Seventh-grade superstar shows off lead-detecting invention and gets up close with real-world water quality testing.
The United States experienced its 7th warmest November and 10th warmest autumn
The November nationally averaged temperature was 45.1°F, 3.4°F above the 20th century average, and ranked as the seventh warmest on record. Record warmth spanned the Southwest with much-above-average temperatures stretching to the West Coast, Central Rockies, and Southern Plains. Near-average temperatures were observed across the North and along the East Coast. The autumn (September–November) temperature was 55.7°F, 2.1°F above the 20th century average, and the 10th warmest on record. Record autumn warmth was observed in the Southwest and New England. The year-to-date U.S. average temperature was the third warmest on record at 56.4°F, 2.6°F above average. Only January–November of 2012 and 2016 were warmer.
The national precipitation total was 1.58 inches, 0.65 inch below average, marking the 19th driest November on record. Below-average precipitation was observed for large parts of the nation, with drought developing and expanding in the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower-Mississippi Valley, and Southeast. The autumn precipitation total was 6.43 inches, 0.45 inch below average, and ranked in the driest third of the historical record. Record dryness was observed in parts of the Southwest and Lower-Mississippi Valley. The year-to-date precipitation total for the nation was 30.60 inches, 3.01 inches above normal, and the ninth wettest on record.
See all November, seasonal, and year-to-date U.S. temperature and precipitation maps.
This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate information services NOAA provides to government, business, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.
Much-above-average temperatures stretched from the California Coast into the Southwest, Central Rockies, and Southern Plains. Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah each had their warmest November on record. The Arizona statewide average temperature of 57.7°F surpassed the previous record set in 2007 by 2.4°F. Near-average temperatures were observed across much of the northern U.S. and along much of the East Coast. Much-above-average temperatures were observed along the western and northern coasts of Alaska where Arctic sea ice extent offshore was record and near-record low for the month. Barrow had its warmest November on record with a temperature of 17.2°F, 16.4°F above the 1981–2010 normal, and 1.9°F warmer than the previous record in 1950.
Below-average precipitation accumulated for most locations from the Southwest into the Great Plains, Southeast, and along the East Coast. Record low precipitation totals were reported in parts of the Southwest and deep South, with five states having the tenth driest, or drier, November on record. Mississippi ranked third driest, Alabama and Arkansas fourth driest, Oklahoma fifth driest, and Louisiana tenth driest. Little Rock, Arkansas, had its driest November on record with only 0.41 inch of rainfall. Above-average precipitation was observed in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and parts of the Midwest. Ohio had its ninth wettest November on record. According to the November 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 21.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up nearly 9.2 percent compared to the end of October. Drought developed, expanded and intensified in the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley, and Southeast. Drought improved in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and parts of the Midwest. Drought also improved for much of Hawaii.
Autumn (September–November) Temperature
Above-average temperatures spanned most of the nation during autumn, with the exception of the Northern Rockies and northern High Plains. Record warmth was observed in the Southwest and New England, where Arizona, New Mexico, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were each record warm. The record autumn warmth in the Southwest was driven largely by warm November temperatures, while the record warmth in New England was mostly due to warm October temperatures.
Below-average precipitation was observed for parts of the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley, and Mid-Atlantic. Parts of the Southwest, including Flagstaff and Phoenix, Arizona, were record dry. Arkansas was also record dry, receiving only 36.1 percent of average rainfall statewide. Little Rock, Arkansas, received just 2.24 inches of precipitation during the season, dipping below the previous record of 2.90 inches set in 1904. Above-average precipitation was observed in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and parts of the Plains, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast.
Year-to-Date (January–November) Temperature
Above-average temperatures spanned the nation during the year-to-date. Two states in the Southwest—Arizona and New Mexico—and six states in the East—Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia—were record warm for the first 11 months of the year.
Many locations had a wetter-than-average year-to-date with much-above-average precipitation totals across the West and the Great Lakes. Michigan had its wettest January–November on record with 37.31 inches of precipitation, 8.19 inches above average. This bested the previous record of 37.04 inches set in 1985. Parts of the northern Plains were drier than normal for the year-to-date. North Dakota had the eighth driest January–November, resulting in large part from the significant drought there earlier this year.
The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was the third highest value on record at more than double the average. On the national scale, extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, one-day precipitation totals, days with precipitation and landfalling tropical cyclones contributed to the elevated USCEI. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation, drought, and landfalling tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S.
A Note on Alaska Data
In early December 2017, due to a sharp, but real, increase in temperature during the 21st century at Barrow (Utqiaġvik), NCEI’s quality assurance algorithms retroactively rejected the station’s monthly temperatures dating to late summer 2016. Because the Barrow temperature was not considered, it resulted in an underestimate of recent monthly temperatures for Alaska Climate Division 1 and to a lesser extent the Alaska statewide average. NCEI is working to correct this issue in the coming weeks. The station’s daily data are available and correct in the Global Historical Climatology Network–Daily (GHCN-D) dataset.
From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):
Will high-pressure ridge in Pacific cause Rockies to stay dry ’til January?
Chilling new evidence of link to melting Arctic sea
Might it be a dry Christmas in Colorado, Utah and perhaps other locations, the result of yet again a high-pressure ridge that has formed off the West Coast?
That’s one possibility suggested by Eric Kuhn after examining two stories out of California posted on Tuesday. Kuhn is in the final months as general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, but he continues to monitor the news that affect water users on the upper Colorado River.
The two, overlapping postings concern formation of a high-pressure ridge off the West Coast that causes moisture-laden storms to go northward. Whistler has been getting hammered with snow. Mammoth? No, not all that much.
One posting forecasts a “remarkably persistent weather pattern will begin to develop across North America and adjacent oceanic regions.” The writer, Daniel Swain, writing on Weathewest.com, pointed out that “patterns like this have a tendency to become self-reinforcing, lasting for much longer than more typical transient weather patterns and leading to prolonged stretches of unusual weather.”
The result: “an extended, multi-week warm and dry spell” in California while “much of the East Coast shivers through repeated blasts of cold, Arctic air.” Swain expects this pattern to last “at least two weeks” but suggests possibly longer.
The posting, based largely on a peer-reviewed paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Geophysical Research, runs 2,400 words. It is well worth reading. Swain, the writer, coined the phrase “ridiculously resilient ridge” in 2014, during the drought in California.
Kuhn points out that when this stubborn high-pressure ridge forms off the West Coast, it has always produced problems for California and sometimes for the Rocky Mountains, too. He would have you imagine a clock, the storms moving across the top of the clock and down to the right, just as some of these storms have slid down into the Great Plains and others down the spine of the Rocky Mountains.
Will the weather be like clock-work this year? Forecasts of more than a week or two, if improving, remain subject to a great deal of variability, he points out.
That same posting by Swain in Weatherwest.com discusses the link between disappearing Arctic sea ice and the formation of the high-pressure ridge off the West Coast.
“The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, and sea ice has been disappearing at a greater rate than had projected by climate models—a rapid rate of change…” Swain writes. He goes on to say that there is no clear link between the vanishing sea ice and the persistent high-pressure ridge but that does not discount the possibility.
However, on the same day, a study conducted by scientists from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California claims to have found evidence of this link.
The Los Angeles Times summarized the study in this way: “Using complex new modeling, the scientists have found that rapidly melting Arctic sea ice now threatens to diminish precipitation over California by as much as 15% within 20 to 30 years.”
The story goes on to say that the study, published in the journal Nature Communications “provides compelling evidence of the link between the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic and the buildup of high ridges of atmosphere pressure over the Pacific Ocean. Those ridges push winter storms away from the state, causing drought.”
Kuhn, from his purview in Colorado, extends the story inland. “To me, it’s a potentially troublesome for both California and Colorado and the states between.”
The result of that high-pressure ridge was devastating to California in 2012 and 2013 and, to a lesser extent, in 2014 and 2015. Colorado fared better, as storms tracked down the spine of the Rockies. But that weather system left Utah more exposed. “We had one winter where Colorado was in decent shape, but Utah was in bad shape.”
This new research will undoubtedly be discussed next week in the hallways of Caesar’s Palace, site of the annual Colorado River Water Users Association. The story during the 21st century in the Colorado River Basin has been of the effects of rising temperatures but also the effects of that high-pressure ridge along the West Coast and its impact on states from Wyoming to Arizona.
Mountain towns in Colorado and other interior states are less directly affected than those of the Sierra Nevada. Even in drought years, headwater valleys usually get water. But Powell, Mead and other reservoirs of the Colorado River Basin have been slowly ebbing.
About 70 percent of all the water in the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry, at the head of the Grand Canyon, below Lake Powell, comes from Colorado, mostly as a result of snow. Very little water is added to the river below Lee’s Ferry. In this way, ski towns are directly connected to the vegetable fields of California’s Imperial Valley and Yuma, Ariz., source of the winter veggies their restaurants will be serving Christmas week.
From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):
John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief advisor on water issues, told the Progressive 15 Ag-Water Conference Wednesday that Denver already has made great strides in water conservation, but now storage is needed to meet ever-growing demand.
“Denver is using the same amount of water today as it did 30 years ago, but serving 350,000 more people,” Stulp said. “Denver Water has said we cannot water the next 5 million people like we did the first five million people in Colorado.”
Stulp alluded to the supply-demand gap of 560,000 acre feet by 2050, most of which will be in the South Platte River Basin. That number comes out of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, commissioned by Hickenlooper two years earlier.
If nothing is done to close that gap, Stulp said, between 500,000 and 700,000 acres of irrigated ag land will be lost, in addition to the 1 million acres already lost over the past century.
“It’s not that we’re gonna run out of water, but we’re gonna get it somewhere else, from agriculture or the Western Slope, and we’re both feeling the pressure,” he said.
The major hurdle in providing storage is financing. Water storage projects, of whatever form they take, are expensive, and the costs are going up all the time, Stulp said. While the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has struggled to build the Windy Gap Firming Project for water storage near Loveland, the cost of building the project rises by about $1 million a month.
“In terms of funding (water storage) we need to invest $20 billion in the next 20 to 30 years, and a lot of that is going to come from rate payers,” he said. “But even at that, there’s still a $3 billion gap, and there’s no obvious source for that funding.”
A traditional source of water funding, Colorado’s severance tax revenues, have declined sharply lately as the oil and gas industry has endured a prolonged slump in the U.S. Combined with a judgment against Colorado that forces the state to refund $125 million because tax deductions were not properly calculated, Stulp said, the severance tax fund could actually run a deficit in the near future.
There may be other sources of revenue, however. Stulp said one idea being batted around is a penny-per-bottle fee on bottled water.
“Apparently, we drink a lot of bottled water in Colorado,” he said, “so we may see that as a source of revenue down the road.”
Stulp said there is reason to be optimistic about the state’s water future. He said the nine river basin roundtables — one in each of the state’s eight river basins and one for metro Denver — are working together like never before to resolve the water shortage.
“We’ve got people working together who never saw each other except in court when they sued each other,” he said. “But now they’re collaborating, and that’s a very good thing.”
From The Moab Sun News (Sharon Sullivan);
The Western Regional Climate Center designated all of Grand and San Juan counties, and a portion of Uintah County, as in a “moderate drought,” as of Nov. 21. Prior to the drought listing, the Moab area was categorized as “abnormally dry” for this time of year.
The freakish warm weather has some people worrying, and, if it continues, there will be significant impacts down the road, but keep in mind current temperatures are much the same as they were this time last year, said Randy Julander, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Last year’s dry spell was interrupted by a mid-December storm that dumped snow in the La Sal Mountains, replenishing the region’s water supply for another year.
Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) customers who depend on irrigation water are safe for now as the reservoir level at Ken’s Lake is half full, GWSSA Manager Dana Van Horn said…
“There basically isn’t any snowpack at all in the La Sals, except for a few inches on random, very high elevation north faces,” said Eric Trenbeath, an avalanche forecaster for the U.S Forest Service’s Utah Avalanche Center…
Moab’s irrigation storage facility, located at the south end of Spanish Valley in San Juan County, held 1,173 acre-feet of water as of Nov. 30, compared to 861 acre-feet in 2013. Van Horn said she has seen some years with less than 300 acre-feet of stored water…
The region has been abnormally dry since May 2, 2017, said Jim Pringle, a National Weather Service warning coordinator meteorologist in Grand Junction, Colorado. He’s responsible for monitoring weather conditions in southeast Utah, as well as western Colorado.
“Even though reservoirs may be full, there can be other indicators,” that warrant a drought listing, Pringle said. “When we look at Utah, we see a 50 percent probability of above normal temperatures,” for the next three months.
Pringle said that it’s no reason to be overly concerned – yet – that it’s part of the traditional cycle of random weather patterns. Moab has experienced moderate droughts many times over the years…
A long-term winter outlook shows Moab “sandwiched” between above-normal precipitation patterns in northern Utah, and below-normal precipitation in the south – and Moab could go either way, Pringle said.
There’s a 60-40 probability for a long-term forecast for drier and warmer than normal temperatures in the Moab area, meaning that there is a 60 percent chance of the forecast’s being correct, and a 40 percent chance of its being wrong, said Julander, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Salt Lake City. In other words, “anything can happen,” he said…
Trenbeath, along with 40-plus other national forecasters, provides regularly updated snow, mountain weather and avalanche information for winter backcountry users such as skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers.
He told the Moab Sun News that less snow in the mountains actually presents greater risks of avalanches because of the instability it creates.
“That’s because snow that sits around for a long time under cold, clear skies tends to weaken into sugary ‘faceted snow,’” Trenbeath said. “This makes an unstable base for new snow to land on,” and can cause “very destructive” avalanches.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday approved a $28.8 million budget for 2018, which includes the District’s general fund, Enterprise water fund and a newly created hydropower fund within the enterprise.
The general fund totals $16 million, most of which reflects Fryingpan-Arkansas Project payments to the Bureau of Reclamation. Those payments total $13.1 million, including $7.4 million from property taxes in parts of nine counties for Fry-Ark Contract obligations, and $5.3 million in payment from the Fountain Valley Authority in El Paso County. Other payments to Reclamation include $265,000 for excess-capacity contracts and an estimated $117,000 for winter water.
The District assesses a 0.940 mill levy, of which 0.9 mills goes toward the Reclamation Fry-Ark Contract; 0.035 mills for operation; and 0.005 mills for refunds and abatements adjustments. Tax collections total about $7.8 million.
Operating revenues and expenditures for the District are expected to top $2.5 million in 2018.
The water activity enterprise, the district’s business arm, has a $2.7 million budget in 2018. Enterprise funds are generated from water sales, surcharges on water storage or sales and contractual arrangements.
The hydroelectric fund supports an electric generation plant under construction at Pueblo Dam. The Colorado Conservation Board approved a $17.2 million loan in 2016 toward the $20 million project. The remainder of the project is funded by the enterprise. Expenditures in 2018 are expected to be nearly $10 million.
Construction began in October 2017, after purchase of power details were finalized. The power plant should begin operations in 2018, with the first full year of electricity production in 2019.
From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):
The funding includes about $10.6 million in clean water infrastructure and $14.3 million in drinking water state revolving loan funding.
“The State Revolving Fund programs are critical for Colorado as they have provided the ability to fund more than $1.2 billion for clean water and $600 million for drinking water infrastructure projects throughout the state,” Pat Pfaltzgraff, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said in the release. “The SRF programs continue to help offset the $12 billion dollar funding gap.”
According to the release, Colorado’s water infrastructure projects also are funded with state match, repayments from State Revolving Fund loans and interest earnings. Key projects for wastewater treatment and drinking water State Revolving Fund loans include: $43 million to Evans for its new consolidated wastewater treatment plant, $320,000 to Larimer County’s Wonderview Condos Association to replace its collection system and $58 million to Breckenridge for an intake structure, raw water piping and a water treatment plant.
A federal-state partnership, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides financing for water quality projects through low-interest loans. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund was created in 1996 and provides financial support to ensure safe drinking water.