice

All signs point toward more record-breaking heat ahead

dfg Only a few small parts of the planet saw anywhere near average or below average temperatures in July 2015.

sdfg There is little question that average global temperatures have been soaring since the 1970s.

Staff Report

FRISCO — July 2015 was the hottest month on record for planet Earth by any measure, federal climate scientists said this week during their monthly global climate update. What’s more, the researchers are 99 percent sure that 2015 will end up as the hottest year since humankind has been tracking the climate, going back to about 1880.

That would break the record set just last year and is sure sign that greenhouse gases are inexorably heating the planet, despite year-to-year variations in the rate of warming.

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Viewpoint: Leveraging EPA’s Orange River to Abate the Threat of Abandoned Mines

Your Water Colorado Blog

The Animas flows orange through Durango on Aug. 7, 2015, two days after the Gold King Mine spill. (Photo by Esmé Cadiente | www.terraprojectdiaries.com) The Animas flows orange through Durango on Aug. 7, 2015, two days after the Gold King Mine spill. (Photo by Esmé Cadiente | http://www.terraprojectdiaries.com)

By Mark Gibson

If you recall publicity on the Eagle Mine near Beaver Creek or the Yak Tunnel in Leadville, you could predict that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had a manifest destiny to pollute a hundred miles of streams with toxic sludge—from Cement Creek to Lake Powell.

Before John Elway ever won a Super Bowl, the Denver Post spotlighted the Eagle Mine, reporting how regulators’ plans to plug old mine shafts ran afoul—percolating toxic pools overflowed in 1989, causing Beaver Creek’s snowmaking machines to spray “orange snow.” Four years earlier, miners on a maintenance mission during their annual “Yak tunnel walk”–by accident–dislodged muck in workings from the 1800s, releasing a plume in the Arkansas River sufficient to move EPA to create a 20-square-mile…

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Climate: West may be in permanent drought by 2060s

Summit County Citizens Voice

kj Is western drought the new climate normal?

New study quantifies global warming effect on California drought

Staff Report

FRISCO — Researchers say there’s new evidence that global warming will push the western U.S. into the driest conditions in at least the past 1,000 years, as higher temperatures exacerbate drought condition in the region.

The new study by scientists with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Cornell University focused on the current California drought, showing that warmer temps drive moisture from plants and soil into the air. Warmer temps likely worsened the California drought by 25 percent, the scientists concluded in their paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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Arctic sea ice dwindles to second-lowest extent ever

Summit County Citizens Voice

dsdaf Arctic sea ice now at it’s second-lowest extent on record. @bberwyn photo.

Antarctic sea ice extent below average for the first time in four years

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a mid-month update, researchers with the National Snow and Ice Data Center said that Arctic sea ice has dwindled to the second-lowest extent on record, with an above-average melt rate during the first half of August. The only time there was less sea ice was in 2012, which set the record for the lowest extent.

The NSIDC also reported that Antarctic sea ice extent is below the 1981 to 2010 average for the first time in nearly four years. Antarctic sea ice expanded by just 96,500 square miles between August 1 and August 17, and retreated around the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Ross Sea, and around the coast of Wilkes Land.

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Craftsmen pedal journey of water to schoolkids

Mile High Water Talk

Denver Water craftsmen who built the water wall. Thomas Mabe, Construction Shop foreman; Terry Barker, welder; Buck Young, welder, Paul Archuleta, plumber; Jeff Gulley, plumber; Dale Conn, Plumbing Shop foreman; Keith Gillest, plumber. Denver Water craftsmen who built the water wall. Thomas Mabe, Construction Shop foreman; Terry Barker, welder; Buck Young, welder, Paul Archuleta, plumber; Jeff Gulley, plumber; Dale Conn, Plumbing Shop foreman; Keith Gillest, plumber.

Water Wall highlights ingenuity at Denver Water

By Jay Adams

It may look pretty simple, but behind Denver Water’s new Journey of Water wall is a story of ingenuity, commitment and determination.

The interactive display highlights water’s journey from a reservoir to a treatment plant using energy from a bicycle to push water through a series of pipes and fixtures.

But a closer look reveals the dedicated Denver Water professionals who work behind the scenes every day to make sure 1.3 million people have water to drink.

Denver Water’s Youth Education manager, Matt Bond, worked with local engineer Chad Weaver to create a preliminary design. A team of skilled craftsmen — Denver Water plumbers, metal shop workers and a…

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Aspen Times Weekly: Could a mine-waste spill happen here?

Smuggler Mine back in the day via GregRulon.com
Smuggler Mine back in the day via GregRulon.com

From The Aspen Times Weekly (Scott Condon):

Pitkin County has between 600 and 800 mine features, including multiple adits into the same mine, according to an estimate by the Colorado state government. And as Cooper’s experience shows, there are Aspen mines that are filled with water — but just because there’s water, that doesn’t mean it’s contaminated water.

Still, that hefty inventory of adits and shafts makes it reasonable to wonder if something similar to the discharge of 3 million gallons of toxic water from the Gold King Mine near Silverton into the Animas River earlier this month could happen in Aspen (see story, page 33).

State and federal officials as well as miners with street credibility will never say never, but a similar disaster in Pitkin County is unlikely, in large part because of geology, they agreed.

Aspen Mountain’s mines tended to be internally drained to the water table, so “there is generally no significant surface drainage discharges associated with the underground workings,” said Bruce Stover, an official with the Colorado Inactive Mine Reclamation Program. That means there is a “very limited possibility” of underground impoundments of water being formed, he said.

Mines in the San Juan Mountains and other parts of the state have water above the surface. Toxic water was intentionally captured inside the Gold King Mine. It breached when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency undertook a reclamation effort.

Aspen miners tended to encounter water below the level of the water table and Roaring Fork River, said Jay Parker, a partner in the Compromise Mine on Aspen Mountain and a miner and tour guide at the Smuggler Mine.

The water emerging from Aspen’s mines hasn’t been found to be acidic or laced with heavy metals in any testing to date. In one of Aspen’s few hard-rock mine reclamation projects, water in Castle Creek tested similarly above and below where the Hope Mine discharged, according to Forest Service records.

Parker said water draining from the Compromise Mine on Smuggler Mountain feeds ponds where fish thrive and ducks gather.

Local Mine reclamation aimed at safety

Many of Pitkin County’s mines have collapsed, either naturally or by public agencies for safety reasons.

“Our records show we have safeguarded approximately 90 hazardous, non-coal openings in Pitkin County, many of them on Aspen Mountain,” said Stover. Numerous closures have also been completed on coalmines in the Coal Basin and Thompson Creek areas.

The Forest Service typically performs safety closures on three or four mines per year, according to Greg Rosenmerkel, engineering, minerals and fleet staff officer on the White River National Forest. “There are hundreds of mines across the forest.”

The focus of both the Forest Service and the Inactive Mine Reclamation Program is to prevent people from entering an unsafe situation. Old mining timbers have often rotted, making interior travel perilous. Air deep underground can be toxic without proper ventilation.

“It’s almost an attractive nuisance,” Rosenmerkel said of the old mines.

A recent closure was completed earlier this summer at three mines in the high ground beyond Crystal. The typical closure costs $200,000, though no two projects are the same, he said.

Both the Forest Service and Inactive Mine Reclamation Program are focused on finding mines that pose a physical hazard, such as ones located in a ski area or adjacent to a popular hiking trail, and safe-guarding them.

No toxic water impounded

If Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management officials suspect environmental issues, the state Water Quality Control Division is mobilized to test for acidity or metals. If a problem is found, the Inactive Mine Reclamation Program figures out how to solve the problem. If an environmental problem is suspected with a mine on private lands, the Forest Service might be involved if it affects public lands, Rosenmerkel said.

The Hope Mine in Castle Creek Valley warranted remediation while the Ruby Mine in Lincoln Creek Valley has raised concerns but hasn’t been found in need of monitoring (see related stories), according to officials.

Rosenmerkel said there is no situation in the Aspen-Ranger District where water as toxic as that in the Gold King Mine is being impounded.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit focused on water quality and quantity issues in the valley, doesn’t specifically test to see how water coming from mines affects rivers and streams in the basin.

“Outside of Ruby, I don’t know if we have a big enough problem or big enough source,” said Rick Lofaro, the conservancy’s executive director.