#ColoradoRiver: Floating new ideas for water solutions — @ASU #COriver

The Colorado River Basin is divided into upper and lower portions. It provides water to the Colorado River, a water source that serves 40 million people over seven states in the southwestern United States. Colorado River Commission of Nevada
The Colorado River Basin is divided into upper and lower portions. It provides water to the Colorado River, a water source that serves 40 million people over seven states in the southwestern United States. Colorado River Commission of Nevada

From Arizona State University (Click through for the photos):

From desalination to homes with dual pipe systems, scientists and policy analysts exploring wide-ranging strategies

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series examining the work that ASU is doing in the realm of water as a resource in the arid West. Today, we explore technology and innovative approaches.

Mike Reisbig moored his boat there on an August afternoon. The Huntington Beach man, a football coach at Long Beach City College in California, has been coming to Temple Bar for about 50 years.

“I’ve noticed a lot of changes,” he said. “I’ve been here when the water’s all the way up, going to the spill wells, to where it is today. It’s a scary sight. You don’t know whether you’re going to be able to get your boat on the water anymore or not. It’s such a beautiful place. It’s the only place I’ll bring this boat. … It’s getting scarier each year, trying to figure out how to get it in the water. We seem to figure out a way and get it in. This is the best lake I’ve ever been to, and I’m going to keep going.”

His parents discovered the lake decades ago.

“It just has become one of those things the family does,” Reisbig said. “Believe it or not, I brought a 3-month-old baby up here with this heat in this boat, so she could experience this lake. I know she doesn’t remember any of it, but she comes up here every year. It’s just what the family does. I have yet to find a better place to bring a boat. It’s perfect out here. You’ve got your rough days, and you’ve got your beautiful days. It’s just perfect. It doesn’t get better.”

Like Reisbig, hydrologists, policy analysts and researchers are figuring out ways to keep going in the arid West. Here you’ll hear about technology and innovation behind water.

Straws in the ocean

It’s possible that the West will someday get to the point where new water supplies need to be found. One possibility being discussed in Arizona is building a plant to remove salt from seawater in Mexico on the Gulf of California.

The idea is in the early stages, but the broad outline of how it would work goes like this: Arizona builds it, Mexico uses it, and we take their Colorado River allotment.

Building — and permitting — a plant in California would be so expensive it’s not on the table.

“A lot of people are very pessimistic about desalination and its future,” Rhett Larson said. “I’m one of the optimists. I actually think that it’s going to be a big part of water-supply solutions, and probably sooner than people realize.

“The technology’s come a lot further. A lot of people think about desalination as just, ‘Well, it’s insanely expensive and nobody will ever do it,’ but the technology has come a long way and I think it has a really bright future.”

Larson is a fifth-generation Arizonan.

“I grew up worrying about water,” he said. “I’m one of the weirdos who actually went to law school wanting to be a water lawyer.”

Larson, an associate professor in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, is a senior research fellow with the Morrison Institute of Public Policy and sits on the advisory board of the Morrison Institute’s Kyl Center for Water Policy.

A privately owned desalination plant opened in Carlsbad, California, last December. Under a 30-year operating agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority, the plant produces 56,000 acre-feet per year. Most water managers call an acre-foot — one acre covered by water a foot deep — enough water for a suburban family for a year.

“That water’s cheaper for San Diego (residents) than pumping the water from the Colorado River,” said Larson, pointing out that the river water would require the construction of a pipeline across the state.

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU, is not a believer.

“I think a lot of the talk about desal (desalination) is wishful thinking,” she said. “People want an easy fix.”

Desal water from the Carlsbad plant is selling at more than $2,000 per acre-foot. SRP water is about $16 per acre-foot. Putting $2,000 acre-foot water on crops doesn’t make any sense.

“I think if we build a desal plant in Mexico, and that water were used in Mexico as a substitute for Colorado River water, I’m not sure how Mexico’s allotment of river water results in residential water,” Porter said. “The percentage that’s agricultural water is extremely cheap water, and it’s hard to figure out how you could use ocean desal for crops in a way that made sense.”

Desal plants also need constant demand. We usually build infrastructure and then demand catches up with it.

“I don’t think we should build something before we have the demand for it,” Porter said. “It’s a huge investment. … If we do get desal, (who pays for it) will definitely be municipal users, not growers.”

The ick factor

Reusing water is a huge part of the solution to close the demand gap.

“You don’t need a new supply if you’re reusing,” pointed out John Sabo, a School of Life Sciences professor who studies riverine ecology and freshwater sustainability. Reclaimed water is also cheaper than desalinated seawater. “We do need to work at becoming more efficient, because in the future that’s going to be our primary source for growth.”

ASU’s Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) program studies urban ecology. It has been ongoing for the past 20 years. Biological, physical, engineering and social scientists are studying eight aspects of what happens when you plop a city in a desert. Nancy Grimm
directs the project and has worked on it since the beginning.

One part of the study was looking at the reuse of treated wastewater for drinking water across the United States.

“The findings would be surprising to you, because there’s a lot more reuse of water in that particular interaction — between treated wastewater and reuse as drinking water or as municipal water — than you would think,” Grimm said.

“In some places it becomes really important during droughts. So in Texas, for instance, some of the cities are definitely using a pretty high proportion of the treated wastewater as municipal water supply. So there’s sort of what they call the “yuck” factor, the “ick” factor associated with that, but there’s really quite a lot of research that suggests that the water is quite safe.”

One of Sabo’s ideas is homes with two sets of pipes: one for potable water and one for reused water, which would go into the toilet, onto landscaping, etc. It would be an expensive retrofit, but one that could be gradually phased in. (When electricity came along, not everyone had their homes wired at once, for example.)

Golf courses and fake lakes already use reclaimed water.

“Why can’t everybody have some access for their outdoor watering to treated wastewater?” Grimm asked. “Those kinds of ideas are things that we’re exploring in CAP LTER, with people from the community, so government officials, people from flood-control districts in Maricopa County, various community leaders and so forth, we’ve been having these workshops that are creating what we’re calling sustainable future scenarios for Phoenix.”

Phoenix has been using reclaimed water on a huge scale since the 1960s. It cools Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, irrigates farmland and recharges aquifers. The city will use even more in the future, water services director Sorensen said.

“We’ve been pioneers in that, literally decades ahead of other communities,” she said. “Its importance will increase in the future. … That means the value of reclaimed water will increase. It means the importance of really managing our wonderful aquifer here increases exponentially.”

Future H2O

One of ASU’s three main water initiatives is Future H2O, unveiled by Sabo at a White House Water Summit in March. It’s a five-year plan focused on identifying opportunities for domestic and global water security. ASU researchers will partner with private and public sectors to find solutions to difficult water problems. The whole idea is to focus on the situation at hand, rather than hoping it will change.

“Where are the opportunities of the future to do better?” Sabo described it.

It has five pillars, one of which is aimed at averting what water managers call “the Silver Tsunami,” the imminent retirement of a lot of water professionals with institutional memory and expertise.

“The opportunity is the next generation is going to be more capable of harnessing the technology that surrounds us because they’re embedded in that technology,” Sabo said. “They know how to use it. The next generation is going to build on what the incumbents have left us, which in Arizona is quite strong.”

Two other areas of focus are:

• Developing funding for an urban landscape design and renovation campaign that reduces residential outdoor water use in at least one Phoenix metro service area by a third by 2025.

• Delivering research and advice to at least 10 of the largest corporate water users in the U.S. to scope, plan and implement restoration projects at scales that improve water reliability in stressed water basins nationwide.

Sabo created a software tool that helps corporations apply analytics to how they use water, simultaneously helping water conservation, habitat restoration and their bottom lines. It’s being used by Dow Chemical at their west Texas operations on the Brazos River.

“It tells Dow how to meet their water bottom line for manufacturing by creating wetlands instead of creating gray infrastructure,” said Sabo.

The nature of desert cities

One of things Grimm’s long-term desert cities project looks at is how storm water moves through the city and how it’s handled.

She’s interested in the idea that cities are potentially really good experimental test beds for thinking of water as a unified system. She envisions a city water department that manages drinking water, wastewater and storm water holistically.

“Some of that is going on in Phoenix, because Phoenix has been pretty innovative about things like reusing treated wastewater for watering golf courses and filling up fake lakes and things like that,” she said.

What happens when you plop a city in the middle of a desert? How does that affect the way water moves and behaves?

“We know very little about that,” said hydrologist Enrique Vivoni
, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Vivoni is interested in how changes in climate and land cover affect water as a resource. He uses observations of sensors and satellite data and computer modeling of hydrological systems.

“The movement of hydrologists studying cities in depth is actually very new,” he said.

Most other schools specialize in natural systems hydrology, like rivers, mountain watersheds and wetlands.

“None of them have this special expertise on human-environment relations in cities, where water is important currency,” Vivoni said. “Humans are primarily going to be urban dwellers moving forward. As a species, more than half of us live in cities. We do all these changes around us, and we have almost no clue about how the system works internally.

“Part of my work at ASU is on that angle: understanding, measuring, quantifying and eventually predicting how water moves, is transformed and flows through desert cities. My work focuses on arid and semi-arid areas.”

What does climate change and covering land with a city do, in concert or separately, to alter hydrological systems? When it comes to hydrology, codes and regulations don’t have much to offer: Don’t create more runoff than would have been produced without the development, make sure that water has a place to go, and that’s about it.

“We don’t tell our developers, ‘Make sure your development does not increase urban heat,’ ” Vivoni said. “That’s not in our regulations. What I’m trying to get at is we’ve built cities with very little hydrologic and atmospheric science in mind. ‘Just do it. The consequences we’ll figure out later.’ ”

What Vivoni’s group does is provide datasets, models and model outputs that can inform policy from science.

“I think we have to be a little more proactive about our water resources,” he said. “That’s going to require more science in our agency.”

Vivoni feels there needs to be more emphasis put on soft infrastructure: plans, policies, procedures, modeling systems, operational plans that say if the drought is this severe, we’re going to do this; if it’s that severe, we’re going to do that.

“How can we prepare the planners, the cities, the decision-makers with information and knowledge beforehand so that there are plans in place that can be followed under the eventual drought that will eventually hit us someday? That’s squarely in the academic world, and ASU is well-prepared with its social science and natural science expertise to contribute to that.”

Bridging the gap between science and policy is called “sociohydrology.” It’s a recognition that the natural science community hasn’t taken humans into account well enough in their work.

Government used to speak only to consultants.

“We’re at a phase now where academia is starting to play a role,” Vivoni said. The university provides consulting that’s broader than just an engineering goal that needs to be met.

“It can’t only be from one angle,” he said. “It can’t only be from the engineering angle, and it can’t only be from the anthropological angle. It has to be from some combination of lenses. … We’re trying to improve models that can be used in context with stakeholders, to have them have access to tools that can enhance decision-making. I’m at the technical back end of that. I’m not the person with the skills to interface directly with the Phoenix water manager.”

How ASU ended up bridging the gap between science and government

Water in the West in general has historically been a by-product of agriculture. Grady Gammage Jr. explained how ASU arrived where it is now.

Gammage (son of ASU’s third president) wears a lot of hats. If there’s a public or private board making important decisions about the state, you can count on seeing him there. He is an academic, a lawyer, an author, a real-estate developer and a former elected official.

At ASU, Gammage is a senior fellow at ASU’s Morrison Institute, the Kyl Center for Water Policy, and a senior scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. He also teaches at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

When he was in high school, he had a summer job with Salt River Project. “I’d get to drive around and look at the dams,” he told an oral history interviewer in 2007. “That was sort of my first exposure to Western water issues a little bit.”

“We study water, we think about water, we produce water, we build big water projects, all because of the heritage of the Bureau of Reclamation and John Wesley Powell and the creation of the great Western water projects,” he told ASU Now. “That means that the places where water has historically been studied the most are the land grant institutions, where it’s a by-product of the study of agriculture. The (University of Arizona) has been the water school, forever, and it is a world leader in hydrology and those kinds of things. That’s been weird, because ASU should have been the land grant school. Agriculture is here; it was never in Tucson. But, for historical reasons, it happened differently. ASU has had to come at this from the non-agriculture perspective.”

Gammage thinks that’s beneficial to the perspective ASU brings to water, because the West isn’t about agriculture any more. It’s about people and cities.

“Sometimes that historical overhang of the cultural legacy of water in the West distorts the way water is studied and planned and dealt with,” he said.

Gammage said ASU’s policy orientation — “big-picture water policy” — has evolved over the past 10 or so years.

“I think the niche for ASU is more to focus on the arid West and the way in which water and water rights are managed and adjudicated going into the future,” he said. “That’s why I’m excited about Rhett (Larson) being here. The Kyl Center for Water Policy is a really good idea. To me, that’s the more comfortable niche to exploit: the legal and policy aspects of water. That’s what I do; that’s what I like. I’m not a scientist.”

Loveland: Algae bloom in Green Ridge Glade Reservoir update

Green Ridge Glade Reservoir
Green Ridge Glade Reservoir

From The City of Loveland (Gretchen Stanford):

I hear your concerns about the water quality and taste and odor issues we are experiencing in Loveland. My goal is to be as transparent as possible by sharing information about what is causing the taste and odor issues in Loveland and what Loveland Water and Power (LWP) is doing to resolve the problem.

Loveland has been abuzz for months about the unusually large, stubborn algae bloom at Green Ridge Glade Reservoir, one source of Loveland’s drinking water. Although this bloom is fierce, the drinking water in Loveland still meets federal regulatory requirements, plus even more-stringent state standards, for drinking water.

This algae bloom in particular is the largest we have ever seen. As a result of the 2013 flood, more nutrients have entered into runoff as it makes its way to our reservoir. The extreme heat and abundant sunshine we have had this summer developed into the perfect storm for an enormous algae bloom.

This bloom has revealed new algae species that reproduce more quickly and produce stronger geosmin, the compound that causes taste and odor issues. Additionally, the Big Thompson River is now afflicted with a significant level of the same algae. We cannot treat the free-flowing river water in the same way as we do the reservoir. And at this time, we are blending water from both the river and the reservoir at the Water Treatment Plant (WTP).

LWP water quality specialists are closely monitoring water quality by testing water samples at the Water Treatment Plant as well as at homes and businesses throughout the city on a daily basis. We are also treating the reservoir with a hydrogen peroxide-based algaecide that was developed as an environmentally safe alternative to copper-based algaecides. The only end-products of the treatment we use are oxygen and water. In addition, we are using a safe, absorbent activated-carbon compound inside the treatment plant to remove as much taste, odor and color from the water as possible.

Our technical staff continues to explore safe alternatives for treating algae blooms in the future while walking a thin line between the price tag of new technology and reasonable rates for our customers. Next week, LWP will begin a feasibility study to evaluate options for algae mitigation. The study will include permanent aeration or oxygenation system in the reservoir. We will also do a preliminary design of a larger system to store and dispense the activated carbon compound at the WTP. Unfortunately, those large capital costs are currently not budgeted.

While we would like to predict when the algae will die, it is important to note that algae is a living, unpredictable organism. Blooms usually end shortly after the first frost but we have no way to predict when that might be. We will continue to update our website http://www.cityofloveland/waterquality and Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/LovelandWaterandPower with timely information as we receive it.

The safety and quality of our drinking water is one of LWP’s most important goals. We recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives. LWP takes water quality very seriously and will continue to produce safe, clean drinking water for our customers. We ask for your patience while we work to resolve this problem and find a way to prevent it in the future.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

An algae bloom in Green Ridge Glade Reservoir, the worst Loveland’s Water and Power division has experienced, is to blame for the unsavory taste and odor plaguing the city’s water supply. The blue-green algae is harmless, health-wise, according to state lab test results.

While the minuscule taste-and-odor compound released by the algae makes the taste disgusting, a lucky 25 percent of residents think the water’s fine because they can’t taste or smell the compound.

Soon, the other 75 percent of the city will have better-tasting water. The first hard freeze will mean a slow die-off of the algae bloom, water treatment manager Scott Dickmeyer said. After that, the water’s taste and smell should return to normal within a week or two.

But Loveland will have to invest in some new mitigation methods to keep the algae at bay.

Green Ridge Glade has always been susceptible to algae growth because it’s deep and relatively still. It’s not a recreation hub like Horsetooth Reservoir, from which Fort Collins gets its water, and water doesn’t flow in and out of it at a rapid rate like at Horsetooth because Loveland is its sole user.

So as temperatures rise, the reservoir’s deeper, stiller water produces nutrients that promote the growth of anabaena, a type of algae common in water systems.

Loveland officials use a hydrogen peroxide-based product to kill the algae, but the issue has gotten worse since the 2013 Big Thompson floods because of the nutrient influx and the mysterious introduction of a new species of algae that’s harder to kill.

That’s why even though the algae issue is nothing new, many residents noticed it for the first time late this summer…

The city’s been using powder-activated carbon to remove the taste-and-odor compound from the water and funneling more Big Thompson River water into its treatment plant, but each method has drawbacks.

Powder-activated carbon removes only 50 to 60 percent of the compound because it’s not great at trapping such tiny particles. Loveland’s treated water contains about 20 to 40 parts of the compound per trillion parts of water…

“It’s a very, very small amount, but most people are very, very sensitive to it,” Dickmeyer said. “It only takes about 5 parts per trillion for our customers to start noticing it.”

And within the last few weeks, algae started cropping up in the Big Thompson River, so diluting the taste with another water source wasn’t an option.

Loveland Water and Power is considering adding oxygen to the reservoir to discourage algae growth. The division is also considering more aggressive treatment options that won’t “cost a fortune,” Dickmeyer said.

Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan update

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

Several hundred public comments were received regarding a resource management plan for the Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan, U.S. Forest Service district ranger Matt Janowiak said Wednesday.

“This is one of the first NEPAs (National Environmental Policy Act) that I’ve been a part of where I’ve seen people really take the time and tell us what they think,” Janowiak said.

On Wednesday, Janowiak, along with Trout Unlimited’s Ty Churchwell and Trails 2000 executive director Mary Monroe, took a tour of the Hermosa Creek watershed with Republican Congressman Scott Tipton.

“The volume of public comments really speaks to how engaged this community is,” said Churchwell.

In 2014, after six years of negotiations, the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act was signed, a bipartisan effort that designated 37,400 acres as a wilderness area and 70,600 acres as a Special Management Area in the San Juan Mountains, north of Durango.

Lauded as a landmark collaborative victory, the Forest Service is drafting a management plan for the special-use area that would allow a range of recreational uses that include hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, ATV and other motorized use. A draft plan was released in July and comments were taken until Oct. 1…

The tour showcased the cutthroat reintroduction programs in the watershed that, once complete next year, will create the longest continuous stretch of cutthroat habitat in the United States, Churchwell said. The group also stopped at the facilities and campgrounds proposed for changes in the draft plan throughout Hermosa Creek, which Janowiak said is the second-most used area in the Forest Service’s Columbine District with thousands of visitors each year.

Janowiak said the Forest Service will review public comments and make any necessary changes to the environmental assessment, which will again be up for public comment in the spring.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout
Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

#Drought news: Some improvement in Central #Colorado, SW US megadrought

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

The current U.S. Drought Monitor period was dry through much of the Midwest and Plains states. Dryness also dominated much of Idaho, the interior regions of Washington and Oregon, much of California and Nevada, and the Southeast. A slow-moving system brought with it soaking rains from eastern Illinois into the Mid-Atlantic. Some areas of the Mid-Atlantic into Virginia and North Carolina recorded over 5 inches of rain with this event. The soils were primed to soak in the moisture and little runoff was observed, as short-term dryness had dominated this area. Eastern Idaho, northwest Wyoming and central Montana all had good rains this week as well as some of central and eastern Arizona, into western New Mexico. Temperatures were cooler than normal over the coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest and into northern California as well as Arizona where the wet conditions were observed. Much of Texas and Louisiana were cooler than normal; below-normal temperatures also extended up the Mississippi River Valley into portions of Kentucky and Tennessee. Warmer than normal temperatures dominated much of the Rocky Mountains, Central and Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and East Coast. Some departures in eastern Montana were 6-8 degrees above normal…

High Plains and South
Temperatures were warmer than normal over the northern and central Plains while they were cooler than normal over most of Texas, Louisiana and southern portions of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota did pick up some precipitation this week, but the region was generally dry, again helping with fall agricultural activities and crop maturity. Due to the recent patterns, the moderate drought was eliminated from North Dakota, with only a few pockets of lingering D0 remaining. The recent pattern allowed for an assessment of conditions in western South Dakota, where extreme drought was reclassified as severe drought and the extent of severe drought and moderate drought was also reduced. In southwest South Dakota, the recent dryness in the area did allow for the slight expansion of moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions. In Nebraska, the abnormally dry conditions were improved in the western and central portions of the state. Dryness over the last 30-60 days has allowed for abnormally dry conditions to be introduced into southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. In south Texas, moderate drought and D0 were also expanded slightly, and a new pocket of D0 was added along the Gulf Coast. Northeast Texas had more expansion of both moderate drought and D0 conditions this week as a short-term dry pattern continues. Oklahoma had some expansion of severe and moderate drought in the eastern portions of the state, but this may be short-lived as decent rains fell over the expanded area after the data cutoff for the week. Abnormally dry conditions were expanded in eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas and central Louisiana as well this week…

The new water year started over the West with some rain along the coastal regions of northern California, Oregon, and Washington as well as much of central and eastern Arizona. Areas in eastern Idaho, southwest Montana, and northwest Wyoming also recorded widespread precipitation this week. Temperatures were warmer than normal from the Great Basin into the Rocky Mountains, with departures of 6-8 degrees above normal. Most other areas were normal to cooler than normal along the west coast, with departures there of 2-4 degrees below normal. Improvements were made this week to the moderate drought in southwest Washington and extreme northwest Oregon.

Accordingly, some improvements were also made to the abnormally dry conditions in this area. Abnormally dry conditions also improved in central Colorado, southwest Wyoming and north central Wyoming in response to the most recent wet pattern. An assessment of conditions in northeast Wyoming led to a reduction in severe drought, similar to what was done in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Arizona saw D0 conditions improve in the southeast and northwest portions of the state where the greatest rains fell…

Looking Ahead
Over the next 5-7 days, many across the Southeast and along the eastern seaboard will be watching to see what Hurricane Matthew does. There is a potential for significant rains over drought areas, so it will be watched closely. Precipitation is anticipated over much of the central United States from New Mexico northeastward into the Great Lakes, with some areas projected to receive 2-3 inches of rain. Another storm system will impact the Pacific Northwest, bringing with it heavy rains along the coastal regions of Washington and Oregon. Temperatures during this time remain above normal, with only those areas along the coastal region, where rain is expected, projected to record temperatures near normal or slightly below.

The 6-10 day outlooks show all of the United States and Alaska having above-normal chances of recording temperatures that are above normal; the greatest chances are in the Plains. Precipitation during this time is anticipated to be greatest over the Pacific Northwest. There are higher chances of below-normal precipitation along the East Coast and in the Plains.

A new peer-reviewed report Relative impacts of mitigation, temperature, and precipitation on 21st-century megadrought risk in the American Southwest (Toby R. Ault, Justin S. Mankin, Benjamin Cook, and Jason E. Smerdon) has recently been released by Science Advances. Here’s the abstract:

Megadroughts are comparable in severity to the worst droughts of the 20th century but are of much longer duration. A megadrought in the American Southwest would impose unprecedented stress on the limited water resources of the area, making it critical to evaluate future risks not only under different climate change mitigation scenarios but also for different aspects of regional hydroclimate. We find that changes in the mean hydroclimate state, rather than its variability, determine megadrought risk in the American Southwest. Estimates of megadrought probabilities based on precipitation alone tend to underestimate risk. Furthermore, business-as-usual emissions of greenhouse gases will drive regional warming and drying, regardless of large precipitation uncertainties. We find that regional temperature increases alone push megadrought risk above 70, 90, or 99% by the end of the century, even if precipitation increases moderately, does not change, or decreases, respectively. Although each possibility is supported by some climate model simulations, the latter is the most common outcome for the American Southwest in Coupled Model Intercomparison 5 generation models. An aggressive reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions cuts megadrought risks nearly in half.

Hurricane #Matthew is a record setter already and it’s not over yet

Hurricane Matthew SE of Florida October 5, 2016. Photo credit NASA (via The Washington Post).
Hurricane Matthew SE of Florida October 5, 2016. Photo credit NASA (via The Washington Post).

From The Washington Post (Phil Klotzbach):

On Sept. 28, Matthew developed from an area of low pressure as it approached the Windward Islands. It was a very fast-moving system early in its formation, and it steered rapidly westward by high pressure to its north. In the first few days of its life, that speed inhibited intensification, but as soon as it slowed, Matthew began to strengthen.

Matthew reached hurricane intensity Sept. 29, and since then has been breaking records. Below are some of the milestones that Matthew has achieved so far:

  • Hurricane Matthew underwent a remarkable rapid intensification of 80 mph in 24 hours, intensifying from a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane. This was the third-strongest rapid intensification in a 24-hour period for any Atlantic hurricane on record, trailing only Hurricane Wilma (2005) and Hurricane Felix (2007).
  • It also became the first Atlantic-basin Category 5 hurricane since Felix (2007). Matthew is the 31st Atlantic-basin Category 5 hurricane on record.
  • One of the remarkable things about Matthew during its time in the eastern Caribbean (<=20°N, 75-60°W) was its very slow forward speed. Typically, hurricanes have to move at least 8 to 10 mph to not churn up cold water, which would significantly weaken the storm. But the Caribbean is very warm and very deep, which means there was less cold water to churn. As such, Matthew has been able to sustain itself as a very strong hurricane for a long time. Because of its slow movement and strong intensity, it has achieved several notable records for intensity and duration.

  • Hurricane Matthew is the longest-lived Category 4-5 hurricane in the eastern Caribbean on record.
  • The storm was a Category 4-5 hurricane for 102 hours, which is the longest that a hurricane has maintained such a strength on record during October in the Atlantic basin.
  • Matthew has been a major hurricane (Category 3-5) for more than five days, the longest-lived major hurricane since Hurricane Ivan (2004).
  • One index that hurricane scientists frequently use when they assess integrated effects of a hurricane is accumulated cyclone energy (ACE). This index takes into account intensity and duration of a hurricane.

  • Hurricane Matthew generated the most ACE of any hurricane in the eastern Caribbean on record.
  • As of Wednesday morning, Matthew had generated the most ACE by any single Atlantic hurricane since Igor (2010). Given the forecast track and intensity of Matthew, it is likely to be one of the highest-generating ACE storms of the past 50 years.
  • Matthew has already devastated portions of the Caribbean along its slow northward trek. It made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Haiti and then in Cuba and is now currently bearing down on the Bahamas. As such, Matthew has set some notable landfall records as well.

  • It was the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since Hurricane Cleo (1964). Matthew was also only the third Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Haiti on record, in addition to Flora (1963) and the aforementioned Cleo.
  • Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Cuba since Hurricane Ike (2008).
  • What potential future records are possible for Hurricane Matthew? The latest National Hurricane Center forecast as well as model guidance indicate that Matthew may last in the Atlantic for another week or more…

    No hurricanes on record have made landfall north of Miami along the east coast of Florida in October, and as mentioned earlier, no major hurricanes have made landfall since Wilma in 2005. Each of these records has the potential to be broken in the next few days.

    From CNN (Max Blau, Steve Almasy and Catherine E. Shoichet):

    Here’s what you need to know now about the powerful storm that forecasters say is gaining strength:

    • Authorities urged more than 2 million people to leave their homes in coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina as the storm neared — the largest mandatory evacuations in the United States since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.

    • Based on the latest projections, Matthew could make landfall in Florida early Friday as a Category 4 hurricane. It could also skirt the coast as it continues north. Outer rain bands from the storm are already approaching Florida.

    • The storm has already killed at least 15 people in several Caribbean countries.

    • It’s moving northwest at about 12 mph and packing 125 mph (205 kph) winds — a Category 3 storm. Thursday morning it was about 30 miles (45 km) south-southwest of Nassau, Bahamas, and 215 miles (350 km) from West Palm Beach, Florida.

    • Florida Gov. Rick Scott offered a dire warning Thursday morning for people living in evacuation zones: “This is serious. … Don’t take a chance. A small movement (of the storm) could mean a lot. That’s why we have to prepare for a direct hit. So again, if you need to evacuate and you haven’t, evacuate. This storm will kill you. Time is running out. We don’t have that much time left.”

    • “This could be an extremely disastrous hurricane for so many large areas where so many people can be affected,” National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb told CNN Thursday. “It’s not just going to come ashore and affect a narrow zone and then move on. It’s going to be going up the coast and could remain a major hurricane at the coast, or very close to it, the whole way up. That’s awful.”

    #cop21: Paris climate deal a ‘turning point’ in #ClimateChange fight — The Guardian

    Indigenous people #cop21 via the Department of Interior.
    Indigenous people #cop21 via the Department of Interior.

    From The Guardian (Oliver Milman):

    The climate accord is set to be activated on 4 November after the European Union, Canada, Nepal and India all formally ratified the deal. The latest ratifications mean that 73 nations accounting for nearly 57% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are fully committed to the process, meaning the two key thresholds to the agreement have now been met.

    Obama said: “Today is a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations. This gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we got. With optimism and faith and hope, we are proving it is possible.”

    The US president said the Paris agreement will prove a “turning point” in the fight against climate change, should nations fully commit to cutting emissions. The US and China, the world’s two largest emitters, both ratified the agreement in September.

    Obama said the deal, which commits countries to ensuring that the average global temperature doesn’t rise 2C above pre-industrial levels, will “open the floodgates for low-carbon innovation at a scale we haven’t seen before”. But he warned that emissions will need to be scaled back even further, along with mooted cutbacks in aviation and HFC pollution, if runaway climate change is to be avoided.

    “No nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this on its own – we have to do this together,” he said. “Even if we meet every target, we will only get to part of where we need to go. But this will help delay or avoid the worst consequences of climate change. It’ll help set bolder targets.”

    The Paris agreement, struck last year, calls for all 195 signatories to come up with their own voluntary plans to reduce emissions. While the landmark deal is the first commitment by all countries to reduce emissions, the individual pledges are unlikely to be sufficient to stay within the 2C limit, which could be breached as early as 2050, according to recent research.

    Separate studies have shown the world is on course for a temperature rise of around 3.5C by the end of the century, based on the emissions cuts promised in Paris. This would cause a range of disastrous environmental consequences, including heatwaves, sea level rise, species extinctions and spread of disease.

    There are doubts that the US is on track even to meet its initial promise to cut emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025 by 2005 levels. In a further complication, Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has promised to withdraw the US from the deal should he win power. However, the ratification locks countries into the deal for four years, so an immediate US exit wouldn’t be possible.

    But green groups have celebrated the activation of the Paris deal, pointing to the lightening pace of ratification after decades of international wrangling over climate change. United Nations agreements often take years to come into force, with the Paris deal taking less than a year to pass its ratification thresholds.

    “The unprecedented speed of the entry into force of the Paris agreement demonstrates that Paris was not a one-off deal, but rather a long-term commitment to climate action,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

    Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, added: “After years of tireless dedication and work toward an international climate deal, the Paris agreement has finally jumped off the page and into reality.

    “Now that the agreement is a reality, we must finally align our global energy and economic policies to meet these goals and end subsidies for outdated fossil fuels, transition to 100 percent clean energy, and stop harmful trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that run counter to the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

    Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and a key architect of the Paris deal, said the deal should be met with “unbridled optimism.”

    “We now we have our starting signal – this is the “go” toward a low carbon future,” she said. “That future is going to be exciting: ending the dominance of fossil fuels will deliver an abundance of innovation and opportunity for all of us.

    “We can deliver cleaner air, healthier cities and a new kind of ‘industrial’ revolution underpinned by technologies that enable us to live a prosperous life within the boundaries our planet can sustain. To achieve that, we must now increase our ambition to ensure the legacy of this moment is sealed as a positive pivot point in history.”