NOAA: Hello La Nina

From NOAA (Maureen O’Leary):

Weather this winter to be influenced by climate phenomena

La Nina has arrived and is favored to stick around through winter. Forecasters say the climate phenomena will likely contribute to drier and warmer weather in the southern U.S. and wetter, cooler conditions in the Pacific Northwest and across to the northern tier of the nation this winter.

Typical La Nina weather patterns over North America via NOAA.
Typical La Nina weather patterns over North America via NOAA.

NOAA scientists declared the arrival of La Nina on Nov. 10, calling it present, but weak. It is predicted to be short-lived, possibly only lasting a few months. La Nina is associated with cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, which trigger changes in the atmosphere. This ocean-atmosphere coupling impacts the position of the Pacific jet stream influencing weather and climate patterns around the globe.

“A weak La Nina is in place and is likely to remain for the winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The weak La Nina is likely to contribute to persisting or developing drought across much of the southern U.S. this winter.”

This La Nina follows one of the strongest El Ninos on record, which ended in June. Recent La Nina years include 2011-2012; 2010-2011; 2007-2008; and 2000-2001. Find out more about La Nina on the ENSO Blog.

What to expect this winter: NOAA’s Winter Outlook.

midoctober2016plumeofensopredications

#Drought news: Expansion of D1 (moderate drought) E. of the Great Divide and D0 (abnormally dry) W.

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

Summary

Mild weather once again dominated the majority of the U.S. this past week. Temperatures of at least 10 degrees warmer than normal dominated much of the Plains, Midwest, and Mid-South. Near to slightly below-normal temperatures were confined to New England and south Florida. The drought-stricken areas of the Southeast, southern California, the Intermountain West, and the northwestern Plains received little, if any, precipitation resulting in the persistence or deterioration of drought conditions in these areas. Meanwhile, the coastal Northwest, the south-central U.S., parts of the Midwest, and New England saw rainfall with the passage of a cold front through those areas…

The Plains

Most of last week’s rain stayed to the east of the regions’ drought-inflicted areas. Temperatures ranging from 8 to 16 degrees above normal caused continued drying in these regions and resulted in an expansion of moderate drought (D1) over southwest Kansas and abnormally dry (D0) conditions across north central South Dakota and south-central North Dakota…

The West

Changes in the West this week were mixed. Abnormal dryness (D0) expanded westward in the Upper Colorado River Basin over western Colorado, eastern Utah, and south-central Wyoming in response to warmer-than-normal temperatures and short-term precipitation deficits. Colorado also saw a south and southwestward expansion of moderate drought (D1) due to the continued dryness in the region and impacts on soil moisture and vegetation. A re-examination of data due to rains over the last 30 days resulted in a trimming of moderate (D1) and severe (D2) drought over northeast California and northwest Nevada. These rains have been enough to improve long-term rainfall deficits, streamflow, and soil moisture. Likewise, a one category improvement was made in drought conditions over western Wyoming.

Looking Ahead

The National Weather Service medium range forecast calls for continued warmth and dryness over much of the interior U.S. The highest temperature anomalies are expected over the western and central states while East Coast temperatures are forecast to return to more seasonable values. The highest probabilities for precipitation once again is in the Northwest. Forecast models also indicate a possibility for rain along parts of the Gulf and East Coast.

Coyote Gulch: My 15 minutes of fame (See Andy Warhol)

Coyote Gulch at the Midnight Classic in 2011
Coyote Gulch at the Midnight Classic in 2011

From SmartCommuterNorth.com:

John O. is a Water Resources Administrator for the City of Thornton. In May of 2016, leading up to Bike to Work Day, Smart Commute interviewed John about his bike commute to work. Read John’s responses below!

Smart Commute: Can you describe your normal commute?

John O: I have a very long commute – 25 miles round trip each day. I actually commute entirely by bike, and it takes about an hour each way. My office is in Thornton, and I live in northwest Denver.

SC: When did you start commuting by bike?

JO: I started bike commuting around April 2008. I wanted to lower my carbon footprint.

SC: What is the best thing about your commute to work?

JO: The best thing about my commute is the time along Clear Creek and Farmers Highline Canal — no vehicle traffic, watching the seasons change over the months, and having a great view of the changing Colorado weather over the Front Range.

Update: For safety reasons (road rage, driver error) I have stopped riding Pecos St during the evening rush hour. I now throw my bike on an RTD express bus, ride downtown to Union Station, and bike home from there through the Northside neiborhoods. Cuts my mileage about 5 miles.

#AnimasRiver: Taxpayers to foot bill for Freda Mine cleanup — The Cortez Journal

Mine waste piles at the Freda Mine pose a risk to water quality and erosion, prompting the Colorado Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety to come in to clean up the site. Courtesy of Colorado Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety.
Mine waste piles at the Freda Mine pose a risk to water quality and erosion, prompting the Colorado Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety to come in to clean up the site. Courtesy of Colorado Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety.

From The Cortez Journal (Jonathan Romeo):

Taxpayers again must foot the bill for cleaning up a Colorado mine site previously operated by embroiled company Red Arrow Gold Corp.

“We wrote a violation, and recalculated his (Red Arrow owner Craig Liukko) bond,” said Tony Waldron of Colorado’s Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety. “He didn’t respond. Sometimes people just disappear.”

Trouble began in 2013 when state inspectors visited a relatively minor but active mine site on which Red Arrow held a permit about seven miles northwest of Silverton, called the Freda Mine.

Finding a litany of violations that posed a risk of water pollution and erosion, DMRS determined Liukko’s bond of $8,685 would not cover the cost of cleanup, estimating instead it would take $19,000.

But when Liukko did not post the additional bond and failed to attend several state meetings about his company, Colorado’s Mined Land Reclamation Board in 2014 revoked his license and seized the $8,685 bond.

The $10,315 difference will now be covered by a fund set up for these types of situations, Waldron said. Part will be come from federal money, and another portion will be covered by a severance tax on Colorado’s gross income taken from oil and gas and carbon dioxide production, which contributes about $130,000 a year to the state’s mine cleanup efforts.

Kirstin Brown, a reclamation specialist with DMRS, said work at the Freda Mine is likely to begin in summer 2017.

She said crews, among other tasks, will need to haul off trash from a recently erected mill building, close two mine portals, and take on a large project to re-grade mine waste piles that are eroding into Ruby Creek, a tributary of Mineral Creek.

Brown also found during a 2015 inspection a mine waste pile outside the permit boundary on adjacent Forest Service land.

“And oddly, it’s uphill of the site, which is very strange, and not the way (miners) normally work,” she said.

Brown estimated the project would take a couple weeks to complete once crews can gain access to the hard-to-get-to site near Ophir Pass, at an elevation of 11,200 feet.

The approximately 1-acre site is relatively small when compared with other polluters in the heavily mined Animas River watershed, and is not included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently declared Superfund listing, which will address 48 mining sites around Silverton.

Yet Brown said the small mine waste piles and trash that is a potential hazard to waterways is just enough to be “irritating,” warranting a cleanup.

Aside from the Freda Mine, DMRS’s Waldron said the state is paying for a cleanup project at Liukko’s other former mining operation in Mancos, where investigators in 2013 say they found dangerous levels of mercury and arsenic contamination.

Waldron said DMRS completed one season of work over the summer, yet there are lingering tasks to do in summer 2017 before the site is fully remediated.

So far, the state has spent $113,034 on cleaning the site in Mancos, with only $8,875 of Red Arrow’s initial bond covering the cost, according to DMRS spokesman Todd Hartman.

Liukko, who lives in Arizona, also has not paid any of the $339,667 in violations issued by the state, Hartman said, adding that the amounts due have been sent to the state’s collection office.

When contacted last week, Liukko said he was unable to comment because of pending litigation.

His company is involved in a bankruptcy case in Colorado, wherein Liukko claims Red Arrow’s parent company American Patriot Gold and investors Maximilion Investors seized Red Arrow’s assets with the intent of taking over the mine in Mancos.

Liukko argued the $25 million loan the investors promised was not delivered, and the continual breach of funding obligations led to the mine’s closure and Red Arrow’s inability to pay for the cost of cleanup.

@EPA, @CDPHE lawsuit zeroes in on #Colorado Springs stormwater violations

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state health department filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the City of Colorado Springs over water quality violations and stormwater program shortfalls dating to 2009.

Mayor John Suthers, who began building a new stormwater program immediately after taking office in June 2015, expressed frustration over the decision by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to file legal action rather than recognize recent strides the city has made.

The federal and state agencies are seeking civil penalties that Suthers said could amount to “millions and millions of dollars.”

“What’s frustrating is: They know they have a mayor and City Council that recognize the problem, understand the problem and are intent on fixing the problem,” the mayor said. “Rather than working with us to get this done, they file a lawsuit.

“This is the kind of lawsuit that gives the EPA a reputation for being over-reaching. Every single dime going to litigate this thing and pay fines should be going into fixing the problem.”

Over the past 18 months, the city has:

◘ Negotiated and signed a $460 million, 20-year intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County to build 71 major stormwater projects. The work is designed to eliminate sedimentation, detain excessive flows and improve water quality in Fountain Creek for local and downstream communities. That pact is backed by Colorado Springs Utilities, which will appropriate needed funds should the city experience a shortfall.

◘ Recruited professional engineer Richard Mulledy to manage the stormwater division and beef up the staff of stormwater inspectors and engineers from 28 to 49 full-time employees, with a total of 66 to be on board within the next several months.

◘ Increased spending on stormwater from $5 million in 2015 to $19 million a year, including $9.2 million for capital projects, $3 million from Utilities and $7.1 million to $7.8 million, when fully staffed, for the city’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, known as an MS4 federal permit, which allows Fountain Creek to flow into the Arkansas River, to the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico.

◘ Started building a $3 million detention pond on Sand Creek; spending $2 million to rehabilitate wash-out areas, remedy sediment-transport issues and improve water quality since 2013 flooding, and retrofitting a King Street detention pond so it not only controls flood waters but also manages flow to mimic natural discharge.

When Suthers took office, he lamented a former City Council’s decision in 2009 to eliminate the city’s Stormwater Enterprise Fund, which had collected $15 million to $16 million a year in fees from property owners to spend on stormwater projects.

“Fountain Creek is one of the most unstable, flashy creeks in all the nation. It’s a unique animal,” engineer Mulledy told The Gazette in March.

The base flow of 120 cubic feet per second can reach 20,000 cfs during a 25-year event, swelling the creek to 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep, he said. “On top of that, the material along that creek is an alluvial field. It’s sand. So it’s kind of the perfect storm,” Mulledy said.

The mayor recognized that city voters repeatedly voted down stormwater measures, so he and the council agreed to address the need directly from the general fund. In order to do so, he froze employee salaries and vacancies, squeezed the police and fire departments, and shelved several planned capital projects this year.

But the EPA and state point to average annual stormwater expenditures of $1.6 million from 2011 through 2014, when only nine full-time employees worked in stormwater. So surface runoff, streambed degradation, widening and erosion led to sedimentation and unacceptable water quality.

The suit cites a 2000 planning study for the Cottonwood Creek Drainage Basin that eliminated six detention basins and structural measures originally planned, reducing costs by $11.4 million, but notes that the plan now is being updated and revised.

A 2013 EPA audit identified water-quality control structures at two developments that didn’t treat stormwater before discharging it into state waters; seven residential developments without stormwater controls or waivers for such; failure to submit development, inspection and maintenance plans to Engineering Development Review before grading permits were issued, and other failures since 2013 to ensure that policies protecting water quality were followed.

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District, has long despaired of the city’s years of neglect toward Fountain Creek and stormwater issues.

But that’s in the past, Small said.

“John (Suthers) put in that $460 million plan, he’s increased the stormwater department significantly in staffing, he’s put processes in place, and he’s started at least three significant projects in the last year to deal with it,” Small said. “He’s got an agreement with Pueblo County that we haven’t had in years on managing and monitoring stormwater and to review progress annually and adjust the priorities. As far as John’s performance, he’s done a great job in the last year and a half.

“From the time the city discontinued its stormwater enterprise until John put planning in place, we had a large number of years with a huge deficiency. But I don’t see how a lawsuit is going to correct the problem,” he said. “The only thing a lawsuit is going to do is bring in money for the federal government in fines, and what good does that do for the city or the problem?

“A better solution would have been to sit down with monitoring and performance guidelines and allow the city to use that money to make improvements instead of pay fines with it. This is just another example of the federal government using a local issue to raise money.”

How Water Use Has Declined With Population Growth — News Deeply

Total Water Use (Freshwater and Saline Water), by Sector (1900–2010) Notes: Municipal and Industrial (M&I) includes public supply, self-supplied residential, self-supplied industrial, mining, and self-supplied commercial (self-supplied commercial was not calculated in 2000–2010). Agriculture includes aquaculture (1985–2010 only), livestock, and irrigation. Between 1900 and 1945, the M&I category includes water for livestock and dairy. Sources: Data for 1900–1945 from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (1991). Data for 1950–2010 from USGS (2014a). Population data from Williamson (2015).
Total Water Use (Freshwater and Saline Water), by Sector (1900–2010)
Notes: Municipal and Industrial (M&I) includes public supply, self-supplied residential, self-supplied industrial, mining, and self-supplied commercial (self-supplied commercial was not calculated in 2000–2010). Agriculture includes aquaculture (1985–2010 only), livestock, and irrigation. Between 1900 and 1945, the M&I category includes water for livestock and dairy.
Sources: Data for 1900–1945 from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (1991). Data for 1950–2010 from USGS (2014a). Population data from Williamson (2015).

From News Deeply (Padma Nagappan):

Water use has not gone up as population increased in the last few years, contrary to popular opinion and expectations. How does this impact how urban water managers are planning?

UNTIL 1980, WATER use went up steadily as population increased, necessitating investments in infrastructure and boosts to capacity. But since then, there has been a dramatic decoupling across the United States, with water use declining even as the population and the economy continued to grow.

The U.S. Geological Survey found that water consumption peaked at 440 billion gallons (1,665 billion liters) per day before dropping in 1980 and then remained steady through the 1980s and 1990s. It rose slightly in 2000, but significantly declined between 2005 and 2010, when it fell to 350 billion gallons (1,325 billion liters) per day. The USGS attributes this decline to better cooling methods that cut water use for thermoelectric power, and water use efficiencies in irrigation for farming, improved standards for many appliances and fixtures and laws requiring low-flow fixtures.

“Back in 1980 toilets used 6 gallons [23 liters] per flush, but now it’s 1.2 gallons [4.5 liters] in California. These standards have allowed our economies to grow while our communities grew too,” says Heather Cooley, director of the Water Program at the Pacific Institute. “Another reason is the passage of the Clean Water Act, which tried to reduce impacts of waste discharge, that drove efficiency improvements in industry.”

But despite the public and industry adopting efficiency practices, most of us continue to think water use will keep increasing as population grows, so water agencies have planned for it.

“Emphasis has been on building more supply to meet increasing demand. But if water use remains stagnant, that might mean we invest in facilities we ultimately don’t need, or pay for supplies we don’t need,” Cooley points out.

Improve Demand Forecasting

These developments, and the USGS data that showed declines across the board, prompted Cooley and her colleagues to study these trends and put together a community guide for evaluating future urban water demand.

After examining water use data and water agencies’ urban water plans, Cooley and her colleagues found that while water use stayed stagnant or declined in some areas, many utilities were projecting increased water use in the future, which shows they’re not allowing for efficiency improvements and so they could be overestimating demand, which could increase costs for rate payers for water they may not use.

“So we need to improve demand forecasting approaches,” Cooley says. “None of us has a crystal ball, but we can look at trends for the last 20 to 30 years, and use that to calculate water needs, which will help us to develop a much more sustainable water future for California.”

Part of that forecasting is planning for climate change and its impact on demand, something that she says many water agencies have yet to incorporate successfully.

For each area, water forecasting can look very different depending on local variables.