NOAA: Assessing the Global Climate in April 2017

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

Globe had second warmest April and year to date on record

The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for April 2017 was the second highest for the month of April in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date global temperature was 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.

April Temperature

  • The April temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F. This was the second highest for April in the 138-year period of record, behind 2016 by 0.31°F.
  • The April globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.47°F above the 20th century average of 46.5°F. This value tied with 2000 and 2010 as the fourth highest April land global temperature in the 1880–2017 record.
  • The April globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.31°F above the 20th century monthly average of 60.9°F. This was the second highest global ocean temperature for April in the record, behind the record year 2016 by 0.09°F.
  • April 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 April was 3.1 percent above the 1981–2010 average. This was the largest April snow cover extent since 2013 and the 16th largest value in the 51-year period of record. The North American and Eurasian snow cover extent were each the 21st largest on record.
  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for April was 394,000 square miles (6.9 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This tied with April 2016 as the smallest April sea ice extent since records began in 1979, 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 April was 520,000 square miles (18.2 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the second smallest April Antarctic sea ice extent since records began in 1979 and 50,000 square miles larger than the record smallest extent set in 1980. This ended a five consecutive-month streak of record low sea ice extent in the Antarctic that started in November 2016.
  • CPC: Jun, Jul, and Aug Outlooks for precip., temp., and #Drought

    Three month temperature outlook for June, July, and August 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.
    Three month precipitation outlook for June, July, and August 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.
    Three month temperature outlook for June, July, and August 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.

    Here’s the drought discussion:

    Drought coverage across the country has progressively declined over the past several months, as assessed by the Drought Monitor. At the end of November 2016, drought encompassed more than one-quarter of the nation. That number dropped below 12 percent at the end of March 2017, and to 4.2 percent in early May, the least coverage since Drought Monitor statistics were first calculated at the beginning of 2000. In the last four weeks, drought was alleviated in substantial parts of the Northeast, Middle Atlantic States, and south-central Plains. However, latent long-term moisture shortages remain across the Northeast, and drought could re-develop quickly should any substantial period of abnormal heat and dryness occur. Currently, drought covers much of Florida, Georgia, and eastern Alabama, with extreme drought affecting the central Florida Peninsula and portions of both southern and northern Georgia. Scattered areas of drought exist elsewhere across the southern tier of states from South Carolina to central Texas. Farther west, drought covers isolated spots in central Colorado and northeastern Wyoming, portions of southwestern California, a swath from southernmost California eastward into southwestern New Mexico, and western parts of the Big Island of Hawaii. In the contiguous states, drought is expected to persist or intensify in southern California and southwestern Arizona, where above-normal temperatures and seasonably dry conditions are expected. Drought persistence is also favored from west-central Georgia into central and northeastern South Carolina due to seasonal topsoil decline, and less rainfall expected through the rest of the month than in neighboring areas. At least some improvement is expected in other drought areas. In Hawaii, drought on western parts of the Big Island should persist, except along the lower Kona Slopes in the northwesternmost reaches of the Big Island, where summer is a markedly wet time of year.

    Hutchins Water Center: The latest E-Newsletter is hot off the presses

    Colorado National Monument from the Colorado River Trail near Fruita September 2014

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


    The Colorado Water Institute has released a special report on how to advance in Colorado with Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs), which move water from agriculture to other uses without permanently drying up farmland. The recommendations include establishing separate working groups for ATM’s to provide water for urban use and ATM’s to facilitate Colorado River Compact compliance.

    How weird, extreme weather here may be caused by the warming Arctic — The Mountain Town News

    A fracturing iceberg in the Arctic Ocean. Photo/Ted Scambos and Rob Bauer, NSIDC IceTrek Web site via The Mountain Town News.

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    The big winter in California—and, before that, four years of not much snow? The big and repeated snows in Boston several years ago?

    They, along with many of other extreme weather events, might be joined at the hips with the melting ice in the Arctic Ocean. That’s the emerging evidence described on a webinar by Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University.

    “There’s a ton of research that has been going on lately in regard to this issue of how the rapid melting and warming may or may not be connected to the extreme weather that has been going on around the globe,” she said in the session sponsored by the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting.

    The line of reasoning is that there has been an uptick in the number of extreme events. Some, such as Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado-Boulder, have disputed at least part of this evidence. They argue that more people are living in harm’s way, such as in beach-front locations vulnerable to hurricanes or along rivers, thus bloating the damages when storms do occur.

    Jennifer Francis. Photo via The Mountain Town News.

    Francis, in her 30-minute talk, didn’t acknowledge that argument, but instead pointed to something called the “Arctic amplification” beginning in about the mid-1990s. She acknowledged some difficulty with defining extreme weather events. “It’s a very hard to get robust statistics on these changes. The atmosphere is a very noisy place,” she said.

    But the extreme events like the drought in the Sierra and the snow in Boston do have something in common: They’re caused by “stuck” weather patterns.

    “This I where the Arctic may be playing a role,” she said.

    Temperature increases have been well documented. “Globally, we’re on the edge of a 1.5 degree Centigrade increase in year-to-year anomalies compared to the 1881-1981 baseline. “We are in a very disturbing situation here. We are getting warmer and warmer, and we are already bumping up against the 1.5 degrees that the Paris agreement set as a limit.”

    This warming has been particularly evident in the Arctic. It has been warming two to three times more rapidly than the rest of the globe. At times, and not just summer, it has had temperatures as warm as those of New York City. In summer, the ice has ebbed at a pace far more rapid than the losses predicted by climate models.

    The summer ebb of sea ice is also wildly out of proportion to the ebbs and flows during the last 1,450 years as documented by the study of sediments on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

    “There are lots of ups and downs, little wiggles, but it’s been pretty steady up until modern times,” she said.

    In late March, scientists with the National Snow & Ice Data Center reported that air temperatures lat autumn and winter had been 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) above average over the Arctic Ocean. The overall warmth was punctuated by a series of extreme winter heat waves over the Arctic Ocean, continuing the pattern also seen in the winter of 2015. This, they say, contributed to a record minimum winter ice advance.

    “I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,” said Mark Serreze, the NSIDC director, said in a March release.

    “We are clearly in uncharted territory,” said Francis in the webinar this week.

    As the ice melts, white is replaced by the dark blue of the open ocean. Instead of solar radiation being reflected, it’s being absorbed. This, in turn, helps heat the atmosphere even more.

    But there’s also this confusing fact: as the Arctic warms, there can be unusual cold in the eastern United States and parts of Asia. The mid-latitudes overall have been warming very slowly as compared to the Arctic.

    North America: Warming Arctic Temperatures Can Reinforce Wavy Jet Stream. Graphic via The Mountain Town News.

    This is explained by the Arctic amplification. It disrupts the fast-moving river of high-altitude air called the jet stream. The jet stream creates our weather as it moves across North America. Instead of a straight line, thought, it tends toward greater meandering or waviness.

    Now scientists are starting to use a new word, sinuosity, which is a metric of how wavy the jet stream becomes. The greater the sinuosity, the greater the waviness. This increased waviness, in turn, results in persistence of weather patterns, such as the snow and cold of Boston and the dry ground of December in the Sierra Nevada.

    Francis cautioned that not all extreme weather can be directly linked to the warming of the Arctic and the shifting of the jet stream. But there is a link reflected in the number of extreme weather events.

    “Weather patterns really are changing, but they are affected by so many things,” she said: storm tracks, the jet stream, planetary waves. “It’s a really very complicated story, but we really are starting to get a handle on some of these mechanisms.”

    I’d like to have asked her whether snow in Denver less than two weeks before Memorial Day had anything to do with the disappearing Arctic sea ice, but the webinar ended.

    If you want a deeper dive into this subject, I recommend an interview with Francis conducted last December by Yale e360. It’s longer but a very easy read. And here’s 5-plus minute video clip that graphically presents the jet stream component.

    #Colorado Springs turns dirt on first project under Ballot Issue 2

    Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

    From (Mekialaya White):

    City crews are officially starting work to repair stormwater drainage after Colorado Springs voters passed Ballot Issue 2 back in April.

    It comes with a price tag of $12 million dollars in excess revenue.

    “This multi phase project will address flooding in the hardest hit area in the Little Shooks Run neighborhood by making several improvements to the drainage system through the end of 2017,” Mayor John Suthers, with the city of Colorado Springs explained.

    The project will use $6 million this year and another $6 next year.

    “It’s just an example of how we can take needed dollars and fix issues that have been around for a long time.” said Water Resources Engineering Division Manager Rich Mulledy.

    The projects directly impact other parts of Southern Colorado. Pueblo county and city leaders have dealt with their share of storm water issues also, stemming from Fountain Creek.

    “A lot of erosion and occasionally a sewer spill,” said Steve Nawrocki, Pueblo City Council President has said.

    2017 #COleg: Governor signs two water bills, including @CWCB_DNR construction fund

    Colorado Capitol building

    From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren) via the The Ag Journal:

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy was honored to host Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signing of HB17-1248 on Wednesday after the regular meeting of the board of directors. The bill concerns the funding of Colorado water conservation board projects, and in connect with this undertaking, making appropriations. Hickenlooper said there is $25 million of support attached to the bill, making projects of LAVWCD and other water projects possible. He also alluded to HB17-1233, signed in Denver the same day, which allows farmers and ranchers practicing conservancy not to lose their water rights.

    Hickenlooper was very complimentary to LAVWCD Manager Jay Winner, whose novel ideas have helped to keep the water on the land in southern Colorado. He said he wished he had a dozen Jay Winners to preserve the water for he state. Winners and John Stulp will be very happy, he said, putting their ideas into practice, made easier with these acts. One look at how Crowley County is struggling, he said, is sufficient to know southeastern Colorado cannot survive with dryland farming.

    Also present at the signing was State Senator Larry Crowder, whom Hickenlooper commended for always voting for what he considers right, despite party lines. Hickenlooper also expressed his admiration for Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who has done a lot for the organization of the administration, drawing on her experience in the private domain in a much higher-paying position.

    He is proud of the Colorado Water Plan and looks forward to its implementation. Thirty thousand individuals contributed to the formation of the plan. Although it does not yet have full funding, water rights of individuals are protected and the plan will keep the water on the land.

    Senator Crowder said he represents 15 counties with average income at or below poverty level and he intends to do everything he can to promote economic opportunities for the area. He will work with people of differing viewpoints to make this possible. Hospitals are stable financially in the Denver area, he said, but not in rural Colorado, and everything possible must be done to maintain them.

    Salida receives loan forgiveness from #Colorado

    Salida water park

    From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

    Salida will receive $666,069.72 in loan forgiveness for its $1,505,000 loan from the [Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority] for the city’s ultraviolet disinfection compliance project, City Administrator Guy Patterson announced in the Tuesday city council meeting.

    “The [CWRPDA] had a unique situation last year where a sizable amount of design and engineering grant money was not utilized,” Patterson wrote in a report to the council.

    “The fact that Salida was the first community to execute the loan in 2017 and the disadvantaged community status made us eligible for disbursement of the funds, along with several other communities.”

    “This is very fortunate for the community to be recognized like this and get the grants,” Mayor Jim LiVecchi said. “We were trying to do what we could to get this project paid for without having to raise water rates or spend taxpayer money.”

    LiVecchi said the city also received $755,000 in an Energy/Mineral Impact Assistance Fund grant from the Department of Local Affairs.

    Emails from The Mountain Mail to Patterson, Public Works Director David Lady and Finance Director Jana Loomey about the project went unanswered.

    The Mountain Mail asked city officials the following questions:

    •The loan from the [CWRPDA] was for $1,505,000, the loan forgiveness was $666,069.72, leaving the remaining loan amount at $838,903.28, which knocks off about 44 percent of the loan. How much of this loan has been paid off thus far? Also, there was another loan listed for $120,000. Does that mean the total cost of the UV project was $1,625,000, or was it more?

    •It was stated that because the loan was passed under an emergency measure to keep construction costs within a single fiscal year, the water and wastewater funds will lose their enterprise fund status for 2018. Does this still apply with the loan forgiveness taken into account?

    •Patterson said in his report to council that Salida’s “disadvantaged community status” made the city eligible for the disbursement of the funds “along with several other communities.” What is “disadvantaged community status” and how did Salida qualify? Also, do we know which other communities received funds?

    •What is the status of the UV project? Is it finished? If not, what is the basic timeline for completion?

    Deputy City Clerk Christian Samora said Wednesday the city will send out a press release in the next day or two.

    Chimney Hollow reservoir construction may start in late 2018

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ final decision allowing Northern Water to build Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland, issued 14 years after the federal permitting process began means, that construction could begin in late 2018 and water begin filling in 2022.

    That same year, an open space around the reservoir with trails, backcountry camping and boating should open under the management of Larimer County’s Department of Natural Resources.

    The permits that allow Northern Water to finish design and begin building the $400 million reservoir on behalf of 13 municipal water providers, including Loveland, require several different actions to mitigate environmental damage or concerns.

    [Eric] Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Water, summarized some of the mitigations associated with Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which will store water pulled from the Colorado River through the Windy Gap project.

    • Maintaining certain water temperatures on the Colorado River to make sure the habitat for fish stays healthy.

    • Paying for about $4 million worth of stream channel improvements on the Colorado River for 14 miles ending near the confluence of the Williams Fork River, to make significant enhancements to aquatic habitat.

    • Flush flows every six years to move sediment and improve habitat.

    • Construct a channel that will carry the water around Windy Gap Reservoir, allowing fish to migrate through that area and improving spawning conditions in the Colorado River downstream of Windy Gap.

    • Replace wetlands that will be destroyed by the actual construction of the reservoir with similar acres in another location.

    • Conduct stream restoration along the Little Thompson River in two locations to help restore that channel to its pre-2013 flood conditions and maintain those enhancements over the long term.

    Chimney Hollow will hold about 90,000 acre-feet of water, enough for more than 90,000 households, that will be pulled from the Colorado River in wet years and stored for use in dry years.

    Windy Gap Reservoir

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    The Windy Gap Firming project and its accompanying Chimney Hollow Reservoir has been approved, paving the way for more reliable water across the Front Range while also further draining the Colorado River.

    The Windy Gap Project has its roots in the 1980s, and was intended to provide the Front Range with more than 40,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River. But without enough storage capacity, municipalities haven’t realized that yield every year.

    “We are pleased to make it to this milestone with our partners at Northern Water and all of the other communities involved,” Greeley City Manager Roy Otto said in text message Thursday.

    The firming project, centered on the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Carter Lake, is expected to address that problem at a cost of about $400 million.

    The Army Corps of Engineers gave final approval Wednesday, and construction should start in late 2018 or early 2019.

    It’s a project nearly 15 years in the making.

    “We’re ecstatic,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said. “You get one of these (types of projects) done in your whole lifetime.”

    Water for the reservoir would be pumped from the Windy Gap Reservoir on the Colorado River near the town of Granby, west of the Continental Divide, through an existing tunnel under the Rocky Mountains to the east side of the divide.

    Greeley is one of 12 beneficiaries of the project, which also will create more reliable water supply for Fort Lupton, Longmont and Loveland.

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir will hold 90,000 acre-feet of water, and Greeley will get about 9,200 acre-feet of water per year from the project.

    An acre-foot of water is 326,000 gallons, or equivalent to a foot of water covering a football field. Greeley residents, according to the city’s new water budget, will use about 20,000 gallons per year.

    Sen. Cory Gadner, R-Colo., also applauded the decision, calling the project a major component of Colorado’s longterm water needs.

    “Getting to this point has been years in the making, and it is hard to state just how important it is that Northern Water can finally move forward with construction,” Gardner said in a news release.

    The project’s approval was met with resistance from some water conservation advocates, though, including Gary Wockner with Save the Colorado and Save the Poudre.

    “The Colorado River is on life support right now,” Wockner told the Associated Press. “If the patient is bleeding out, you don’t cut open a new artery to try and heal it. Instead, you should work to protect and restore the river, not further drain it.”

    Save the Colorado is opposed to the Windy Gap project, and Wockner told The Tribune it’s likely his group will file a lawsuit in federal court to stop the project.

    “Our policy is no new dams and diversions out of the Colorado River system,” Wockner said. “This is a dam and diversion, so we’re going to do everything we can to stop it.”

    Wockner, who said the Colorado River is being overused, instead calls for more water conservation, including moving away from green lawns, recycling water and managing growth better.

    Werner points to the endorsement of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, officials in Grand County on the Western Slope and Trout Unlimited, a trout and salmon conservation organization as proof the Windy Gap Firming project’s strong support.

    Before the Windy Gap Firming project, Colorado had never endorsed a water project that has come before the federal government.

    Without the project, Werner said municipalities would have to do what they’ve always done in particularly wet years: dump the excess water down the Colorado River rather than saving it for drier times.

    “There is still a lot of work to do,” Otto said. “This project, along with the expansion of Milton Seaman Reservoir, are critically important to Greeley’s longterm water needs.”