@NOAA_Climate: Globe had 3rd warmest year to date and 5th warmest November on record

Here’s the release from NOAA (Brady Phillips):

With a warm start to the year and only one month remaining, the globe remains on track to go down as the third warmest year in the 138-year climate record.

So, let’s get straight to the data and dive deeper into NOAA’s monthly analysis to see how the planet fared for November, the season and the year to date:

Climate by the numbers
November 2017

The average global temperature in November 2017 was 1.35 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 55.2 degrees, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This average temperature tied 2016 as the fifth highest for November in the 1880-2017 record. This marked the 41st consecutive November and the 395rd consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average.

Seasonal | September through November 2017
The end of November marks the end of the fall season for the Northern Hemisphere and spring for the Southern Hemisphere. The average seasonal temperature for the globe was 1.35 degrees F above the 20th century average of 57.1 degrees F. This was the fourth highest for September-November in the 1880-2017 record.

Year to date | January through November 2017
The year-to-date average temperature was 1.51 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 57.2 degrees. This was the third warmest for this period on record.

Map:These are some of the noteworthy climate-related events that occurred around the world during November and the year to date. (NOAA NCEI)

Other notable climate events and facts around the world last month included:

  • Near-record-low sea ice at the poles
  • The average Arctic sea ice coverage in November was 11.6 percent below the 1981-2010 average, the third smallest since records began in 1979.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent in November was 5.7 percent below average, the second smallest on record.
  • Warmer-than-average lands and oceans

  • The globally averaged land-surface temperature ranked as ninth warmest for the month of November, fifth warmest for the season (September – November) and second highest for the year to date (January to November).
  • The globally averaged sea-surface temperature ranked fourth warmest for November and the season, and third highest for the year to date.
  • South America and Asia led the continents in November, seasonal warmth rankings
  • South America and Asia had their 10th warmest November on record; Oceania, its 13th; Africa, its 19th; Europe, its 22nd; and North America, its 30th.
  • For the season, South America and Asia had their second warmest September-November on record; Africa, its fourth; North America, its fifth; Oceania, its sixth; and Europe, its seventh.
  • #CRWUA2017: Despite obstacles, #ColoradoRiver managers reaffirm commitment to #drought plan #COriver

    View of Lake Mead and Hoover dam. Photo credit BBC.

    From The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):

    Colorado River managers find themselves in an odd position. They are at once moving closer to and farther away from sealing a drought contingency plan they’ve been negotiating since 2015.

    In a packed room Thursday morning at Caesars Palace, about 45 minutes from a more-than-half empty Lake Mead, Arizona, California and Nevada water managers affirmed their commitment to the drought plan. Nevada is ready to sign the plan. But California is working through a few issues, and in Arizona, several in-state agencies are arguing over how to manage the river.

    “Our challenge is growing, not contracting,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, adding that he needs to get legislative approval for the plan.

    The drought contingency plan builds upon a 2007 agreement. Under those guidelines, Arizona and Nevada agreed to reduce the amount of water they pulled from Lake Mead if the federal government declared a shortage (the threshold for a shortage is 1,075 feet; the current elevation of Lake Mead is 1082 feet). California, which has senior rights to Colorado River water and takes the largest allocation from the reservoir, was not required to take cuts in the 2007 deal.

    Since the agreement, projections for Lake Mead have worsened, with hydrologists predicting a higher probability of reaching 1,025 feet by 2026, a breaking point at which the federal water managers would take more control from the states. All states want to avoid reaching this point.

    Their solution was to expand the 2007 guidelines and store more water in Lake Mead through voluntary cuts to how much water states receive during low elevations. This is at the heart of the drought plan. According to a version of the plan presented in January, all of the states would take voluntary cuts, marking the first time that California would agree to voluntary cuts.

    “It’s a White Swan of a deal. The last couple of years have felt like a real Nutcracker,” joked Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, who was riffing off the title of the panel discussion, “A Ballet in the Making: Choreographing Issues Across the Basin.” “We have the ability to close this and we should do it in 2018.”

    The deal asks that Nevada agree to a maximum reduction of about 30,000 acre-feet, which is 10 percent of its allocation. Arizona and California would agree to cut a maximum of 720,000 acre-feet and 350,000 acre-feet (an acre-foot meets the annual needs of about two Las Vegas homes).

    Las Vegas is dependent on the Colorado River for its water supply, getting about 90 percent of its water from the reservoir. Last year, Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman Bronson Mack told the Las Vegas Sun that the agency could manage the cuts without “drastic measures.”

    “We got our house in order very early on,” Mack told the paper.

    SNWA already stores a portion of its allocation in Arizona and Las Vegas aquifers. It continues to push conservation measures and a pipeline project that would allow SNWA to pump billions of gallons of groundwater 250-miles from groundwater rights it owns in Northern Nevada.

    If the other states were ready, Nevada would sign the drought contingency plan today, SNWA general manager John Entsminger said during the panel. But he noted, this is not a ballet.

    “This is not a ballet,” he said. “It is by turns a mosh pit and at times an extremely awkward 7th grade dance in the gym. No one will come off of the wall and engage in a meaningful fashion.”

    All the water managers agreed that they need to get to a deal, and they said that they all want an agreement soon, but they acknowledged some remaining roadblocks in California and Arizona.

    Arizona is a “mosh pit” right now, Buschatzke said.

    Winter storms at the end of 2016 improved Rocky Mountain snowpack, which feeds the river, and created better hydrological conditions in Lake Mead. As the lake’s hydrology improved, an internecine battle broke out among Arizona constituencies, the Arizona Daily Star has reported.

    The issues in California could be easier to overcome. As a prerequisite for agreeing to the plan, the Imperial Irrigation District, which disburses a large Colorado River allocation to Southern California farms, wanted to the state to develop a plan to control dust billowing off a shrinking Salton Sea. The state has moved forward with those plans, the Desert Sun reported in November.

    Another uncertainty lies in a $17.1 billion plan in California to build tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a source of water for the Metropolitan Water District. The agency’s argument has been that the northern California tunnels would create more reliability in its system and in turn, give the water district more flexibility to take Colorado River cuts.

    On top of that, some believe the states need federal legislation to execute the drought plan.

    Yet there are also reasons to believe that a drought contingency plan will be signed, University of Mexico professor John Fleck, who writes about the river, observed in a blog post Thursday:

    “Even though we don’t have [the drought contingency plan] done, all the basin users are acting, operationally, like it’s a done deal. The states of the Lower Basin are leaving significant quantities of water in Lake Mead this year, kind of like if DCP was already in place. And, crucially, Nevada and Southern California seem to be presuming, in leaving that water in the lake, that the new rules for taking it out under drought conditions, embodied in DCP, will be in effect when they’re needed. Absent DCP, this would pose significant risk for them that they might not be able to get their water out of Lake Mead. This is a strong vote of confidence that DCP, while not done, soon will be.”

    The plan gives the states more flexibility to recover some of the water it leaves in the lake.

    Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District, introduced the panel. He joked that Arizona had been a pain on the Colorado River, going all the way back to the Colorado River Compact.

    “When you look at the minutes of the 1922 compact — the first meeting — about 10 minutes into that meeting, the other six states and Chairman [and Commerce Secretary Herbert] Hoover had come to a conclusion that guides us on Arizona for the remaining 95 years. And what that is, when it comes to the Colorado River, Arizona is going to be a big pain in the ass,” Kuhn said.

    The Water Values podcast: The Year in Water 2017 with Charles Fishman, Cindy Wallis-Lage and Jeff Kightlinger

    Click here to listen to the podcast from David McGimpsey:

    A little something different for this year’s wrap-up. Rather than a monologue by me, I decided to pull in some water leaders and have a virtual panel about a remarkable year in water. Charles Fishman, Cindy Wallis-Lage and Jeff Kightlinger join the virtual panel to discuss a wide range of water issues from 2017 and offer their prognosis on water in 2018. Take a listen!

    In this session, you’ll learn about:

  • Each panelist’s thoughts on the big issues in water in 2017
  • How water issues are interrelated and entangled with everything from climate change to land planning to infrastructure development
  • Water supply volatility and how utilities deal with it
  • Public education and what’s needed to enhance it
  • Each panelist’s thoughts on what 2018 portends in the water industry
  • @NOAA’s GOES-16, now at GOES-East, ready to improve forecasts even more

    Here’s the release from NOAA (John Leslie, Maureen O’Leary):

    New satellite proved vital for forecasters, emergency managers during 2017’s active hurricane season

    Now in its new GOES-East position, the advanced GOES-16 satellite has officially joined NOAA’s operational observation network, providing forecasters with sharper, more defined images of severe storms, hurricanes, wildfires and other weather hazards in near real-time 24/7.

    GOES East Hurricane Harvey image.

    “The GOES-16 satellite provided invaluable data on deadly hurricanes long before they touched the shore this season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “As it becomes fully operational, GOES-16 will continue to monitor extreme weather events, safeguarding American lives and property from its perch thousands of miles above the Earth.”

    Since its launch in November 2016, NOAA’s GOES-16, even in its testing stage, showed its potential to improve weather forecasts and brought new levels of situational awareness to forecasters, emergency managers, and the public. The satellite covers most of North America – all of the continental U.S., Mexico and most of Canada, from 22,300 miles above the earth.

    “GOES-16 has proven to be one of the most important tools we’ve ever developed for our weather and hazard forecasts,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “From its impressive first image of Earth last January to monitoring tropical storms and wildfires, GOES-16 has and will continue to greatly improve our ability to visualize potential threats, and enhance forecasts and warnings to save lives and protect property.”

    GOES observations help save lives

    GOES-16 provided critical data which enabled emergency preparations and response during this year’s extremely active hurricane season. The new satellite delivered experimental imagery with detail and clarity never achieved before. Its high resolution – four times higher than previous NOAA satellites – and views of Earth taken every 30 seconds allowed forecasters to monitor how and when storms developed. Data from GOES-16 allowed forecasters to better assess and predict how much rain Hurricane Harvey would produce over Texas and see its rapid intensification, along with hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria.

    GOES-16 data helped monitor and detect wildfires, and gave forecasters detailed images of wildfire smoke, enhancing their air quality forecasts. Imagery from GOES-16 helped forecasters spot new wildfires in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and determine which fires were hottest and where the fires were spreading. This critical information was shared with and used by firefighters and emergency managers.

    GOES-16 testing showed potential improvements for aviation weather forecasting and airport operations. Forecasters are now able to predict with greater accuracy than before when fog and clouds will form and clear. The new satellite can also detect turbulence, enabling forecasters to issue timely advisories, aiding in aircraft and passenger safety.

    ‘A game changer’

    “We are using the GOES-16 data in ways we planned and in ways we didn’t even imagine,” said National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini, Ph.D. “GOES-16 has been a game changer for monitoring hurricanes, wildfires, severe storms, and lightning. Now that it is operational and the data is incorporated into the forecast process, we will be able to use it across all our service areas, starting with winter storms.”

    Data from GOES-16 has been available to NOAA forecasters and the national and international weather modeling and forecasting community during the satellite’s testing phase and will continue to do so.

    GOES-16 is the first in the series of next-generation geostationary satellites, that provides valuable data in support of NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative. The next new NOAA satellite, GOES-S is scheduled to launch March 1, 2018 followed by GOES-T in 2020 and GOES-U in 2024. These satellites will enable NOAA to more closely monitor weather systems over North America, South America, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to help protect lives and property.

    The 26,000 tons of radioactive waste under #LakePowell — @HighCountryNews #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    San Juan Smelter Durango back in the day

    Here’s a report from Jonathan Thompson writing in The High Country News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Beneath the murky green waters on the north end of Lake Powell, entombed within the tons of silt that have been carried down the Colorado River over the years, lies a 26,000-ton pile of unremediated uranium-mill tailings. It’s just one radium-tainted reminder of the way the uranium industry, enabled by the federal government, ravaged the West and its people for decades.

    In 1949, the Vanadium Corporation of America built a small mill at the confluence of White Canyon and the Colorado River to process uranium ore from the nearby Happy Jack Mine, located upstream in the White Canyon drainage (and just within the Obama-drawn Bears Ears National Monument boundaries). For the next four years, the mill went through about 20 tons of ore per day, crushing and grinding it up, then treating it with sulfuric acid, tributyl phosphate and other nastiness. One ton of ore yielded about five or six pounds of uranium, meaning that each day some 39,900 pounds of tailings were piled up outside the mill on the banks of the river.

    In 1953 the mill was closed, and the tailings were left where they sat, uncovered, as was the practice of the day. Ten years later, water began backing up behind the newly built Glen Canyon Dam; federal officials decided to let the reservoir’s waters inundate the tailings. There they remain today.

    If you’re one of the millions of people downstream from Lake Powell who rely on Colorado River water and this worries you, consider this: Those 26,000 tons of tailings likely make up just a fraction of the radioactive material contained in the silt of Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

    During the uranium days of the West, more than a dozen mills — all with processing capacities at least ten times larger than the one at White Canyon — sat on the banks of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Mill locations included Shiprock, New Mexico, and Mexican Hat, Utah, on the San Juan River; Rifle and Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab on the Colorado; and in Uravan, Colorado, along the San Miguel River, just above its confluence with the Dolores. They did not exactly dispose of their tailings in a responsible way.

    At the Durango mill the tailings were piled into a hill-sized mound just a stone’s throw from the Animas River. They weren’t covered or otherwise contained, so when it rained tailings simply washed into the river. Worse, the mill’s liquid waste stream poured directly into the river at a rate of some 340 gallons per minute, or half-a-million gallons per day. It was laced not only with highly toxic chemicals used to leach uranium from the ore and iron-aluminum sludge (a milling byproduct), but also radium-tainted ore solids.

    Radium is a highly radioactive “bone-seeker.” That means that when it’s ingested it makes its way to the skeleton, where it decays into other radioactive daughter elements, including radon, and bombards the surrounding tissue with alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. According to the Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry, exposure leads to “anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer (especially bone cancer), and death.”

    Jim Broderick to take the reins of #CRWUAwater for two years #ColoradoRiver #COriver #CRWUA2017

    The outflow of the Bousted Tunnel just above Turquoise Reservoir near Leadville. The tunnel moves water from tributaries of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers under the Continental Divide for use by Front Range cities, and Pitkin County officials have concerns that more water will someday be sent through it.

    From the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Pueblo West View:

    Jim Broderick was elected president of the Colorado River Water Users Association at its meeting in Las Vegas last week. The presidency is a two-year term that rotates among states.

    “The continued collaboration of the seven states, tribes and the country of Mexico is important, not only for the state of Colorado, but for all of those who rely on the Colorado River’s water supply,” said Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “It’s an honor to be selected to guide this prestigious group.”

    CRWUA was founded in 1945 as a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and perspectives on the Colorado River. Its members include the seven states in the 1921 Colorado River Compact, as well as the Ten Tribes Partnership. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

    The group includes top water officials from all of the partners, and has been influential in brokering landmark agreements to satisfy increasing demands on the Colorado River.

    At its meeting last week, the group heard details about the latest agreement with Mexico, which resolves flow and storage issues to revive the Colorado River delta in Mexico. Representatives from both sides of the border shared their perspectives.

    The Arkansas River basin benefits from imports from the Colorado River basin each year through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which is overseen by the Southeastern District. This year, the Fry-Ark Project brought in more than 67,000 acre-feet of water.

    “That water is a supplemental supply that tides us over in times of drought,” Broderick said.

    Book review: “River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the #GoldKingMine Disaster” — Jonathan Thompson

    From Publisher Weekly:

    Mixing reportage, historical inquiry, and personal narrative, environmental journalist Thompson uses the Gold King Mine disaster as the starting point of an investigation into the environmental history of Colorado’s Animas River Valley, stretching back to the beginning of European colonization. In 2015, three million gallons of bright-orange, heavy-metal-tainted water spewed out in a matter of minutes from the defunct Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo. Though the immediate danger of the toxins passed relatively quickly, it irreparably altered the relationships that the local Diné (Navajo) had with their land. “Our history is a history of pollution,” Thompson writes, detailing the damages caused by even the most primitive forms of mining in a seemingly endless war between mining companies and the humans and wildlife that depend on the water systems near mining sites. Thompson, a southwestern Colorado native, knowledgeably and sensitively addresses ethical questions at the heart of his inquiry, including what it would mean to restore the water system to its precolonial state. He also effortlessly explains the technical elements of this story, such as the complex chemistry of the environmental effects of mining. This is a vivid historical account of the Animas region, and Thompson shines in giving a sense of what it means to love a place that’s been designated a “sacrifice zone.”

    Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

    Click here to order the book from the Tattered Cover Book Store:

    Award-winning investigative environmental journalist Jonathan P. Thompson digs into the science, politics, and greed behind the 2015 Gold King Mine disaster, and unearths a litany of impacts wrought by a century and a half of mining, energy development, and fracking in southwestern Colorado. Amid these harsh realities, Thompson explores how a new generation is setting out to make amends.

    As shocking and heartbreaking as the Gold King spill and its aftermath may be, it’s merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The disaster itself was the climax of the long and troubled story of the Gold King mine, staked by a Swedish immigrant back in 1887. And it was only the most visible manifestation of a slow-moving, multi-faceted environmental catastrophe that had been unfolding here long before the events of August 5, 2015.

    Jonathan Thompson is a native Westerner with deep roots in southwestern Colorado. He has been an environmental journalist focusing on the American West since he signed on as reporter and photographer at the Silverton Standard & the Miner newspaper in 1996. He has worked and written for High Country News for over a decade, serving as editor-in-chief from 2007 to 2010. He was a Ted Scripps fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and in 2016 he was awarded the Society of Environmental Journalists’ Outstanding Beat Reporting, Small Market. He currently lives in Bulgaria with his wife Wendy and daughters Lydia and Elena.

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]