@NOAAclimate: Assessing the Global Climate in February 2017

Photo credit Pixbay.com via NOAA

Here’s the release from NOAA:

The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for February 2017 was the second highest for the month of February in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The December–February seasonal and year to date global temperatures were also second warmest on record.

This monthly summary is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

February 2017


  • The February temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.76°F above the 20th century average of 53.9°F. This was the second highest for February in the 1880–2017 record, behind 2016.
  • The February globally averaged land surface temperature was 3.20°F above the 20th century average of 37.8°F. This value was also the second highest February land global temperature in the record, trailing behind 2016.
  • The February globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.24°F above the 20th century monthly average of 60.6°F—the second highest global ocean temperature for February in the record, behind the record year 2016.
  • Snow Cover and Sea Ice

  • According to data from NOAA analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab (link is external), the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during February was 150,000 square miles above the 1981–2010 average. This was the 22nd largest February Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in the 51-year period of record. The North American snow cover extent was the 15th smallest on record, while the Eurasian snow cover extent was the 19th largest.
  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for February was 455,600 square miles (7.6 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the smallest February extent since records began in 1979 and 15,400 square miles smaller than the previous record set in 2016, according to an analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (link is external) based on data from NOAA and NASA.
  • The Antarctic sea ice extent for February was 290,000 square miles (24.4 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the smallest February Antarctic sea ice extent since records began in 1979 and 60,000 square miles smaller than the previous record set in 1997. On February 13, the daily Antarctic sea ice extent reached a new record low at 884,000 square miles and continued to drop throughout the month, reaching 822,400 square miles by February 28.
  • Seasonal (December 2016–February 2017)

  • The December–February average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.60°F above the 20th century average of 53.8°F. This was the second highest for December–February in the 1880–2017 record, trailing behind 2015/16.
  • The globally averaged land surface temperature for December–February was 2.74°F above the 20th century average of 37.8°F. This was the second highest for December–February in the record, behind 2015/16.
  • The December–February globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.19°F above the 20th century average of 60.5°F – also the second highest for December–February in the record, behind the record set during 2015/16.
  • Year-to-Date (January–February 2017)

  • The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.69°F above the 20th century average of 53.8°F. This was the second highest for January–February in the 1880–2017 record, behind 2016.
  • The year-to-date globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.99°F above the 20th century average of 37.4°F. This was also the second highest for January–February in the record, behind 2016.
  • The year-to-date globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.21°F above the 20th century average of 60.6°F. This was the second highest for January–February in the record, behind 2016.
  • What to do when your toilet takes a leak – News on TAP

    Save water and money by hunting down and plugging those irritating drips during Fix a Leak Week.

    Source: What to do when your toilet takes a leak – News on TAP

    The March 2017 “Headwaters Pulse” is hot off the presses from @CFWEwater

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

    “Why waste water?” That’s the campaign for this year’s World Water Day, coming up next week on March 22, as designated by the United Nations. It’s a day to celebrate water and take action to tackle the world water crisis. In Colorado, while some organizations are working internationally to increase access to water and to boost public health through increased sanitation, many will be celebrating and taking action closer to home.

    How will you mark World Water Day? We have some ideas…

  • Revel in your connection, through waterways, to other parts of the world—Colorado is a headwaters state after all. Or consider how infrastructure connects so many of us to adequate clean water supplies and wastewater treatment systems.
  • Get physical by tackling a home-improvement project to conserve water, like building and installing a rain barrel. If you’re registered to join our sold-out workshop on March 24, you’ll be doing just that!
  • Learn and share new information about Colorado water, wastewater, sanitation, conservation, or water reuse by checking out our publications, connecting with your water or wastewater provider, or attending an upcoming event—find some upcoming offerings at the end of this email.
  • Support an organization doing water work that you can get behind (hint, hint).
  • …and, well, the list goes on. Here at the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, we’ll celebrate with a blog post or two. Plus, the timing is right to share the feature article below on water reuse.

    It’s great to feel the global connection with others celebrating and working with water on March 22, but we hope that your commitment to water extends beyond the day, perhaps to encompass this week…or if you’re like our team, every day is water day. Carry the spirit of World Water Day forward by joining us to connect with friends and learn about water on any or all of our upcoming tours, workshops or webinars this spring and summer.

    Presentations: #ClimateChange is water change — #Colorado update #ActOnClimate

    Smiley Library, Denver, Colorado. Photo credit courthouselover via Flickr.

    I will be speaking about the the climate crisis and the effects on Colorado at two events soon:

    Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
    Smiley Branch Library
    4501 W 46th Ave
    Denver, CO 80212
    (The meeting is in the basement)

    Monday, April 3, 2017, , 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
    Thornton Community Park
    2211 Eppinger Blvd.
    Thornton, CO 80229
    (Community Building next to the swimming pool)

    Please be sure to bring your children along. Mitigating the effects of the climate crisis is really for them. It is an existential threat for many species along with being the social justice movement of our time.

    I will address three questions:

  • Should we act to mitigate climate change?
  • Can we and how can we mitigate climate change?
  • Will we act to mitigate climate change and what can we do?
  • The program is presented in conjunction with the Climate Reality Project.

    As a kid I spent a lot of my time at Smiley Library, so it’s very appropriate that I kick off my current climate actions there.

    One of the librarians, Miss Ayres, always made me feel welcome. She seemed glad to see me and she actively helped direct my reading.

    I ran into her when I was managing the Hatch’s Book Store in the old Cinderella City shopping center. I was stationed at the cash register and she was making a purchase. We recognized each other and she said as she left, “And you’re still in books!”

    That was a big day for me.

    Rio Grande Basin Ag Producers workshop recap

    Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

    From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    Division of Water Resources State Engineer Dick Wolfe tackled the “use it or lose it” concern during the Rio Grande Basin Ag Producers’ Water Future Workshop in Alamosa on Tuesday.

    “People think they have got to divert everything under their water right or they will lose it,” Wolfe said.

    He said the important thing to remember is historical consumptive use.

    Most water in Colorado is diverted for irrigation, “for beneficial crop use,” he explained. Wolfe was involved in compiling a special report issued in February 2016 by the Colorado Water Institute in an effort to educate people on the “use it or lose it” concept.

    The report addresses five main concerns: 1) maintaining conditional water right; 2) administering absolute water right; 3) abandoned water right; 4) changing use of a water right from agriculture to municipal use; and 5) implications of conservation program participation.

    Wolfe specifically dealt with the fourth concern, changing the use of a water right, during Tuesday’s conference. He explained that water right changes come under dual administration, both from the state engineer’s office and the water court, which adjudicates the water right.

    “Any change of water right can be time consuming and costly,” he said.

    A change of water rights case has to consider whether the change will injure existing users or use more water than historically used.

    Water rights come with restrictions such as the maximum that can be diverted, flow rate and area of land, Wolfe explained. The historic consumptive use is critical in water use change cases, he added, with the historical consumptive use of a water right often being less than the maximum that was allowed to be diverted under the original decree. Wolfe used a hypothetical example of a water right decreed for 150 cfs (cubic feet per second), but only 100 cfs had historically been used to irrigate the farmland, with only 60 cfs actually consumed by the crop and 40 cfs returning to the river. If the owner of the property wanted to dry up the farmland and sell the water right to a factory, for example, the owner could not transfer the full 150 cfs that was decreed in the water right, Wolfe explained. The owner could only transfer the 60 cfs that was historically consumed on that property. The water that has historically gone down the river must continue to do so.

    Wolfe said someone might argue that they should divert their entire decreed right, then, but the crop can only consume so much water, and that consumptive use is what can be transferred.

    “The measure of that is still historical consumptive use,” Wolfe said. “It’s limited by the amount the crop can consume.”

    The duty of water is also something to consider, Wolfe added. If folks are diverting more water than they need, they could be depriving others and causing unintended impacts to the stream system, he explained.

    Colorado water law does not permit wasteful water use, and Wolfe said he would be issuing an order in the next few months giving clear guidance on what wasting water means.

    Less urgency for the #Drought plan for the Lower #ColoradoRiver Basin states #COriver

    The Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Basin is outlined in black.

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    For many months, water agencies including Tucson Water have discussed a plan to save 1.2 million acre-feet of river water over three years to delay the threat of shortages to the Central Arizona Project, which brings drinking water to Tucson and Phoenix and irrigation water to Central Arizona farmers.

    But the snowy winter appears to mean that the river and lake will be flush enough this year to significantly reduce the odds of short-term water cuts even without a conservation plan. The abrupt weather shift has intensified an already major split among water officials about what to do next.

    CAP officials say the earlier proposal is “no longer viable” and that it’s time for a new approach.

    “The improved hydrology has changed the landscape and given us a reprieve,” said Suzanne Ticknor, CAP’s water-policy director. “We have the opportunity to get it right, to sit back and find out what we want to do to find consensus in the state. We don’t need to do huge volumes of conservation right now.”

    Other water users disagree with this position, including the Arizona Department of Water Resources (DWR), the Tucson and Phoenix water utilities and the Gila River Indian Community, which controls the largest share of CAP water.

    “I do not believe one year of good hydrology is enough to stop us from seeking to conserve water in the lake,” Arizona DWR Director Tom Buschatzke said, referring to Lake Mead, a reservoir of Colorado River water.

    He and other officials said recent weather doesn’t substitute for a long-term policy during a 17-year drought, the longest in the historical record dating to 1906.

    At stake is an Arizona version of the Drought Contingency Plan, an effort by this state, California and Nevada to negotiate a long-term, water-use reduction agreement. The goal is to reduce the risks of Lake Mead dropping below 1,025 feet, compared to the 1,070s to 1,080s it has been at recently.

    At the lower lake level, water deliveries to Tucson and Phoenix would be jeopardized and Hoover Dam’s power output would be dramatically curtailed. The risk is due to what authorities say is a structural deficit, in which people in the Lower Colorado River Basin use more water each year than the over-allocated river provides, even when it’s not in a drought.

    The Arizona plan, called DCP Plus, seeks to delay for three years or longer the first CAP shortage, which would happen if the lake drops below 1,075 feet at year’s end. Last December, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicted that the chance of a shortage for 2018 through 2020 was around 50 percent and warned the river was “on the brink”.

    But at a March 2 CAP board meeting, project officials were rejoicing over the heavy snowfalls that had fallen in the river’s Upper Basin, which supplies crucial spring runoff to Lake Powell, another Colorado River reservoir.

    “The Green River has a tremendous snowpack situation. Flooding will occur in that watershed this spring. Not that we’re wishing it on our Wyoming friends, but quite frankly I’m for it,” said CAP Colorado River program manager Chuck Cullom.

    There’s so much snow that a major Wyoming cloud-seeding program has been suspended to reduce the risk of flood damage, Cullom added.

    As of March 1, Upper Basin snowpack was 154 percent of normal. Annual spring runoff into Powell was predicted to be 10.4 million acre-feet, or 145 percent of average, said Brenda Alcorn, a federal Colorado Basin River Forecast Center hydrologist.

    The reclamation agency now sees a greater chance of above-average water releases from Powell to Mead for three years than it does of shortages.

    So instead of a fixed, three-year conservation plan, CAP official Ticknor said that while the agency remains committed to reducing the river’s structural deficit over the long term, the best solution now is to plan annually.

    “It has to be more of an adaptive approach and look at things in real time and understand the hydrology, what the inflow to Powell is and what Mead’s elevation is each year,” she said.

    Setting hard, three-year targets can create an “overconserving” risk, Ticknor said.

    That’s possible due to the complex, seven-state guidelines covering management of Lake Mead at the Arizona-Nevada border and Lake Powell at the Arizona-Utah border, she said. Worrying about “overconserving” is a shift in emphasis among CAP officials, who have a “Protect Lake Mead” message on their home page and produced videos and other material saying the same.

    While remaining concerned about Mead’s long-term risks, CAP officials say that under certain circumstances, the guidelines mean that too much conservation can reduce how much water Powell releases to Mead. That deprives the three Lower Colorado River Basin states, including Arizona, of additional water.

    Phoenix Water Director Kathryn Sorensen counters, “The ‘risk’ of overconserving is a Colorado River that is less vulnerable to shortages and more resilient over the long run, a river that is more protective of our economy and our quality of life.”

    Under guidelines approved in 2007 by the seven basin states, Lake Mead gets an extra surge of water from Powell in a year in which forecasters predict that Powell will stay above 3,575 feet while Mead falls below 1,075 feet on a given date.

    This year, conditions are good enough that the lake is expected to get at least 9 million acre-feet, nearly 700,000 acre-feet above average. But if conservation pushes Mead’s forecast above 1,075 at the end of 2017, that extra water goes away.

    “You could have an unintended consequence,” Ticknor said. “You have a narrow band of operating space with the reservoirs. You have to be careful about what you do.”

    Old Time Poker Players. Photo credit: the 19th Century on Pinterest.

    Phoenix’s Sorensen replied that playing the probabilities of shortage year-by-year is a short-sighted strategy that fosters uncertainty and keeps Arizona’s economy closer to the razor’s edge.

    “This is not a game of poker. Arizona has weathered the last 17 years of drought precisely because generations ago, we planned methodically for the long run. We must continue this legacy,” Sorensen said.

    State Water Resources Director Buschatzke said he prefers the risk of overconserving “because if you underconserve there isn’t much you can do about it” if a shortage occurs. Tucson Water Director Tim Thomure said authorities should err on the side of conservation and focus on the longer term.

    “We have to be nimble enough to manage year by year, but decisions need to be made with the long-term in mind,” Thomure said.

    Plus, Mother Nature can make unanticipated weather shifts, Buschatzke said. Just since March 1, hot, dry weather has caused federal river-basin forecasters to lower projections for runoff into Powell by half a million acre-feet. That’s enough to serve Tucson Water’s 700,000-plus customers for five years.

    The April runoff forecast is still expected to be high enough for an above-average release from Powell. But if the region experiences the flip side of the “Miracle May” rains that pounded the Rockies in May 2015 — saving the river from an almost certain shortage — that wouldn’t leave authorities much time to forestall a 2018 shortage, Buschatzke said.

    “These are hard issues — harsh decisions. I want to err on the side of more certainty,” he said.

    The bottom line is that the water agency now can’t meet its goal of getting a water-saving plan to this year’s legislative session for approval, he said.

    #Snowpack is dropping across the state, still above the median

    Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

    From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

    Despite a slightly drier February, snowpack for the Arkansas River Basin measures 143 percent above median, while statewide snowpack is at 139 percent, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported.

    Reservoir storage for the Arkansas Basin at the end of February was 103 percent of average, down from 124 percent last year.

    Current streamflow forecasts range from 125 percent of average for the Arkansas River at Salida to 98 percent of average for Grape Creek near Westcliffe.

    Snowpack is also above average around the rest of the state, ranging from 155 percent for the Gunnison Basin to 125 percent for the combined Laramie, North Platte, Yampa and White basins.

    “With one more month of the primary snow accumulation season behind and above-normal snowpacks across the state in combination with these near-normal reservoir storages, water supply shortages in Colorado are looking less and less likely for the upcoming summer months,” said Brian Domonkos, NRCS Colorado snow survey supervisor.

    “Despite areas that experienced below-normal monthly snow accumulations during February and localized periods of unseasonably warm temperatures, the exceptional snowpack that fell during January allowed the mountains to remain at least 120 percent above normal in all areas,” he said.

    State reservoir storage had a small net gain between February and March and is now at 107 percent of average storage. All major basins are retaining more water relative to normal.

    “Thanks to the abundant snowfall this water year, 2017 is projected to be the first year since 2008 that the entire state is expected to have above normal April-July streamflow volumes,” Domonkos said.

    Here’s the westwide basin-filled SNOTEL map from the NRCS.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 20, 2017 via the NRCS.