El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) neutral favored into Northern Hemisphere Winter

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

Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is favored (~50 to 55% chance) into the Northern Hemisphere winter 2017-18.

During June, ENSO-neutral continued, although equatorial sea surface temperatures (SSTs) remained above average in the central and east-central Pacific Ocean. The latest weekly Niño index values were near +0.5°C in the Niño-4 and Niño-3.4 regions, and closer to zero in the Niño-3 and Niño-1+2 regions. The upper-ocean heat content anomaly was above average during June, reflecting above-average sub-surface temperatures across the central and eastern Pacific. In the atmosphere, tropical convection was suppressed over the west-central tropical Pacific and enhanced over the Maritime Continent. The lower-level and upper-level winds were near average over most of the tropical Pacific, and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) and Equatorial SOI were slightly negative to near-zero. Overall, the ocean and atmosphere system remains consistent with ENSO-neutral.

Some models predict the onset of El Niño (3-month average Niño-3.4 index at or greater than 0.5°C) during the Northern Hemisphere summer. However, more than half of the models favor ENSO-neutral through the remainder of 2017. These predictions, along with the near-average atmospheric conditions over the Pacific, lead forecasters to favor ENSO-neutral into the winter (~50 to 55% chance). However, chances for El Niño remain elevated (~35-45%) relative to the long-term average. In summary, ENSO-neutral is favored (~50 to 55% chance) into the Northern Hemisphere winter 2017-18 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

From NOAA (Nat Johnson):

The latest ENSO forecast by CPC/IRI is holding steady since last month and favoring ENSO-neutral conditions (50-55% chance) into the winter of 2017-18. Although not favored, El Niño development has an elevated chance of occurring (~35-45%) relative to the long-term average (~25-35%), so we still need to keep our eyes on this possibility.

A little threshold teasing
The ocean temperatures in the Niño3.4 region have remained nearly steady over the past three months. The temperature in June was about 0.4°C (0.7°F) above the long-term average in one of our most historically consistent SST datasets.

Average sea surface temperature (SST) during June 2017, shown as departure from the long-term (1981-2010) average. Red shading shows where SSTs were above average and blue shading shows where they were below average. Climate.gov figure from CPC data.

In fact, this persistent warmth means that the latest three-month average (April–June) Niño3.4 temperature has reached 0.5°C above the long-term average, which is one condition necessary to declare El Niño. This is the first time we’ve hit this threshold since April–June of last year. Does that mean we can declare that El Niño has awoken from its yearlong slumber? Let’s not get too excited just yet!

Regular readers may remember that El Niño is a seasonal phenomenon, so forecasters require that the Niño3.4 temperatures persist above the 0.5°C threshold for at least five consecutive three-month seasons. (If you ever forget, this nifty little cheat sheet can help you out). Therefore, forecasters have to decide if there is sufficient reason to expect these elevated Niño 3.4 temperatures to continue.

One factor that limits forecasters’ confidence in the persistence of El Niño conditions is the current state of the atmosphere. As you may recall, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a coupled phenomenon that requires cooperation between the atmosphere and ocean to develop. Over the past month, the atmosphere really has not resembled anything that we would expect in a typical El Niño. In particular, we have seen enhanced cloudiness and rainfall near Indonesia instead of the International Date Line, which directly contradicts the pattern of cloudiness and rainfall that is associated with El Niño. This general atmospheric pattern has been quite stubborn, holding fairly steady throughout the calendar year thus far.

Places that were more (purple) or less (orange) cloudy than the 1981-2010 average during March 2017, based on satellite observations of outgoing longwave radiation (heat). Thick clouds block heat from radiating out to space, so less radiation equals more clouds, and more radiation equals clearer skies. Climate.gov map from CPC OLR data.

Returning to the idea of ENSO as a coupled phenomenon, right now it’s as if the ocean is trying to get the atmosphere’s attention, but the atmosphere is just not that interested.

What forecasters see ahead
Just because the atmosphere seems disinterested in the ocean’s signals now doesn’t mean that the two cannot get on the same page and bring about a full-fledged El Niño in the months ahead. In addition to our analysis of the recent evolution of the atmosphere and ocean, forecasters rely on a variety of dynamical and statistical forecast models for guidance. The most recent model forecasts indicate a high probability that the sea surface temperature in the Niño3.4 region will remain at least slightly above average through winter of 2017-18. In addition, the average of the dynamical forecasts in the North American Multi-Model Ensemble falls just below the 0.5°C threshold for El Niño, which is a very slight forecast uptick relative to last month.

Climate model forecasts for the Niño3.4 Index made in mid-June 2017, from the IRI/CPC Prediction Plume. The brown line indicates the average of the dynamical models and the orange line shows the average of the statistical models. Thin grey lines show each individual model that goes into the average. Niño3.4 values in excess of +0.5C are generally reflective of El Niño conditions. Image modified by NOAA Climate.gov.

These forecasts, however, indicate that only a minority of models forecast full-blown El Niño development (and very few suggest La Niña development). Given that neither the forecast models nor the current state of ocean/atmosphere coupling seems too enthusiastic about El Niño or La Niña development in the near future, the forecast is sticking with the continuation of ENSO-neutral conditions.

Despite the ENSO-neutral forecast lean, we still have a fair number of models forecasting at least a weak El Niño through the upcoming winter. Therefore, forecasters certainly are not ruling out the development of El Niño; in fact, they are calling for an elevated chance, relative to average, of El Niño onset. Specifically, El Niño typically occurs about 25-35% of the time, depending on the specific month, but forecasters predict the chances have risen to about 35-45% for the upcoming fall and winter. These forecast probabilities, however, are not high enough for the CPC to issue an El Niño Watch.

Closing the book on the “coastal” El Niño of 2017
As we previously discussed in February and April, extreme warming off the coast of Peru this past winter and spring, a phenomenon known as a “coastal El Niño,” resulted in severe flooding throughout Peru. The top figure above shows us that conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific (see the boxed Niño 1+2 region) have cooled considerably, resulting in near-average ocean temperatures off Ecuador and Peru and putting a welcome end to this coastal El Niño.

The consequences of this extreme event, however, will linger for much longer. A recent report indicates that this particular “coastal” El Niño event caused 158 deaths and severely affected more than 290,000 people. These severe impacts highlight why the global community must do its best to deliver accurate long-range forecasts of ENSO in its myriad forms. As Tony and Emily discussed earlier, however, the coastal El Niño does not always lead to the type of basin-wide El Niño that results in clearer impacts over the United States, and so we must rely on other tools for our predictions.

That means that we will be doing our best to fine-tune our ENSO forecasts in the months ahead, so stay tuned for more updates!

The Colo. Corn Administrative Committee is investing in research to help farmers produce more with less — @COgrown

Photo credit Wikimedia.

From Colorado Corn:

One of the top priorities of the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee (CCAC) has long been assisting local farmers in their quest to produce more food, feed, fuel and fiber with less resources and through more economically and agronomically sustainable production methods.

And that tradition continued in 2017, as the CCAC’s Research Action Team in January committed another $130,100 to various projects focusing on drought-tolerance, crop disease mitigation, hybrid development, crop residue management, and other aspects of sustainability in agriculture.

These investments come in addition to the $650,000-plus that the CCAC invested in research endeavors from 2011-2016.

For decades, the CCAC has provided dollars – as well as input and other resources – to a long list of projects that have evaluated irrigation practices, alternative water-transfer methods, seed varieties, root structure, meat quality, farm safety, environmental impacts, biofuels and rotational fallowing, among a number of other focuses.

Along the way, the CCAC has teamed up with municipalities, businesses, universities, research facilities, the state of Colorado and many others – relationships the organization will continue building upon in the never-ending effort to bring more tools and knowledge to Colorado’s producers.

The funds for these research projects comes from a one-penny-per-bushel assessment on corn grown in Colorado, with the farmers who serve as CCAC board members ultimately deciding where those dollars are invested.

“The Colorado Corn Administrative Committee invests and leverages its dollars and resources toward endeavors that run the gamut of market development, outreach, education and regulatory affairs. But our research projects rank among the most important investments, if not the most critical,” said CCAC President Mike Lefever, a Longmont-area resident who farms ground near Haxtun. “Taking continuous steps forward in producing more with less resources – and discovering the most sustainable methods of doing so – is absolutely vital, not only for us farmers, but for everyone. And with the knowledge gained from these research projects, we continue taking the needed steps forward.”

Following meetings and presentations in recent weeks, the CCAC’s Research Action Team agreed to fund the following projects:

• $48,249 to Colorado State University’s John McKay, to fund various local efforts needed for involving Colorado in a national collaborative project, aimed at identifying the specific genes that cause elite hybrids to be sensitive to drought.

• $43,663 to CSU’s Kirk Broders, to further examine the bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas vasicola pv vasculorum (Xvv) – officialy reported in the U.S. in 2016 (although it had likely been present before that), with some of the most severe disease pressure observed in Colorado. The information gained from the research will be used to develop mitigation strategies and outreach and education materials.

• $30,000 to CSU’s Todd Gaines, to lead research on the glyphosate-resistant weed Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), with specific goals aimed at addressing environmental and economic sustainability for growers, providing practical value for weed management, and addressing management issues related to biotechnology.

• $8,188 to CSU Extension’s Joel Schneekloth, to quantify the effects of residue removal and/or tillage on winter soil moisture recharge in irrigated agriculture, as well as the impacts to irrigation requirements for the following growing season and other aspects of these corn-production methods.

***

The projects listed above come in addition to the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee’s investments in other ongoing or recently concluded research projects, which are :

• $141,282 ($47,094 per year, over three years) to Colorado State University’s Raj Khosla, Robin Reich and Louis Longchamps, to research and determine the most productive, efficient, profitable and sustainable practices in irrigated corn production. In particular, this project will examine the agronomic advantages of using variable-rate and precision irrigation methods, precision-nitrogen management, and variable-seeding rates.

• $45,747 over three years to Colorado State University to evaluate precision water and nutrient management practices.

• $31,580 to Kirk Broders at Colorado State University, to complete a comprehensive survey of bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens of corn grown in Colorado, including foliar, ear, stalk and root pathogens. This information will later be used to direct future pathological studies of corn at CSU. Read more here.

• $30,425 to Colorado State University’s Troy Bauder and Erik Wardle, for their “BMP Research and Demonstration” project, which over two years will monitor the effects of improved nutrient management methods commonly practiced by corn growers, to better understand the agronomic and water quality benefits from these practices. This is expected to be useful in a triennial review for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, helping quantify the good work producers are already doing in this area. Read more here.

• $26,700 to Erick Carlson at CSU, to develop additional methods for reducing deep percolation of nitrates into groundwater, through investigating the functioning of wetlands created by irrigation runoff to trap and process nitrates. Read for here.

• $26,520 to CSU for evaluation of drought-tolerant corn varieties in dryland conditions.

• $25,000 to CSU’s Phil Westra and Scott Nissen, for various objectives at the Center for Ecology, Evolution & Management of Pesticide Resistance.

• $24,850 to Godsey Precision AG LLC, to look in-depth at water savings with variable-rate irrigation for farmers using water from the Ogallala Aquifer. Specifically it will examine the water-holding capacity of the top two feet of soil and the crop’s water use throughout the season, and also determine the differences in fields with 39,600, 36,000 and 32,000 plants per acre, and how many soil probes are needed in-season to accurately monitor soil moisture.

• $21,240 to Jerry Johnson and Sally Sauer with Colorado State University, to continue testing yield performance of four drought tolerant corn hybrids compared to four traditional, non-drought tolerant hybrids, at three different plant densities, under dryland production conditions in northeast Colorado.

• $17,287 to Louis Comas with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, to continue overseeing development of a tool for monitoring and managing water stress in corn.

• $15,604 to Louise Comas with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, to create a tool to help corn producers identify when their crop is going into stress, help estimate potential yield impacts of that stress, and help producers in assessing potential impacts from constraints in their water supplies.

• $11,900 to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for a 2016 water stress monitoring project.

• $3,866 to Joel Schneekloth with the Colorado Water Institute, to study the impact of residue removal and tillage upon the soil characteristics important to crop production and crop-production economics

@westgov urges adequate funding for NIDIS

Drought impacted corn

Here’s the release from the Western Governor’s Association:

Western Governors have urged the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations to provide adequate funding for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) in recognition of its significant role in western water management.

“Adequate measures to manage western water resources in the face of inevitable future drought conditions must be prioritized and implemented,” notes the letter sent on June 30, 2017. “Serving a valuable role in western water management and drought response, the NIDIS program improves precipitation forecasts needed to provide early drought warning, and should be adequately funded.”

The letter, signed by Western Governors’ Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and WGA Vice Chair and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, was sent to U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Nita Lowey.

To read the letter click here.

NASA: June 2017 Was Fourth Warmest June On Record

Here’s the release from NASA (Leslie McCarthy):

The GISTEMP monthly temperature anomalies superimposed on a 1980-2015 mean seasonal cycle.

June 2017 was the fourth warmest June in 137 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

Last month was 0.69 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean June temperature from 1951-1980. It is surpassed by June 2016 (+0.79 °C) and June 2015 and 1998 (+0.78 °C) and only insignificantly warmer than June 2005 (+0.68 °C).

Except for June 1998, the ten warmest months of June occurred between 2005 and 2017.

The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.

A global map of the June 2017 LOTI (land-ocean temperature index) anomaly, relative to the 1951-1980 June average

The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because previous observations didn’t cover enough of the planet. Monthly analyses are sometimes updated when additional data becomes available, and the results are subject to change.

Related Links
For more information on NASA GISS’s monthly temperature analysis, visit: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp.

For more information about NASA GISS, visit: http://www.giss.nasa.gov.

Thirsty yard? Make sure you water by the rules, baby – News on TAP

Light some candles and dim the lights — it’s time for the smoothest summer watering rules you’ve ever seen … or heard.

Source: Thirsty yard? Make sure you water by the rules, baby – News on TAP

@ConservationColorado: #Colorado’s Rivers — A Report Card

Click here to go to FaceBook to view Conservation Colorado’s introductory video.

Click here to read the report card. From the website:

Our rivers in Colorado are a fundamental staple to our communities, our economy, our environment, and our way of life. Unfortunately, they are threatened by climate change, overuse, poor dam management, energy development and the needs of a growing population. In order to take action to protect our rivers, we must first have a clear understanding of what threatens them. That’s why Conservation Colorado just released a new report that assesses the health of eight major rivers across the state. Read the full report here.

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

It’s a provocative report, and it’s meant to be, Conservation Colorado water advocate Kristin Green said during a phone interview Thursday.

“We want to bring attention to some of the opportunities we have to improve our water quality,” Green said. “In all of these, there’s a call to action.”

Green’s team graded one river in each of Colorado’s eight river basins, assigning an “A” grade only to the Yampa River, which flows through Steamboat Springs.

The Colorado River earned a “D,” and the South Platte River earned a “C.”

Reasons for the grades ranged from water diversion — which Greeley and at least a dozen other Front Range communities do with the Colorado River, diverting water across the continental divide to quench residents’ thirst — as well as water quality issues arising from farm or yard runoff, legacy mining pollution and sediment from wildfires.

Local water officials don’t agree with the grades, or the approach, saying these types of reports are consistently negative and unbalanced.

“It’s all subjective,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water Conservancy District, which manages the Big Thompson water project. “Find another organization, and they may look at it differently.”

Werner said it’s good that reports like this get people thinking about water quality and conservation, but he said these types of reports often leave out discussion of the positive steps water officials have taken over the years.

The report assigned individual grades the rivers to make up their overall grades. Water quality in the South Platte, which feeds the majority of the state’s population, was rated “D.”

[…]

“Colorado is not an extremely industrialized state,” [Eric] Reckentine said. “So what are we comparing against?”

Reckentine acknowledged the South Platte River Basin has issues, including farm runoff. It’s why Greeley is in the early stages of a pilot program working with farmers to reduce that runoff.

Other parts of the report focused on the diversion of water, as well as dams and reservoirs, impacting the natural state of Colorado’s rivers and river basins. That focus knocked the Colorado River because of the amount of water Front Range communities pump out…

Werner had plenty to say on these rivers’ natural state. When it comes to the Colorado River, Werner said Trout Unlimited supports diversion projects that will actually improve fish habitat in the river.

And the South Platte, Werner said, didn’t flow year-round before people got to Colorado.

“Now, because of diversions, it flows year-round,” Werner said. “If there’s no water in there, there can’t be any fish.”

“They pick out this little slice; they don’t look at the big picture,” Werner said.

For Werner, the big picture is the mission to provide water for another 5 million people in the coming decades, and to do so while keeping conservation top of mind.

Reckentine agreed.

“It’s all part of the consideration,” Reckentine said. “We have a very intricate conservation plan, and demand reduction is a critical component of our future water planning.”

From KOAA.com:

A statewide environmental organization has released its first-ever “rivers report card,” which ranks the health and well-being of eight Colorado rivers.

The ranking takes into account several factors including water quality, flow, amount of water diverted out of the basin, and existence of major dams. Only one river in Colorado received an “A” on the report card, with four other rivers graded at “C” or worse.

Rivers are important for Colorado’s environment as a whole, and they are also major destinations for outdoor activities. Conservation Colorado put the report card together to help Coloradans understand how to better take care of our rivers.

In the report, the group provides details on what the results mean, as well as more information on how to protect our rivers. Find the full report, an interactive web tool, and more at Conservation Colorado’s website.

Dolores River Canyon near Paradox

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

In a river report card released Thursday, Conservation Colorado gave the Dolores River a D-minus based on low flows below McPhee Dam.

The environmental group says improved dam management is needed to better support long-term ecological and recreational values on the river.

“We recognize there has been some recent local action to improve conditions below the dam, but there is room for improvement,” said Kristin Green, a water advocate for Conservation Colorado.

The Dolores was graded on flow, water quality, water diverted out of basin and major dams.

“Based on flow data from the last 10 years, McPhee Dam has reduced the rivers flows by 50 percent,” resulting in an F, the report said.

Water quality received a D because the reduced flows have resulted in dramatic increases in water temperature and increases in silt and sediment, both of which threaten native fish.

According to the report, the river received a low grade because nearly two-thirds of its water has been diverted every year, “which is incredibly unsustainable if we aim to conserve this river for the future.”

Among major dams, the river got a C because river flow has been “severely impaired” and “management of McPhee Dam is a critical component to the viability of the lower Dolores River.”

The report concludes that “overall, the Dolores River is in poor condition below McPhee Dam, but it is in no way a lost cause.”

Green said the wide-ranging solutions to improve conditions include conservation by water users, voluntary leasing of water for downstream benefits and adjusting water law’s “use it or lose it” so water-right holders are not penalized for conserving water…

In response to the low grade, Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservation District, which manages the dam, explained that in the past 10 years, there has been a sustained effort by a diverse group of stakeholders to improve ecological and recreational aspects of the lower Dolores…

This year, there was a large and extended release below the dam that peaked at 4,000 cubic feet per second and flushed sediments, scoured channels and distributed seeds. This month, pulse releases from a reserved fish pool were triggered to flush non-native and predatory smallmouth bass off their nests to reduce populations in favor of native fish.

Preston said dam managers have worked more closely with boaters to accommodate their needs and preferred flow levels. To further fine-tune downstream management, teams descended on the river this year to study the effects of the high flows.

“There were more ecological and recreational studies done on the lower Dolores this year than ever before,” Preston said.

Water conservation by all water users is one solution that helps improve flows below the dam. Preston said that when farmers use less water to produce the same amount of crops, more water stays in the reservoir contributing to carryover storage the next year.

“Carryover storage year to year benefits everyone, including agricultural users, the downstream fishery and boaters,” he said.

To increase conservation, the district promotes cost-sharing programs for farmers to switch from side roll sprinklers to the more efficient center-pivot sprinklers.

More collaboration with groups with differing opinions on best use of water has improved the outlook and possibilities for the lower Dolores, Preston and Green said.

McPhee managers also have worked more closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Dolores River Boating Advocates, American Whitewater and The Nature Conservancy…

In response to the report, Sam Carter, of the Dolores River Boating Advocates, said there is no question that the Dolores River is challenged, but it is not due to poor reservoir operations.

“The problem is not dam management, there is simply not enough water for today’s competing interests,” he said. “It is extremely important to acknowledge that a lot of great collaborative work has been done at the local level.”

He said boating groups are dedicated to respecting water-right holders and are working with a diversity of stakeholders to find solutions for the lower Dolores.

“This year is a great example of the progress that has been made. We worked to together to ensure McPhee allocations were met, while providing a great boating season and accomplishing important ecological goals. Local conversations about a possible National Conservation Area for the Lower Dolores are still underway.”