#ClimateChange: Something has gone terribly wrong in the Arctic – Chris Mooney and Jason Samenow #keepitintheground

Global average temperature from the 20th Century average via NASA.
Global average temperature from the 20th Century average via NASA.

From The Washington Post (Chris Mooney and Jason Samenow):

…some people in the science community are watching the chaos somewhere else — the Arctic.

It’s polar night there now — the sun isn’t rising in much of the Arctic. That’s when the Arctic is supposed to get super-cold, when the sea ice that covers the vast Arctic Ocean is supposed to grow and thicken.

But in fall of 2016 — which has been a zany year for the region, with multiple records set for low levels of monthly sea ice — something is totally off. The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia.

At the same time, one of the key indicators of the state of the Arctic — the extent of sea ice covering the polar ocean — is at a record low. The ice is freezing up again, as it always does this time of year after reaching its September low, but it isn’t doing so as rapidly as usual.

In fact, the ice’s area is even lower than it was during the record-low 2012:

Twitter’s expert Arctic watchers also are stunned. Zack Labe, a PhD student at the University of California at Irvine who studies the Arctic, tweeted out an image on Wednesday from the Danish Meteorological Institute showing Arctic temperatures about 20 degrees Celsius higher than normal above 80 degrees North Latitude.

“Today’s latest #Arctic mean temperature continues to move the wrong direction . . . up. Quite an anomalous spike!,” Labe wrote. Here’s the figure:

Daily mean temperatures for the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel. (Danish Meteorological Institute)
Daily mean temperatures for the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel. (Danish Meteorological Institute)

“Despite onset of #PolarNight, temperatures near #NorthPole increasing. Extraordinary situation right now in #Arctic, w/record low #seaice,” added Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA.

This is the second year in a row that temperatures near the North Pole have risen to freakishly warm levels. During 2015’s final days, the temperature near the Pole spiked to the melting point thanks to a massive storm that pumped warm air into the region.

So what’s going on here?

“It’s about 20C [36 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia,” Jennifer Francis, an Arctic specialist at Rutgers University, said by email Wednesday.

“The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream.”


The @USBR Releases Two WaterSMART Grants Funding Opportunities for Water Conservation and Energy Efficiency Projects

Photo via the State of Idaho.
Photo via the State of Idaho.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation released two WaterSMART Grants funding opportunities including the water and energy efficiency grants funding opportunity and the new small-scale water efficiency projects funding opportunity. These two funding opportunities will help move the West towards resilience in the face of drought and ongoing imbalances between water supply and demand.

The new small-scale water efficiency projects funding opportunity is for small improvements that have been identified through previous planning efforts. Projects eligible for funding include installation of flow measurement or automation in a specific part of a water delivery system, lining of a section of a canal to address seepage, small rebate programs that result in reduced residential water use, or other similar projects that are limited in scope. These projects are eligible to receive up to $75,000 in federal funding. For this funding opportunity, Reclamation has developed a streamlined selection and review process to reflect the small-scale nature of these projects.

Previously, small-scale water efficiency projects were funded through Reclamation’s Water Conservation Field Services Program, which beginning this year will focus on planning and design activities to help lay the groundwork for future improvements. Proposals for this new category of WaterSMART Grants will be accepted, evaluated and selected on a rolling basis with the final application submission deadline on April 27, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. MDT. This funding opportunity is available at http://www.grants.gov by searching for funding opportunity BOR-DO-17-F011.

Water and energy efficiency grants focus on larger scale projects that result in quantifiable and sustained water savings and that may have several components intended to address a significant water management concern. Projects include canal lining and piping, more comprehensive installation of irrigation flow measurement or canal automation improvements, installation of water meters and other similar projects. Projects may also include components that increase renewable energy use and improve energy efficiency, and projects that result in instream flows for endangered species and other fish and wildlife or support water sustainability in other ways.

Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:

  • Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete.
  • Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given year to complete each phase.
  • Proposals must be submitted by January 18, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. MST. The funding opportunity is available at http://www.grants.gov by searching for funding opportunity number BOR-DO-17-F012.

    Those eligible to apply for both grants are states, tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in the western United States or United States territories as identified in the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902. Another WaterSMART Grants funding opportunity, for water marketing activities, is expected to be released this winter.

    WaterSMART aims to improve water conservation and sustainability, helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. The program identifies strategies to ensure this generation and future ones will have sufficient amounts of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands. To learn more, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart.

    Interior Secretary Nixes Drilling Leases on #RoanPlateau, #ThompsonDivide — Westword #keepitintheground

    From Westword (Alan Prendergast):

    In the twilight of the Obama administration, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell came to Denver yesterday to announce the adoption of long-range plans to protect the Roan Plateau and the Thompson Divide — two spectacularly scenic and environmentally fragile areas on the Western Slope — from oil and gas drilling. The deals have been years in the works, and despite the uncertainty surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s energy policies, won’t be easily undone by a simple regime change.

    The compromise announced by Jewell, which involves canceling 25 drilling leases in the Thompson Divide and resolving litigation over energy development on the Roan Plateau, ends efforts to exploit oil and gas resources in areas teeming with wildlife and rare plant species. As we reported in “Raiding the Roan” way back in 2004, energy companies have been salivating over the prospect of tapping into the Roan’s rich gas reserves since the early days of the George W. Bush administration.

    In 2008, shortly before Bush left office, the Bureau of Land Management, over strong protests from much of Colorado’s congressional delegation, opened up areas on top of the plateau to gas leases. The BLM’s plan projected up to 1,500 wells over the next twenty years, but other sources estimated that as many as 4,000 wells could be drilled. Hunters, outfitters, tourism interests and environmental activists feared that the impacts of so much industrial activity, including new roads and clearing vast areas for well pads, would be devastating to wildlife habitat.

    Legal and administrative challenges to the BLM’s plan — notably, litigation brought by Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and others, represented by Earthjustice and Western Resource Advocates — kept the leases tied up in court for years. A settlement agreement, first announced in 2014, canceled numerous leases and designated key areas of the plateau as off-limits to development. The Thompson Divide battle has also raged for years, as locals challenged leases in precious watersheds and roadless areas.

    “This resolution strikes the right balance by protecting one of Colorado’s most spectacular places and important watersheds, and ensuring that any future development is done responsibly and held to high standards,” said Secretary Jewell yesterday, as a beaming Governor John Hickenlooper looked on.

    Given the slow pace of environmental review and other bureaucratic processes within the BLM, it’s doubtful the deal that was finally hammered out can be undone by another shift toward the drill-baby-drill mantra in the White House. Economic forces have also lessened the push to drill on remote public lands in recent years; a glut of natural gas from widespread fracking, tapping into reserves previously considered inaccessible, has kept prices low and eased the demand for new drill rigs. These days only 35 percent of leased public lands are actually producing at any given time; with so many leases sitting idle, who needs more?

    @CWCB_DNR: November 2016 #Drought Update

    Click here to read the update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

    Colorado experienced above average temperatures in October and the first half of November combined with well below normal precipitation as weak La Niña conditions have developed. October was the third warmest on record and temperatures across the state through November 14 ranged from 4-10 degrees above normal. While the 2016 Water Year ended with nearly average precipitation, the 2017 water year is off to a dry start with all basins in the state recording well below normal precipitation as of November 14 at the mountain SNOTEL sites.

  • Statewide snowpack as of November 14 is at 6% of average. This is the worst start to the mountain snowpack season since at least 1986, although daily snowpack records only date back to that year. At this point in the water year, Colorado typically receives 2.1 inches of snow water equivalent however the state is currently at 0.1 inches.
  • Statewide water year to date mountain precipitation is 34% of average. The South Platte & Yampa/White basins have the highest percentage of average at 42% and 47% respectively. The lack of precipitation has negatively affected the winter wheat crop.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains strong at 104% of normal. The Southwest and Yampa/White River basins have the highest storage levels in the state at 112 and 114% of average, respectively. The Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 87% percent.
  • Water providers in attendance all reported storage levels ranging from 70 to 123 percent of average. Demand is above average & providers hope colder temperatures will help decrease the demands.
  • A weak La Niña has developed contributing to the lower than average precipitation in the state this fall. The long term forecast predicts the weak La Niña may be gone by early 2017. CPC forecasts give Colorado equal chances for moisture through late winter with a chance for extra moisture in December. Weak La Niña conditions should favor the northern and central mountains through mid winter, after which it would revert to being a negative factor. The next two weeks promise to bring near normal moisture to the state in a welcome change from dry fall conditions.
  • Colorado Drought Monitor November 15, 2016.
    Colorado Drought Monitor November 15, 2016.

    The US Drought Monitor shows D2, severe drought, has been introduced into Larimer [Boulder, Elbert] and Lincoln counties. D1, moderate drought, has been expanded further towards the southeastern part of the state. Only 1.6% of Colorado in the northwest part of the state is currently drought free.

    Douglas County to developers: Focus more on a renewable supply

    Denver Basin aquifer map
    Denver Basin aquifer map

    From The Golden Transcript (Jessica Gibbs):

    The county held a late afternoon public workshop on Nov. 14 for proposed changes to the county’s water zoning plan.

    Conversation was diligent and thorough, despite a sparsely attended meeting of six people in addition to county staff.

    The exact portion of the plan under review is Section 18A, which helps determine if a proposed development has an adequate water supply, particularly in terms of quality, quantity and dependability. Douglas County’s Board of Commissioners first adopted 18A in 1998, but it has been revised in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2013.

    County experts said the regulations are primarily for new housing developments or properties seeking to rezone for reasons like expansion. Additionally, they mostly pertain to unincorporated Douglas County, as most municipalities or other water districts have their own regulations.

    The main changes in Section 18A were to remove about 15 pages of repetitive sections and more clearly explain if a developer would qualify.

    But staff also has proposed Section 18B, an entirely new set of regulations that will act as an alternative to Section 18A.

    As the resolution stands, developers must meet a water demand standard of .75 acre-feet per residence per year.

    A demand standard is an estimate of how much water a household or development will need, said Kati Rider, a planning resource supervisor with Douglas County.

    An acre-foot is how water is measured. One way to think of it, Rider said, is to imagine it as the equivalent to the amount of water that woud spread across an acre of land at one foot deep.

    However, county staff said, the average household uses closer to .40 or .45 acre-feet. The .75 standard is costly for developers and may require them to source more water than necessary.

    “This revision may matter to residents as it may be a way to encourage new development to utilize renewable water resources, rather than groundwater, in all areas of the county,” Rider said.

    Under 18B, developers could propose higher-density developments if they also promise to use less groundwater, rely on more renewable water sources and prove they can accomplish that goal.

    Not more than 50 percent of the water supply could come from non-renewable sources. Although the overall amount of water use might be greater, the hope is to encourage a more environmental approach.

    If the amendments continue to gain traction, they would pass before the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners for final approval.

    Public comment is accepted at http://www.douglas.co.us through Nov. 23. Information aboutthe amendments may be found through the county’s Project Records Online (PRO) online tool.

    Commissioners will schedule a work session to review the input after public comment closes.