Cranmer Award to Ken and Ruth Wright Colorado Open Lands

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Ken and Ruth
A remarkable team,
you’ve embraced Colorado
thoroughly enough

to gauge its most basic
dimensions, its mountains,
mesas, canyons, plains;

that we the creatures of this
great land in trapezoidal fashion
depend upon our abilities

to abide with each other;

in this, you teach that every
potential answer requires

re-phrasing the question
based on experience gained
in following the evidence to

its next incremental intuition;
your chosen professions,
engineering and the law

you use as problem-solving
parabolas arching over
canyon rims to ribbons

of streams, diminishing or
roaring through public discourse;
clean and healthy enough

to cultivate a whole new
generation of eager and true
Ruth and Kens!

Greg and Bobbie Hobbs

This woman fundamentally changed climate science — and you’ve probably never heard of her

From Think Progress (Kyla Mandel):

Eunice Foote is finally honored for her contributions 162 years later.

It was “blind luck” said Ray Sorenson, a retired petroleum geologist, regarding how he first came across Eunice Foote’s name. Sorenson, whose basement in Oklahoma is full of more than 300 pre-Civil War era technical books, discovered Foote’s name sometime in 2010.

Sorenson had found copies of the Annual Scientific Discovery by David A. Wells, and “I really liked them, and started collecting them,” he told ThinkProgress. It was while reading the 1857 volume that he stumbled upon Foote.

As he quickly realized, Foote was the first scientist to make the connection between carbon dioxide and climate change. She discovered CO2’s warming properties in 1856, more than 160 years ago and three years before John Tyndall, a British scientist who has widely been credited with first establishing the connection between increased global temperatures and carbon dioxide.

But for a number of reasons — chief among them the fact that she was a woman — Foote’s name was until recently lost to history, a minor footnote within climate science.

“I knew just enough about the history of climate science,” Sorenson said of his ability to grasp the significance of the name and date. “I recognized that it was something that had been missed by historians,” he explained, “and I felt she deserved recognition.”

In January 2011, Sorenson published his findings in the journal AAPG Search and Discovery as an independent researcher. “I’ve had more response to that than anything else I’ve ever written,” he said.

Fast-forward seven years — and more than a century — to a symposium titled, “Science Knows No Gender,” held Thursday at UC Santa Barbara with the sole purpose of acknowledging Foote’s contribution to climate science, and erasure from the history books.

“She basically laid the basis for modern climate change science,” said John Perlin, a research scholar in UCSB’s physics department who discovered Foote’s name through Sorenson’s paper. “What could be more significant?”


Eunice Foote’s story
Foote’s story is still unfolding the more researchers dig into it. It begins in upstate New York, where she lived. Foote, a short, oval-faced woman with dark brown hair and grey-blue eyes, was a student at Troy Female Seminary. While there, she was invited to attend a nearby science college where she learned the basics of chemistry and experimental techniques.

She wasn’t just a scientist, though. She was a central figure in the early women’s rights movement and lived next door to the famous suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 1848, Foote was one of the signatories to the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments — in which the final resolution adopted calls for “the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce.”

In addition to being a hub of feminism, the area where Foote lived also happened to be the final stop along the underground railroad before entering Canada. And as it happened, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who ran a printing press nearby, published the Seneca Falls Declaration.

But back to the science. Eventually, Foote designed an experiment to better understand the role of atmospheric gases in temperature changes — an emerging topic of interest to a handful of scientists at the time. Her experiment was simple: Foote filled separate glass jars with water vapor, carbon dioxide, and air. She then compared how much they heated up in the sun.

As she wrote of her findings, “The highest effect of the sun’s rays I have found to be in the carbonic acid glass” (the term used at the time for carbon dioxide).

“The receiver containing the gas became itself much heated — very sensibly more so than the other — and on being removed, it was many times as long in cooling,” she continued.

In other words, the jar containing CO2 warmed up more from the sun’s rays than the other jars. And it held that heat for much longer.

Foote goes on to speculate about what this might mean for our atmosphere. “An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature,” she wrote, “and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must have necessarily resulted.”

Foote presented these findings — detailed in a paper titled, “Circumstances affecting the heat of the sun’s rays” — on August 23, 1856 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). According to AAAS archivist Norma Rosado-Blake, Foote was able to have her paper presented because her husband, Elisha Foote, was a member of the organization. She did not present her own work, however. Instead, Professor Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institute, spoke on her behalf.

In acknowledging that it was Foote’s work, Henry introduced the findings by stating, “Science was of no country and of no sex. The sphere of woman embraces not only the beautiful and the useful, but the true.”

Ever since Foote’s name has come to the public’s attention, there has been a debate within the scientific community about whether her work was suppressed because she was a woman, and whether Tyndall deliberately used Foote’s work without due credit, or if it was just coincidental timing.

It’s unknown why Henry presented Foote’s paper on her behalf. However, according to climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, who contacted AAAS with this very question, Foote did end up presenting a second paper published in 1857 at AAAS herself.

In addition, said Hayhoe, it seems there were several other instances of people’s papers being presented by proxy at AAAS regardless of gender. So, while “there were absolutely gender stereotypes [at play],” supporting the idea that Foote may have been discouraged to present, Hayhoe contends there isn’t enough evidence to prove Foote was actively forbidden from presenting her climate findings.

Who gets the credit?
With regard to Foote’s findings, it’s important to note that the concept of the greenhouse gas effect was discovered in the 1820s, by Joseph Fourier. What Foote and Tyndall’s work did was to connect that observed effect to a specific gas in the atmosphere. And Foote’s results, while not definitive (there were many uncontrolled factors in her experiment), were prescient.

“When Eunice did her experiment, average carbon dioxide levels were about 290 parts per million in the atmosphere,” Hayhoe wrote in a 2016 Facebook post. “She probably never dreamed that by 2016, they’d be over 400 parts per million.”

Due to the rudimentary set-up of the experiment, Foote “wasn’t measuring what she thought she was measuring, but she actually serendipitously ended up with an understanding that is correct today,” Hayhoe told ThinkProgress.

“She very presciently speculated that the temperature of the planet would be higher if CO2 were higher and as far as I know she was the first person to speculate that,” said Hayhoe, who noted that she didn’t have enough information to be able to say whether Tyndall was aware of Foote’s work or not.

Tyndall’s work, meanwhile, used more sophisticated experimental techniques and could therefore correct for some of the issues Foote encountered in order to more precisely measure infrared light-waves absorbed by CO2.

Tyndall was ultimately able to more clearly prove that the greenhouse gas effect is tied to carbon dioxide and human activities — this work has been widely accepted as a critical piece of the foundation for modern-day climate science. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, for instance, a prominent research institute in the U.K., now bears his name.

Perlin, however, strongly believes Tyndall used Foote’s work.

“I was curious, I spent a long time on this, whether or not there was some relationship between Eunice’s work and Tyndall’s work,” he said. Then one night at 4 a.m. he says, “I came up with what I say is the real damning evidence.”

As Perlin said, his late-night inspiration eventually led him to look back at the 1856 American Journal of Science, where Foote’s article is published. Also in that same issue is an article by Tyndall about color blindness.

Perlin believes it would have been impossible for Tyndall to have missed Foote’s work. Having both authors published in the same journal issue “enhances the possibility that he would have this volume in his hand,” said Perlin, “because he’d like to see his article.”

“I have taken so much, pardon the word, shit, for suggesting that Tyndall may have looked at Eunice’s work,” Perlin added, arguing that her story “is a great rallying point” for today’s climate and women’s movements.

Regardless of where one stands on whether Tyndall was aware of Foote’s work, what everyone does appear to agree on is that she deserves much more recognition for her work than she has received until now.

“She really has been lost to history and I’m absolutely sure there’s a strong gender component to that,” said Hayhoe, adding that Foote also had to contend with being an amateur scientist, whereas Tyndall did not. “And the fact that she was not a professional scientist, well gender is there too.”

Looking forward
Rather than it being a story about suppression, Hayhoe believes it should be one of celebration. Foote achieved a remarkable amount during her time, and is “an incredible role model for women today.”

Tiffany Lohwater, chief communications director at AAAS, agreed. “The past is the past and the future is the future,” Lohwater said, adding that by understanding the past, we can look back “to say what can we learn from that that can help us do a better job in understanding and recognizing women today and in the future?”

Using Foote’s story as a reference point, added AAAS archivist Rosado-Blake, “to stimulate a new dialogue and engage new audiences is an important component in engaging a new generation.”

Say hello to Soil Health website

Photo credit: Bob Berwyn

Click here to access the page. Here’s an excerpt:

Healthy soil is the foundation of productive, sustainable agriculture.

Managing for soil health allows producers to work with the land – not against – to reduce erosion, improve nutrient cycling, save money on inputs, and ultimately improve the resiliency of their working land.

Whether you raise corn in Alabama, beef cattle in Wyoming, or something in between, we’re here to help you build the health of your soils and strengthen your operation. Learn here about the principles of soil health and usable best practices. Then visit your local USDA service center where we can help you develop a management plan that supports your goals.

#Drought news: Most areas remain unchanged in #Colorado, late start to the North American #Monsoon

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


Heavy rain – 3.5 to locally over 8.0 inches – dowsed much of the dry area in Tennessee, eliminating most of the abnormally dry area, though a few patches remain in central and northern parts of the state. In contrast, most areas in the lower Mississippi Valley and southern Great Plains recorded little or no rainfall, with moderate to isolated heavy amounts limited to parts of central Oklahoma, western Texas, and the Louisiana Bayou. The rains brought regions of improvement (but not broad-scale relief) to western Texas, including the Big Bend. Farther north, a re-assessment of conditions led to some improvement being introduced in the Texas Panhandle (especially northern sections) and eastern parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle and adjacent western Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the dry and hot week prompted substantial deterioration across central and eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and (to a lesser extent) eastern Oklahoma. As a result, moderate to severe drought became more widespread, especially in a swath from southern to northeastern Texas. San Antonio, TX reported just over 2 inches of rain for April-June 2018, compared to a normal of over 10.6 inches (third driest such period in 134 years of record). Also, grass fires have become unusually common across the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area. In southwestern Texas, to the north and northwest of Laredo, a broad area of extreme drought (D3) was introduced, with an area of exceptional drought (D4) introduced in part of this region along the Rio Grande River. Most of the new D3 area recorded only 2 to 4 inches of rain in the last 90 days, and 3-month totals of only 0.5 to 1.5 inches (with widely isolated higher amounts) were recorded in the new D4 region…

High Plains

In Colorado and Wyoming, most areas remained unchanged; most of Wyoming remained out of dryness, and conditions worsen progressively moving south, with extreme to exceptional drought covering southern Colorado. Deficient precipitation and enhanced evaporative loss over the past few months led to limited expansion of D0 and D1 in areas near the central part of the border. Farther east, dryness led to some deterioration in Kansas. D3 pushed into part of south-central Kansas while extreme drought expanded into a larger part of northeastern Kansas. In the Dakotas, very heavy rains and flooding late in the period covered a swath across east-central South Dakota, leading to a band of 1- to 2-category improvement, with southern reaches of the old D2 area climbing to D0. This area will have to be assessed next week to get a better sense of how this intense rainfall episode changed the drought situation there. Moderate to heavy rains (but only isolated minor flooding) pelted western North Dakota as well, prompting the removal of abnormal dryness over much of the western part of the state. Small-scale improvements were made in a few other dry areas where rain was heaviest…


Outside the withdrawal of D0 from a small area in northeast Montana, where most locations recorded between one and two inches of rain, the Drought Monitor depiction is unchanged from the previous week. Significant rains from the Southwest Monsoon have yet to reach most of Arizona, and only scattered locations across southern and eastern New Mexico recorded over an inch of rain this past week. But a late start to the monsoon is hardly unusual, and conditions do not warrant drought degradation yet…

Looking Ahead

For the remainder of this week (through July 8, 2018), moderate precipitation (0.5 to 1.2 inches) is forecast across a broad area in the southeastern Great Plains, the Ohio and lower half of the Mississippi River Valleys, and the Eastern Seaboard. Heavy rain (2 to locally 5 inches) is forecast in southeastern Texas and the southern tier of Louisiana, and amounts could reach 2 inches in eastern Pennsylvania and southwestern Florida. Farther west, moderate to heavy rain (0.5 to locally 2.5 inches) is forecast for parts of the central and northeastern Great Plains, and far northern Mississippi Valley. Rainfall should be light with isolated moderate totals in the rest of the country east of the Rockies while little or no rain is expected from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. Average daily minimum temperatures should be above-normal throughout the contiguous states, with the largest departures (6 to 10 degrees F) expected in the southern Rockies, parts of the Great Basin and northern Great Plains, and throughout the Ohio Valley and Northeast. Daily high temperatures will not differ as far from normal, with 5-day anomalies exceeding 3 degrees F more than normal limited to the Northwest, the Intermountain West, most of the Rockies, the Great Lakes, and New England. The subsequent 5-day period (July 9-13, 2018), Odds favor above-normal rainfall in central and southern sections of California, the Intermountain West (including the Great Basin), and the Rockies, with surplus precipitation most likely in northern Arizona. Farther east, wet weather is also favored in the lower Mississippi Valley, most of the Southeast, the southern and eastern Ohio Valley, and the middle Atlantic States. Southern Alaska also has enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation. In contrast, subnormal rainfall is favored from central and southern Texas northward through the Plains, the western Great Lakes, the northern Intermountain West, and the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures are expected to average above normal across most of the contiguous states, with the exceptions of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and part of southern Alaska, where cooler than normal conditions seem more likely.

From The Fence Post (Amy G. Hadachek):

While the hardest hit areas are southwest Colorado, northern New Mexico, as well as the Texas Panhandle (especially around Amarillo,) and the western one-third of Oklahoma including the Oklahoma Panhandle, there is at least some encouraging news in the longer range forecasts for rain.

First, the southwest states, and reasons why drought conditions began.

“The San Juan River in extreme northwest New Mexico is at the bottom 10th percentile for this time of year. However, if you look at the upper portions of the Pecos River (north of Lake Santa Rosa), and the upper portions of the Rio Grande, near Taos, they are both at record low flows for this time of year. This is directly attributable to the lack of snowfall/lack of snowpack this year, and the lack of subsequent run off,” said Victor Murphy, climate services program manager, National Weather Service Southern Region.

Western Colorado is (also) really hurting right now with regard to streamflows and hydrologic conditions. “Nearly all streamflows are in the bottom 10 percentile for this time of year, with some at record lows for this time of year,” Murphy said.

Streamflows are low because of the poor spring runoff season after the low snowpack started melting.

“Water supplies, normally at their highest in June due to re-charge from snowmelt and runoff, were not adequately replenished, and they could experience more stress through the high demand summer season,” said Becky Bolinger, Ph.D., assistant state climatologist at the Colorado Climate Center-Colorado State University in Fort Collins, during the June 25 webinar.


Western states count on a strong monsoon season (which is a seasonal reversal of the wind pattern that typically brings moisture up and into the four corners’ states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. “However, the poor monsoon season late last summer triggered the launch into drought conditions. This was also followed by the dry, warm beginning of (what is typically) the ‘snow accumulating’ season. By January, the higher elevations were experiencing what some may refer to as a snow drought. Many mountain locations in central Utah, western Colorado and northern New Mexico reported their lowest seasonal peak snowpack on record,” Bolinger said.

Since the beginning of what’s known as “the water year,” (October 2017 through May of this year,) most of the four corners have seen much below-average precipitation and much above-average temperatures, with some locations experiencing their record driest and/or record warmest water year, to date.

“In the southwest U.S., (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California,) over 68 percent of the area is experiencing drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Almost 32 percent of the region is experiencing extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought conditions. Exceptional drought is focused over the four corners area and extends into central Arizona and across northern New Mexico,” Bolinger said.

These levels of drought conditions are ranked in the bottom fifth percentile or lower. “That means that typically in 100 years, only five years or less would be considered worse.”


“All of the four corners states have widespread fire restrictions. A greater than average number of wildfires is anticipated, due to longer term drought conditions and short-term dry and windy weather,” Bolinger said. She said this wildfire season has affected the recreation industry with the widespread National Forest closures in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. “Future impacts are expected to include the increased risk of flash flooding, as burned areas change the land cover. The vegetation can no longer take in the water, and so the ground develops a sort of ‘repellent’ barrier that increases runoff and causes flooding,” Bolinger said.


There is however, some encouraging news that the summer monsoon should begin in earnest in the next one to two weeks. “This should greatly alleviate this,” Murphy said during the second webinar on June 27, which was also hosted by the team of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s National Integrated Drought Information System and the National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Drought Mitigation Center, and the American Association of State Climatologists. But Murphy said, if the monsoon under-performs, then going forward into the cold season, all eyes will then turn to the developing El Niño climate pattern to provide relief. El Niño, (formally called the El Niño Southern Oscillation,) is the opposite of La Niña.

One note of caution, this forthcoming monsoon could be good for alleviating drought conditions, Bolinger said. “In areas where spotty thunderstorms occur though, the risk of lightning starting a wildfire will be high. And in localized burn areas, there will be an increased risk of flooding.”


Drought impacts include reduced forage and pasture, livestock herd reduction and the high fire danger. The combination of heat and lack of precipitation is stressing crops and threatening yields this year. “While recent pockets of heavy rain in south and west Texas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and southwest Kansas provided some local relief, however dry conditions and record-high heat have expanded severe drought conditions in southeast Oklahoma and northeast Texas. These recent rains resulted in significant drought improvement in parts of western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle,” Murphy said. “However, areas on the periphery (around Amarillo, and in far southwest Oklahoma along the Red River) are still in extreme drought (D3) and still in need of improvement. Short-term drought and above average temperatures could tip them back to D4 if rainfall doesn’t materialize in July.”


The Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Niño Watch as of June 14. “By the fall, there is a greater than 50 percent chance that an El Niño will develop, and is expected to be of moderate strength in the fall and winter,” Bolinger said.

While the southwest drought conditions developed because of the La Niña occurring last fall and winter, an El Niño may help shift the pattern. “Check out to see what is statistically likely during an El Niño fall and winter,” Bolinger said. “In both seasons, most of the region (in the four corners and extending toward the eastern plains, but especially to the south) there’s a better likelihood for wet extremes to occur and it’s less likely that they’d see dry extremes during this time. More wet extremes and fewer dry extremes could help chip away at the drought around the four corners. Unfortunately, that pattern weakens as you move north, when you reach Wyoming and northern Utah, that pattern is opposite and we would expect to see an increased chance of dry extremes occurring.”


“Drought is never really over, especially in the western states,” said Elizabeth Weight, regional drought information coordinator for NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System. “Drought stresses ecological systems, so it can take years to recover from a prolonged drought that inflicts damage on grasslands, forests, streams and aquifers. So, we need to shift from reactive crisis mode to longer-term drought planning through, for example, investing in good soil management practices, managing groundwater resources for the long-term, state-level drought planning that supports farmers and ranchers, and in better drought predictions and forecasting.”

The webinars, which are seminars presented live on the internet, were also recorded, and are available on

Meanwhile, down in the Arkansas River Basin at Beulah:

Wanted: Innovative solutions to future water problems – News on TAP

Denver Water has been building bridges to the business and entrepreneurial communities.

Source: Wanted: Innovative solutions to future water problems – News on TAP

Half splits

Katie Klingsporn

We didn’t break up, me and Telluride. We’re just on an extended hiatus.

It’s not something I ever expected would happen. It was love at first sight, after all. When I drove into the box canyon for the first time in March of 2006, it had just snowed a foot. The town was covered in white stuff, the mountains all a-sparkle under a new coat of white, the houses like ginger-bread Victorians, the ski lifts right over there. I had moved here sight unseen, and I couldn’t believe my great good fortune. I actually had a job reporting at the local paper in this place; this breathtaking mountain town was my new home.

And for the next several years, it was a full-on, adventure-stuffed, giddy-with-glee love affair. I hiked and biked the trails, marveling at the beauty of the mountains, the secret treasures contained in their folds, the glory of…

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Our Brains on Nature; River Edition

Katie Klingsporn

I recently wrote a story for OARS about the benefits of water, wilderness and river trips on human health:

Why Our Brains Need Multi-Day River Trips

By day five of my first rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, time started to slow and protract in a funny way. My senses seemed to sharpen, becoming almost granular. I shed the anxiety I had experienced going into the trip, and instead pondered the immeasurable journey that the sand had taken to reach the beach at my feet, noticed every bend of light as it spilled over the rim each morning and watched with great interest as the smear of stars grew brighter against the night sky.

Each splash of cold river water, ray of hot sun on my skin, scuttle of lizard, conversation with a trip-mate and song of canyon wren seemed so defined. Everything too important to overlook.

Read the full story…

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