@NOAA: Assessing the U.S. Climate in July 2018 #ActOnClimate

Click here to go to the NOAA website. Here’s an excerpt:

The contiguous United States had its 11th warmest July on record

The July 2018 contiguous U.S. temperature was 75.5°F, 1.9°F above the 20th century average. This tied with 1998 as the 11th warmest July on record. Much-above-average temperatures stretched across the West, Northeast and parts of the South. California had its hottest July and hottest month on record at 79.7°F, surpassing the previous record set in 1931. Near- to below-average temperatures were observed across the central U.S. For the year-to-date, the national temperature was 53.1°F, 1.9°F above average, also the 11th warmest on record. Of note, the last three month-period, May through July, ranked as the warmest such period on record with a national temperature of 70.9°F, 3.4°F above average. This surpassed the previous record of 70.6°F in 1934.

The July precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.80 inches, 0.02 inch above average, and ranked near the middle value in the 124-year period of record. Above-average precipitation was observed for parts of the Southwest, East Coast and Great Plains. Record precipitation fell in parts of the mid-Atlantic where Pennsylvania had its wettest July on record with 176 percent of average precipitation. Below-average precipitation was observed in the Northwest and parts of the northern to central Rockies, Midwest and South. The year-to-date precipitation total for the Lower 48 was 18.65 inches, 0.56 inch above average, ranking near the middle value in the record.

See all July U.S. temperature and precipitation maps.

This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

July Temperature

  • Above-average July temperatures stretched from the West Coast to the Rockies, through the South and into parts of the Northeast. Seventeen states had July temperatures that were much-above-average, including California which was record warm. The monthly average July temperature for Death Valley, California, was 108.1°F, making it the hottest monthly temperature on record for any station in the world, according to NCEI’s data holdings. This surpassed the record of 107.4°F set just last July in 2017 at Death Valley.
  • The warm and dry conditions across the West created ideal wildfire conditions. Numerous large and destructive fires burned across the region with many continuing to burn into August. These included, but were not limited to:

  • The Spring Creek Fire in Colorado burned over 108,000 acres and destroyed 251 homes. This was the third largest wildfire on record for Colorado.
  • The Carr Fire in California burned over 164,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,000 residences and was responsible for at least seven fatalities. This marks the sixth most destructive fire in terms of property loss on record for California.
  • The Ferguson Fire in California burned over 94,300 acres, was responsible for at least two fatalities and forced the closure of parts of Yosemite National Park.
  • The Mendocino Complex Fire in California burned over 283,800 acres and marked the largest wildfire on record for the state, surpassing the Thomas Fire that burned 281,000 acres in late 2017.
  • Near- to below-average temperatures stretched from the Great Plains into parts of the Midwest and Southeast. In the central U.S., maximum temperatures, or afternoon highs, were particularly cool during July. Above-average precipitation in parts of the region contributed to the below-average temperatures.
  • The Alaska July 2018 temperature tied with 2016 as the fifth highest since statewide records began in 1925. Parts of the Alaska Panhandle were record warm, including Juneau and Annette. Each of those locations also observed their warmest month of any month on record. Ketchikan had its second warmest July. The warm conditions contributed to a fish kill near Petersburg, Alaska.
  • July Precipitation

  • Above-average precipitation was observed across parts of the Southwest, Great Plains and along the East Coast. In the Southwest, an active monsoon season brought heavy thunderstorms to the region. In the East, record and near-record precipitation was observed for much of Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland. Pennsylvania had its wettest July on record with 7.37 inches of precipitation, 3.18 inches above average. Maryland had its second wettest July with 8.72 inches, 4.55 inches above average.
  • Below-average precipitation fell across much of the Northwest and in parts of the northern to central Rockies, Midwest and South. Idaho had its sixth driest July on record with just 0.24 inch of precipitation, 0.59 inch below average. Much of Alaska was also drier than average, particularly the central regions and the panhandle.
  • According to the July 31 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 34.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 29.7 percent at the beginning of July. Drought conditions worsened in the Northwest, Central Rockies, Southern Plains, mid-Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes. Drought improved in the Southwest, Northeast and parts of the Central to Northern Plains. Outside of the contiguous U.S., drought worsened for parts of Hawaii, but abnormally dry conditions improved for parts of southern Puerto Rico.
  • Year-to-Date (January-July) Temperature

  • Above-average January-July temperatures were observed across the West, Southern Plains, East Coast and much of the Midwest. Nine states in the West and South had much-above-average year-to-date temperatures, including Arizona and New Mexico which were record warm. The Arizona statewide average temperature was 62.7°F, 4.0°F above average, and the New Mexico temperature was 56.5°F, 3.9°F above average. Near- to below-average temperatures were observed in the north-central contiguous U.S.
  • The Alaska statewide average temperature for the year-to-date was 29.9°F, 4.0°F above average, and tied 2014 as the sixth warmest on record. Above-average temperatures were observed across western and northern areas of the state, with near-average temperatures in southern Alaska.
  • Year-to-Date (January-July) Precipitation

  • Above-average precipitation was observed in the Northern Plains, Midwest and along parts of the East Coast. Record precipitation was observed across parts of the mid-Atlantic, where Pennsylvania was record wet with 34.08 inches of precipitation, 9.01 inches above average. Six additional states in the East were also much wetter than average.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed for locations across the West and Southern to Central Plains. Colorado had its 12th driest year-to-date on record with 8.79 inches of precipitation, 2.38 inches below average.
  • As a water year, 2018 is in bad company — @AspenJournalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Like children, every water year is different, but 2018 is now hanging out with some of the most notorious low-flow years in history.

    2018 started with a thin snowpack that ran off early and now has found trouble in a hot and dry summer.

    The Bureau of Reclamation determined this week that 2018 had produced the fifth-lowest amount of runoff from the Colorado and Green rivers down to Lake Powell, between April and the end of July.

    That puts 2018 behind only 2013, 2012, 1977 and 2002, the low-water mark.

    And locally, 2018 is now revealing dry reaches in the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers not seen since 2012 or 2002.

    Friday, Aug. 3, just before noon, the upper Roaring Fork River was dribbling through Aspen at 9.12 cubic feet per second, according to a [gage] maintained by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, well below the environmental flow level of 32 cfs set by the state.

    Bad year

    Also Friday morning, which saw some rare rain to the valley, a section of the lower Crystal River just above the state fish hatchery outside of Carbondale was barely running at 8.86 cfs, according to a [gage] maintained by the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

    The state’s environmental flow level in that reach of the Crystal is 100 cfs, and the 2016 Crystal River Management Plan set a less-ambitious flow target of 40 cfs for the reach.

    Hunter Creek in Aspen was “flowing” at 0.48 cfs at its confluence with the Fork on Friday, according to [gage] maintained by USGS. That’s less than even half-a-basketball full of water in the stream bed.

    “It’s a bad year,” said Alan Martellaro, a division engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources who manages water in the Colorado River basin above Grand Junction. “It’s not 2002, I don’t think, but it’s up there.”

    This year already has a bad reputation on Colorado’s Western Slope, and especially in the southwest corner, which remains under exceptional drought conditions.

    “Hydraulically, 2018 is stacking up across western Colorado as, potentially, depending upon your specific location, the driest year on record,” said John Currier, the chief engineer for the Colorado River District.


    Another indicator of how dry 2018 is shaping up to be is the gauge on the Roaring Fork River at Stillwater Road, just east of Aspen.

    The [gage] showed the Fork on Friday was flowing at 28 cfs, without any significant upstream diversions dropping the flow. The lowest flow on Aug. 3, in 53 years of record-keeping, was in 2002, when the river was flowing at 31.7 cfs.

    A similar indicator can be found on the Crystal River at the gauge that measures the river’s flow below Redstone, and above a series of diversion structures on the lower river.

    Friday morning, that [gage] showed the Crystal flowing at 68.5 cfs. The lowest flow on Aug. 3, in 62 years of record keeping, was in 1977 when the river was at 64 cfs.

    Release Ruedi

    In response to such low flows in the region, the River District on July 27 started releasing water it controls out of Ruedi Reservoir into the Fryingpan River, something it has not arranged to do since 2002.

    By increasing flows by about 80 cfs up to 200 cfs in the lower Fryingpan, which runs into the Roaring Fork in Basalt, the District’s water helped cool the warm water in the Fork down to its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs.

    The water then also helped boost flows in the Colorado River near Grand Junction, where senior water rights known as “the Cameo call” are still calling for more water.

    Such calls are often met by releasing water from Green Mountain Reservoir, south of Kremmling. But the River District and other water managers want to keep as much water as they can in Green Mountain until September, and the water released from Ruedi helps with that.

    There was the added incentive this year to add water to the Fork and Pan to dilute the still-expected flow of ash and mud from Basalt Mountain in the wake of the Lake Christine Fire and the next heavy rainstorm.

    Options limited

    There’s no easy way, however, to add water to the nearly-dry sections of the upper Roaring Fork and the lower Crystal rivers.

    On Friday, for example, no water was being diverted upstream off the top of the Fork via the Twin Lakes/Independence Pass diversion system, according to a record of its diversions, and a related 3,000 acre-foot allotment of water that can be used to bolster flows already has been sent downstream.

    In response to the low-flows, the city of Aspen has dropped its diversions into the Wheeler Ditch, which takes water from the Fork near the Aspen Club, from a potential maximum diversion of 10 cfs down to 0.5 cfs.

    On the Crystal, a non-diversion agreement between the Colorado Water Trust and Cold Mountain Ranch, which diverts water from the Crystal, was not implemented this year, despite the dry conditions.

    The agreement was meant help boost moderately low flows in the Crystal of around 40 cfs, not to help bring the river up from, say, 10 cfs to 25 cfs, which may not help the environment that much.

    “If it’s not going to have an ecological benefit, it is not worth irrigators making the sacrifice,” said Heather Tattersall Lewin, the watershed action director at the Roaring Fork Conservancy.

    On Thursday evening, Jim Kravitz, the naturalist program director at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, took note of the distressing lack of water in the upper Fork and lower Hunter Creek.

    “I didn’t think flows were going to get this bad locally,” he said after walking up a dry Hunter Creek. “It’s eerie to hike up with no sound from the creek.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is covering rivers and water in the Roaring Fork and Colorado river basins in collaboration with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The Times published this story in its print edition on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2018, as did the Post-Independent.

    Denver Water goes back to the future – News on TAP

    40 years ago, our employees tried to predict the future. How close did they come?

    Source: Denver Water goes back to the future – News on TAP

    “There’s nothing we can do to make more water appear in the river” — Linda Bassi @AspenJournalism @CWCB_DNR

    The lower Crystal River was running at 8 cfs near the state fish hatchery on Aug. 1, 2018. Lows flows on the Crystal have spurred action from the state, including curtailment and a call for instream flows. Photo credit: Heather Sackett via Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Extremely low flows on the Crystal River have led to action by state officials, including turning down a diverter’s headgate and placing a call for water.

    On Friday, the Colorado Water Conservation Board placed a “call” on the Crystal River, asking Division of Water Resources officials to administer an instream flow right on the river. The CWCB has an instream flow right on the Crystal for 100 cubic feet per second between Avalanche Creek and the confluence with the Roaring Fork River from June 1 through Sept. 30 each year.

    The CWCB used the river [gage] near the state fish hatchery in Carbondale to determine that flow conditions were too low. As of Friday morning, the Crystal at that location was running at roughly 8.8 cfs.

    Instream flow rights are owned and used by the state to help preserve and protect the natural environment, ecosystems and aquatic life, especially fish.

    These rights, however, are junior to most agricultural and municipal rights in Colorado, which means the call may not do much to leave more water in the Crystal. The CWCB’s right on the Crystal dates to 1975.

    Cows graze near the Crystal River, just upstream from the fish hatchery. The Crystal just downstream was running at around 8 cfs on Aug. 1, spurring action by state officials. Photo credit: Heather Sackett via Aspen Journalism

    The goal, Bassi said, is to make sure future augmentation plans take into account instream flow rights.

    “We have a duty to protect these water rights that we hold for the people of the state and we take it seriously,” said Linda Bassi, stream and lake protection chief at the CWCB. “It’s useful to have a record of when instream flow is not being met.”

    Not having enough water in the lower Crystal River has been a concern in recent years. The 2012 drought left a section of the Crystal between Thompson Creek and the state fish hatchery dry during the late summer irrigation season. Several large diversions, including Town of Carbondale ditches, are located on that section.

    This year conditions are approaching a similarly dry state, despite a goal of the 2016 Crystal River Management Plan to leave an additional 10 to 25 cfs in the river during moderate drought.

    “It’s a sad state of affairs,” Bassi said. “There’s nothing we can do to make more water appear in the river.”

    Sprinklers irrigate land on the east side of the Crystal River (in foreground), which is facing one of its driest years in recent history. Low flows on the Crystal have spurred action from the state, including curtailment and a call for instream flows. Photo credit: Heather Sackett via Aspen Journalism

    Waste curtailed

    On July 23, amid rapidly dropping flows on the Crystal, District 38 Water Commissioner Jake DeWolfe made the decision to turn down the headgate of the Lowline Ditch.

    The diversion point for the Lowline is located on the Crystal River just north of the KOA campground, and has two water rights: one from 1902 for 19 cfs and one from 1936 for 21.5 cfs. The ditch irrigates land on the west side of Highway 133 roughly between River Valley Ranch Golf Club and Sustainable Settings.

    At issue was a “tail ditch,” which is used to return water to the stream after it is used for irrigation. The amount of water in a tail ditch can vary during the irrigation season, but if irrigators are being efficient, in theory, not much water should be returned to the stream.

    “There was excess water coming out of one of the tail ditches,” DeWolf said. “If there is an excess, we can go ahead and turn (the headgate) back down and leave the water in the river.”

    DeWolf said they first turned the Lowline’s headgate down by about 5 cfs on July 23, then again the next day for a total reduction of about 8 cfs.

    “There have been a couple of years when we asked the irrigator to turn it down themselves,” DeWolf said. “We did not even give them the opportunity in this case. We have the option to go ahead and curtail the ditch, which is what we did this time.”

    The problem, Wolfe said, was not that the Lowline was diverting more than its decreed amount of 40.5 cfs; in fact it was diverting slightly less. The problem was that the Lowline Ditch was violating the newly implemented state guidelines regarding wasting water.

    An internal guide to understanding waste, approved in June 2017 by the Colorado Division of Water Resources, defines “waste” as diverting water when not needed for beneficial use or running more water than is reasonably needed for application to beneficial use.

    So how much is too much water in a tail ditch?

    The guidelines say it is a judgement call that should be made on a case by case basis, but that “if the water commissioner can make adjustments to a diversion with no risk of depriving the irrigated land of the water necessary to accomplish the consumptive use of the plants being irrigated, then the amount of water at the tail end of the ditch is not reasonable and is waste.”

    These new guidelines are a departure from the age-old Colorado water law doctrine of “use it or lose it,” which encourages water users to divert their full decreed amount, lest their water right be considered abandoned.

    “With our new direction, (curtailment) is become more common,” DeWolfe said.

    Because of diminishing flows on the Crystal, Wolfe said the Lowline Ditch was diverting roughly half the volume it was running at after it was curtailed July 23, which was about 19 cfs as of Friday.

    But in a dry year like 2018, the Crystal River flows, not the state, will dictate if and how much diverters can take. There is so little water, in some cases senior water rights holders are having trouble getting enough water into their headgates, DeWolf said.

    “There might be some ground to go unirrigated in this second cutting,” he said.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Independent on coverage of water and rivers. This story appeared in the Aug. 6, 2018 print edition of both papers.

    Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

    #Colorado agrees to $2 million payment to #Kansas to benefit the South Fork of the Republican River

    South Fork of the Republican River

    From the Associated Press via KOAA.com:

    Colorado has agreed to pay Kansas $2 million in a settlement resolving claims regarding Colorado’s past use of water under the Republican River Compact.

    Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a news release Friday that the settlement is an investment in the basin to ensure a better future for Kansas water users…

    Under the provisions of the settlement , Kansas agreed to pursue “a good faith effort” to spend the money Colorado paid for the benefit of the South Fork of the Republican River Basin within Kansas.

    Colorado also agreed to pursue an effort to spend an additional $2 million by 2027 in the basin within Colorado.

    Journey of Water: Watersheds and reservoirs – News on TAP

    New four-part series goes behind the scenes to explore the people and system that brings water to our homes.

    Source: Journey of Water: Watersheds and reservoirs – News on TAP

    Pep Workgroup: Free local showing of the newly released documentary – “The #ArkansasRiver: From Leadville to Lamar,” August 16, 2018

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

    Click here to go to the website. From Rena Brand:

    Folks in SE Colorado! 🤠Join us next week, Thurs, Aug 16, 6:30pm, Las Animas Community Center, for a free local showing of the newly released documentary – “The Arkansas River: From Leadville to Lamar”.

    Here’s the trailer: