@NOAA: State of the Climate October 2015

significantclmateanomaliesandevents102015noaa

Click here to go to the NOAA website. Here’s an excerpt:

U.S. climate highlights: October

Temperature

  • Fourteen states from the Great Plains to West Coast, including Alaska, had an October temperature that was much above average, with numerous locations within those states being record warm. Washington had its warmest October on record with a temperature of 52.8°F, 5.6°F above average, besting the previous record of 52.3°F set in 1988.
  • Near-average October temperatures were observed across the Ohio Valley, Southeast, and Northeast, with below-average temperatures in parts of New England.
  • Precipitation

  • Above-average precipitation was observed across the southern half of the contiguous U.S. from the Southwest, through the Southern Plains, and into the Southeast. Seven states had October precipitation totals that were much above average. South Carolina had its second wettest October with 10.36 inches of precipitation, 7.37 inches above average.
  • Only October 1990 was wetter for the state when 11.56 inches of precipitation was recorded.
  • Below-average October precipitation was recorded in parts of the Northwest, Ohio Valley, and Florida.
  • According to the November 3rd U.S. Drought Monitor report, 26.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 5.2 percent compared to September 29th. Drought conditions dramatically improved across parts of the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley where heavy precipitation flooded the region in late October. Drought also improved across the Southeast and in parts of the Northwest. Drought conditions worsened across parts of the Central Plains and Midwest. Precipitation was spotty across the West with long-term drought conditions continuing to plague the region.
  • Significant Events

  • In early October, a strong low pressure system moved into the Southeast as Hurricane Joaquin moved off the East Coast. The two systems interacted, streaming deep tropical moisture into the Carolinas over a five-day period. Historic rainfall totals of 15-20 inches were widespread with localized totals greater than 25 inches around Charleston, South Carolina. The heavy rainfall caused significant flooding across the region, including coastal flooding that was exacerbated by strong onshore flow and astronomical high tides. The flooding resulted in over 400 roads, including Interstate Highways, being closed and at least 16 fatalities.
  • In late October, several storm systems impacted the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley, including the remnants of Hurricane Patricia. Heavy rainfall caused significant flooding across the region. On October 30th, Austin, Texas’s Bergstrom Airport was forced to close when 5.76 inches of rainfall was observed in one hour, adding to the calendar-day total of 14.99 inches. This was the second wettest day on record for the city. Texas as a whole had its fifth wettest October with 5.84 inches of precipitation, 3.31 inches above the 20th century average.
  • #keystonexl: The Keystone Pipeline and the Defeat of Faceless Corporate Power — Charles Pierce

    From Esquire (Charles Pierce):

    For the historical moment, it appears, there will be no continent-spanning death funnel bringing the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel from the environmental hellspout of northern Alberta down through the most arable farmland in the world to the refineries of the Gulf Coast, thence to the world. The president has decided this will not be the case…

    You could see it coming over the last month—when Canadian elections went against the death funnel’s primary political supporters, both nationally and in Alberta. You could see it when TransCanada, the multinational corporation seeking to build the death funnel, begged the State Department for a reprieve that would have pushed the decision to approve the tunnel past the end of the current president’s term. You could see it this week, when the State Department refused to honor that request. But the real story of what happened on Friday begins years ago, and it begins with ordinary people, and it is a remarkable story of actual populism in action.

    tarsandstrucks

    2016 #COleg: Sonnenburg bills concentrating water project permitting under State Engineer die in interim committee

    George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South
    George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

    From The Boulder Weekly (Matt Cortina):

    There was an effort by half of the state’s Water Resources Review Committee last week to approve two bills that would have taken the permitting process for new dams and reservoirs away from federal and state regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other wildlife and public health agencies and given all dam and reservoir permit decisions solely to the Office of the State Engineer.

    The first draft bill essentially intended to strip the rights of state regulators, including the state energy office, the water quality control division, the parks and wildlife commission and more from making decisions about any hydroelectric energy facility (dams); certification for water diversion, delivery and storage facilities (reservoirs); and state mitigation plans for water diversions that affect fish and wildlife.

    The second draft bill sought to strip federal regulators, like the EPA, the Army Corp of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and others, from permitting on water issues and resources done at the federal level.

    Both bills would have consolidated all that regulation and decision-making to the Colorado Office of the State Engineer, otherwise known as the Division of Water Resources.

    The bills were brought forth by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Wray) and were heard on Oct. 29 in the committee. The 10-member committee voted along party lines, and with an even split of Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against the bills, both quickly died — for now.

    The bills could still be presented to the state legislature by Sonnenberg or another legislative member when the new session convenes in January. Given the split state legislature, which has been the cause of death for many bills, it’s unlikely the bills would gain any traction, but their introduction in the committee might represent a much larger push by some on the right to limit permitting regulation on water issues…

    To those in the know about Colorado’s water issues, the suggestion of condensing all permitting powers to one office seems ludicrous. But the case made for these bills is likely to appeal to a large segment, particularly those who lean right, of Coloradans: less federal regulation, less state bureaucracy around permitting and a secure source of water for the state…

    The state’s grand water regulation plan, Colorado’s Water Plan, is the product of an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper, and will manifest as a final draft in December. The plan will include a more “efficient permitting process,” and the latest draft calls for the solicitation of private funds to help build new water supply projects that have yet to be determined.

    #COWaterPlan storage: There are “about 100,000 acre-feet that could be snatched up pretty quickly'” — James Eklund

    Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald
    Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    Building a transmountain diversion in Colorado is one thing — 11 on a difficulty scale of 5 — but increasing water storage might be far easier, the head of the Colorado Water Conservation Board said.

    The board is nearing completion of the state’s first water plan, which Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered drawn up in 2013 to address a water-supply gap of 560,000 acre-feet of water by 2050. For perspective, the state’s largest impoundment, Blue Mesa Reservoir, contains about 830,000 acre-feet when full.

    As the drafters have tackled the storage section of the plan, it’s become clear that the state could increase its water storage significantly simply by looking anew at existing dams, water official James Eklund said.

    There are “about 100,000 acre-feet that could be snatched up pretty quickly” without so much as turning a shovel, Eklund said.

    Many dams were originally constructed in an abundance of caution to contain more water than they actually have, Eklund said.

    Taking the additional storage into account “could produce a new chunk of water” that could be held back in reservoirs, Eklund said.

    Eklund is to unveil the entire plan Nov. 19 at History Colorado in Denver, just under a month ahead of schedule. It was ordered to be complete by Dec. 10.

    The plan will contain several objectives that, if reached, would move the state toward filling the gap between the demands of 5 million more Coloradans by 2050 and the amount of water available within the state.

    Among the goals are increasing municipal and industrial conservation by 400,000 acre-feet per year and boosting to 50,000 acre-feet annually the amount of water involved in voluntary alternative transfer projects, up from 3,000 acre-feet annually now.

    “There isn’t a chronic, the-sky-is-falling type of problem with water contamination” — Ken Carlson

    A schematic of possible migration pathways of contaminants, water-based and gas-phase, into the bedrock aquifer from adjacent faulty oil or gas wells.
    A schematic of possible migration pathways of contaminants, water-based and gas-phase, into the bedrock aquifer from adjacent faulty oil or gas wells via Colorado State University

    From Colorado State University (Anne Ju Manning):

    There’s no evidence of water-based contaminants seeping into drinking water wells atop a vast oil and gas field in northeastern Colorado, according to Colorado State University scientists working to protect and inform citizens about the safety of their water.

    Ken Carlson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, has led a series of studies analyzing the impact of oil and gas drilling on groundwater in the 6,700-square-mile Denver-Julesburg Basin, which extends north-south from Greeley to Colorado Springs, and east-west from Limon to the foothills.

    The studies have been performed under the auspices of the Colorado Water Watch, a state-funded effort begun last year for real-time groundwater monitoring in the Denver-Julesburg Basin. The basin shares space with more than 30,000 active or abandoned oil and/or natural gas wells. The CSU researchers primarily looked at the 24,000 producing and 7,500 abandoned wells in the Wattenberg Field, which sits mainly in Weld County.

    Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin
    Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin

    “We feel that our results add to our database of knowledge,” Carlson said. “There isn’t a chronic, the-sky-is-falling type of problem with water contamination.”

    That isn’t to say that some of the water wells in the basin over the Wattenberg oil and gas field aren’t compromised. Carlson’s team found that 2 percent of their sampled wells showed seepage of oil- and gas-related methane – a flammable greenhouse gas that’s the main component in natural gas.

    And that’s not good, Carlson said. Methane, a concern for climate change emissions, can also be explosive (which is why coal mines blow up, and why the movie “Gasland” portrayed flaming taps). But it’s not toxic, and isn’t a huge factor in terms of drinking water safety. It also is found in large quantities in the basin from naturally occurring, biogenic sources.

    With regard to the really bad stuff – the bariums, chromiums and other soluble contaminants that people have been worried about getting into their water – Carlson’s team didn’t find any.

    Their studies strengthen the theory that thermogenic (originating from oil and gas formations) methane contamination is most likely due to stray gas moving along the outside of compromised well casings in and around the aquifers. Well casings are the cement and steel housing around the production tubing of the oil rig. That tubing penetrates the ground, straight through the aquifer, and into the oil- and gas-rich sediment thousands of feet below.

    “My guess is that most of the thermogenic methane-contaminated wells we see out there are 10 to 30 years old,” Carlson said. “Well casing requirements and monitoring have tightened up significantly since the 2009 regulations.”

    The latest studies were published in Environmental Science and Technology, and in Water Research.

    From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

    A series of studies, led by CSU civil and environmental engineer professor Ken Carlson, analyzed the impact of oil and gas drilling on groundwater in the 6,700-square-mile Denver-Julesburg Basin, which extends between Greeley and Colorado Springs and between Limon and the foothills.

    The studies were done under the auspices of the Colorado Water Watch, a state-funded effort started last year for real-time groundwater monitoring in the DJ Basin. The basin shares space with more than 30,000 active or abandoned oil and natural gas wells, say CSU researchers.

    Wattenburg Field via The Denver Post
    Wattenburg Field via The Denver Post

    They primarily looked at the 24,000 producing and 7,500 abandoned wells in the Wattenberg Field, which sits mainly in Weld County.

    “We feel that our results add to our database of knowledge,” Carlson said. “There isn’t a chronic, the-sky-is-falling type of problem with water contamination.”

    Still, some of the water wells in the basin over the Wattenberg field are compromised, says CSU. Carlson’s team found that 2 percent of their sampled wells showed seepage of oil- and gas-related methane — a flammable greenhouse gas that’s the main component of natural gas.

    Methane, in addition to being a concern for climate change emissions, can also be explosive. Still, it’s not toxic and isn’t a huge factor in terms of drinking-water safety.

    But other worrisome soluble contaminants — including barium and chromium — were not found by Carlson’s team.

    They say that strengthens the theory that thermogenic — that which originates from oil and gas formations — methane contamination is most likely due to stray gas moving along the outside of compromised well casings in and around aquifers.

    The issue: "...it's disposal of wastewater." -- Don Frick
    The issue: “…it’s disposal of wastewater.” — Don Frick