The latest ENSO discussion is hot off the presses from the CPC

midaugust2016plumeofensopredictions

Click here to read the discussion. Here’s an excerpt:

ENSO Alert System Status: Not Active
Synopsis: ENSO-Neutral conditions are slightly favored (between 55-60%) during the upcoming Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2016-17.

ENSO-Neutral conditions were observed over the past month, although sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were below-average over the east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean. While the Niño-3.4 and Niño-3 regions remained around -0.5°C for most of the month, Niño-4 and Niño 1+2 were -0.1°C and +0.3°C, respectively, by the end of the month. Subsurface temperatures across the eastern and central Pacific remained below average, and negative temperature anomalies remained weak across the western Pacific. Atmospheric anomalies over the tropical Pacific Ocean largely indicated ENSO-Neutral conditions. The traditional Southern Oscillation index and the equatorial Southern Oscillation index were weakly positive during August. The lower-level winds were near average, while the upper-level winds were anomalously westerly in a small region to the east of the International Date Line. Convection was suppressed over the western and central tropical Pacific, although less suppressed compared to last month. Overall, the combined ocean and atmosphere system continues to reflect ENSO-Neutral.

The multi-model averages favor borderline Neutral-La Niña conditions (3-month average Niño- 3.4 index less than or equal to -0.5°C) during the Northern Hemisphere fall, continuing into winter. However, the more recently updated model runs from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) more strongly favor ENSO-Neutral. The forecaster consensus prefers this outcome, which is supported by the lack of significant anomalies in several indicators over the past month (winds, convection, subsurface temperatures). Overall, ENSO-Neutral conditions are slightly favored (between 55-60%) during the upcoming Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2016-17.

#AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine nears Superfund designation

From The Colorado Independent (Eliza Carter):

The Environmental Protection Agency decided this week that the Gold King Mine near Durango is a top priority for Superfund designation. The mine, which was abandoned in 1923, spilled about 3 million gallons of mustard hued, toxic sludge into the Animas River in August 2015 and continues to leach today.

The agency added the Bonita Peak Mining District, which includes Gold King, to its National Superfund Priorities List, meaning that congressional approval is the only remaining obstacle to Gold King becoming a Superfund site. The designation would unlock millions of dollars for the EPA to investigate and address years of contamination.
Environmentalists, however, aren’t optimistic about swift action from Washington.

Erica Brown, a spokeswoman at the Durango-based environmental group San Juan Citizens Alliance, called Congress “wholly uninterested in acting.” Brown noted that the area around Gold King receives funds for cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, so cleanup will continue, but Superfund money is still out of reach.

The fact that it took more a year after the spill to access Superfund dollars has some wondering why there wasn’t a swifter federal reaction. According to Brown, it was actually a rapid response by the standards of federal bureaucracy. The EPA only considers sites for National Priority listing twice a year – and Gov. John Hickenlooper asked that they do so for Gold King’s district last winter.

The agency then assessed the district’s needs and held a public comment period. Wednesday’s announcement marked the end of the review process, which actually took less time than usual.

Overall, Brown said that the spill helped to highlight the gravity of the mining industry’s legacy in Colorado. State estimates put the number of abandoned and inactive mines in Colorado at about 17,000. But Brown says that, in the past, the potential hazard those mines presented wasn’t perceived with urgency. “A lot of folks in the downstream communities did not understand how bad the problem really was, so was there very little engagement.”

Now, public opinion research shows that Coloradans are more concerned about their waterways in the wake of the mine spill. According to a poll conducted by Chism Strategies in Colorado, 67 percent of Coloradans say they want their elected officials to do more about cleaning up mines.

Of particular concern is the fact that Gold King is still leaking. On the one-year anniversary of the spill, the mine was estimated to be spewing 500 gallons per minute into the river, which serves as a backbone for the region’s economy and way of life. It’s an alarming number, but not cause for alarm, thanks to mitigation efforts from the EPA. The agency installed a treatment plant at the mine in the wake of last year’s spill, so the water emerging from the mine is not likely to cause environmental damage.
While the Gold King disaster grabbed the country’s attention, environmentalists say it’s only a symptom of a much more widespread and grave problem. Some are looking ahead to wholesale reform of the mining industry and mining clean-up – but there are serious challenges.

At issue is the fact that taxpayer-funded government agencies are often on the hook for the impacts of mines abandoned by private companies, which is permitted by mining law from 1872, just before Colorado gained its statehood. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced legislation in November 2015 that would reform how the law works, but it has not yet been voted on in the Senate.

Brown expressed profound frustration about congressional apathy, saying that elected leaders are “more concerned with making the mining industry happy than they do the American people.”

Gold King is among ten other toxic sites being added to the priorities list, including a plastic manufacturing site in New York and a lumber site in Florida.

#ClimateChange: U.S. experiences 5th warmest summer on record — NOAA

significantclimateeventsaugustsummer2016noaa

Here’s the release from NOAA:

Lower 48 also had 3rd warmest year to date and second wettest August

An oppressively hot Summer 2016 for many across the contiguous United States tied 2006 as the 5th warmest in 122 years of record keeping.

The average summer U.S. temperature was 73.5 degrees F, 2.1 degrees above average, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Every state in the continental U.S. and Alaska were warmer than average this summer. Precipitation totalled 0.60 inch above average, making summer the 24th wettest on record.

The month of August was the 17th warmest on record, with an average temperature across the Lower 48 of 73.6 degrees F, 1.5 degrees above average. Twenty-four states were much warmer than average. The precipitation total for the month was 0.85 inch above average, making this August the second wettest.

The year to date (January-August) for the contiguous U.S. was the 3rd warmest on record with an average temperature of 56.7 degrees F, 2.8 degrees above average. All Lower 48 states and Alaska observed above-average temperatures during this eight-month period.

Other notable climate events included:

  • Northeast/Mid-Atlantic: Eight states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, had a record warm August. Connecticut and Rhode Island had their warmest summer on record.
  • California had its warmest summer on record, which contributed to an active wildfire season.
  • Alaska experienced its third warmest August, second warmest summer and was record warm for the year to date at 7.6 degrees F above average.
  • Louisiana: In mid-August, a storm system dropped more than 30 inches of rain on parts of the state that caused record flooding and at least 13 deaths.
  • Mancos water district continues reservoir title transfer — The Cortez Journal

    Jackson Gulch Dam photo via USBR
    Jackson Gulch Dam photo via USBR

    From The Cortez Journal (Jacob Klopfenstein):

    This summer, the Mancos Water Conservancy District has continued investigating a possible title transfer for the Jackson Gulch Project, Superintendent Gary Kennedy said Wednesday.

    The district has been pursuing a transfer of ownership from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, so that the district could be the sole owner of the reservoir project. It’s a lengthy process that could take five years or more and requires an act of Congress, Kennedy said.

    One issue with the transfer is what would become of federal lands that have been withdrawn to become part of the project, Kennedy said.

    “Our concern is that if we took the title, that land would stay with the project, instead of going back to the Forest Service,” he said.

    The MWCD board also has had general discussions about other issues regarding the transfer, including liability.

    No funds have been committed to the title transfer, and the process is still in baby steps, Kennedy said. Either party — the Bureau of Reclamation or the MWCD — can withdraw from the process at any time, he said.

    Some funding may come through in the next three to four years for the project rehabilitation effort, Kennedy said. The next item the district is focusing on rehabilitating is the reservoir inlet chute.

    The cost to get those chutes into top shape would be about $1.2 million, which could be funded by both Bureau of Reclamation grants and MWCD funds, Kennedy said. The district has put in a request for funding to the BOR, he said.

    A contractor is on site working on rock mitigation around the project site, especially in West Mancos Canyon, Kennedy said. People are asked not to go in the canyon when there is work taking place there, and signs are posted around the site to make people aware, Kennedy said.

    #AnimasRiver: San Juan [#NM] Water Commission looking @ pipeline from Lake Nighthorse

    Animas-La Plata Project map via USBR
    Animas-La Plata Project map via USBR

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

    The commission decided today that it will meet in October to discuss whether to pursue a conceptual design of the pipeline.

    Aaron Chavez, director of the San Juan Water Commission, highlighted the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015 as a reason the county could benefit from a pipeline from Lake Nighthorse.

    During a meeting in August about the spill, County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said a pipeline to Lake Nighthorse could be used during emergency situations to provide water to downstream communities…

    Chavez said that while the lake could provide additional water to San Juan County, there has been no pumping this year from the reservoir — which is fed by the Animas River — due to concerns stemming from the Gold King Mine spill, which released more than 3 million gallons of wastewater containing toxic metals into the river.

    Chavez said the original purpose of Lake Nighthorse was to provide communities a reliable source of water during droughts…

    The possibility of a pipeline also comes with other concerns. Chavez highlighted invasive species, such as quagga mussels, as one of those issues. A recreation plan is currently being developed for Lake Nighthorse, and officials fear boats on the reservoir could introduce quagga mussels to the system. The invasive species could then attach to pipeline infrastructure, leading to clogged water systems.

    Chavez said a conceptual design for the pipeline is estimated to cost $10,000 to $15,000, while a more detailed study would cost between $200,000 and $250,000.

    Commissioner Jim Dunlap, who represents rural water users, said the pipeline will be expensive to construct.

    “We can’t just put it in Lake Farmington and call it done,” Dunlap said.

    He said the pipeline would need “spurs” to all the San Juan County water treatment facilities.

    9/12/2013: Phenomenal rain reports coming in from all over Boulder County — Coyote Gulch

    Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 -- Graphic/NWS via USA Today
    Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 — Graphic/NWS via USA Today

    I made the mistake of checking my Twitter feed overnight on the 12th. Couldn’t get back to sleep. What a set of storms. Aurora got almost as much rain as Boulder County. Lots of flooding.