Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
Three tropical systems drenched three separate drought areas this past week, with Hurricane Florence affecting the Carolinas with record rainfall, a low pressure system in the western Gulf of Mexico bringing rain to parts of Texas and Louisiana, and Tropical Storm Olivia bringing yet more rain to Hawaii. Drought conditions improved or were alleviated across these regions. Some showers and thunderstorms were seen across the Plains, but not enough to improve drought conditions. Unfortunately, many areas experiencing severe to exceptional drought saw little to no rainfall, with the dryness often accompanied by warmer-than-normal temperatures for this time of year, exacerbating conditions. Notably, eastern Oregon, northern Utah, and western Colorado all saw expansion of extreme or exceptional drought…
Dry conditions continued in northwestern North Dakota, where precipitation over the past two months has been less than 30 percent of normal. Moderate (D1) and severe (D2) drought were expanded westward in this area. In the southwest, D1 was expanded slightly in Hettinger County, where precipitation has been just 20 percent of normal for the same period. However, conditions were better to the east, and normal conditions returned to northern Brant and much of western Morton Counties. In western South Dakota, an area of severe drought was introduced area in Haakon County. Local reports indicate that many crops have been cut for feed due to drought and winter wheat planting is starting out dry. The fields left standing have low expected yields. Moderate drought was expanded where rainfall has been less than 25 percent of normal over the past two months. Additionally, both moderate and severe drought were expanded in north central and northeastern part of the state. Impacts here include early chopping of corn for silage instead of growing for grain harvest, low corn and soybean yields and test weights, and early harvest due to drought. Abnormal dryness and moderate drought were also expanded in central South Dakota. Pierre has received less than 25 percent of its average rainfall over the past two months. With little to no rain and temperatures reaching into the upper 80s, drought conditions deteriorated toward the south/southwest in eastern Kansas. Conversely, the small patch of D0 from west central Kansas farther west into eastern Colorado improved to normal, where rainfall has been average to above average over the past 1 to 3 months. In east central Colorado, D1 was extended into northern Elbert County, where virtually all crops in this county were rated very poor this year. Additionally, D0 was expanded slightly eastward in southern Wyoming and eastern Colorado. Exceptional drought (D4) was added to southeast and central Mesa County, and Delta County in western Colorado. Record low snowpack this winter and near-record high evaporative demand this summer have led to rapidly depleting water supplies. Moderate drought was expanded to central Sweetwater County, Wyoming, where hot, dry conditions have prevailed through much of the warm season and precipitation for the water-year-to-date is below normal. No changes were made this week to the depictions in Nebraska as agricultural conditions in the state are good as the season ends and maturation is ahead of schedule…
According to the most recent USDA statistics released on September 16, the extent of topsoil and subsoil rated short or very short of moisture (poor or very poor conditions) was 93 and 92 percent, respectively, for Oregon. Extreme drought (D3) conditions were extended southward in Malheur and Harney Counties in the eastern part of the state. Streamflow along the Owyhee River in this area is near the historical low. Additionally, the area of moderate drought (D1) was expanded northward over most of eastern Morrow, Umatilla, and Union Counties, and severe drought (D2) northward over most of western Morrow, Gilliam, and Sherman Counties. In the latter area, several wildland fires burned extensive acreage in July and August due to extreme dry and hot conditions. In Utah, D3 was introduced to an area east of the Great Salt Lake, encompassing part of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. There has been little to no rainfall in this region over the past week with temperatures reaching the upper 80s and 90 degrees. No changes were made this week across the remainder of the west
An area of low pressure over the western Gulf of Mexico brought some heavy rainfall and drought relief across portions of Texas and Louisiana. In Texas widespread 1-category improvements were made across the south and east. The rain did not reach the western and northern part of the state, however, where abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) expanded slightly. In southern Louisiana, the Lake Arthur station in northeastern Cameron Parish measured 11 inches of rain since August 25th. Abnormal dryness was eliminated here and to the north (Evangeline Parish) and northeast (Feliciana Parish). Moderate and severe (D2) drought conditions were reduced across much of northwestern Louisiana. Extreme drought (D3) was eliminated altogether in this region as well. To the east, D0 was reduced across a few counties in the north central part of Mississippi, while D1 expanded slightly in the northeast. In the southwestern corner of the state, D0 was also reduced. Aside from the eastern part of Tennessee, which received some precipitation from Florence, much of the rest of the state was dry and warm this past week. Abnormal dryness was expanded in part of southwestern Tennessee and northward into the central region around Marshall, Williamson, and Rutherford Counties. In Arkansas, D1 was expanded north over much of Miller County. Texarkana Airport has received only 39 percent of its normal rain over the last five weeks, with above-normal temperatures. This dryness was seen in eastern Oklahoma as well, where a large swath of D0 was added in eastern Oklahoma, stretching northward to nearly connect to the dry region in northern Adair County, which was also extended slightly southward…
Over the week beginning Tuesday September 18, areas from the Southern Plains to the Upper Midwest. are expected receive the highest precipitation. Up to four inches, or more in localized regions, could fall over Oklahoma, northern Missouri, southern Minnesota, and northern Iowa. Up to two inches of precipitation is also forecast for northwestern Washington state. Wisconsin and Texas may also see some heavy rainfall. Most of Oregon, southern Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah will remain dry. Temperatures are forecast to reach mostly into the 60s and 70s across the northern U.S., with some 50s around Montana. Additionally, some scattered shower activity early in the period may allow the southwest to see highs in the 80s.The heat continues across much of the central U.S. into the Southeast, where upper 80s and 90s will be prevalent. Looking further ahead at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day Outlook (September 23-27), the probability of dry conditions is highest in the Southwest, namely Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, exactly over the area where drought conditions are currently among the worst in the country [ed emphasis mine], while wet conditions are most likely across eastern Texas, an area that has in recent weeks received excess rainfall. Most of the north central and southern U.S., with the exception of most of the states along the Atlantic Seaboard, may also see wetter-than-normal conditions. Much of interior Alaska is also forecast to see above-average precipitation, while the panhandle — the region currently experiencing dry conditions — is projected to stay dry. During this period, below-average temperatures may be seen over central California and the Northwest eastward to northern Minnesota, and central and northern New England. while above-average temperatures are forecast for most of the rest of the contiguous U.S. and all of Alaska Looking two weeks out (September 25 – October 1), the likelihood of above-average temperatures is highest in the Southeast and Alaska The probability of below-average temperatures is highest across Montana. The probability of above-average precipitation is highest over the northern U.S. from Oregon to Michigan and through the Plains into the deep South.
From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):
While most local rivers are flowing at levels far below average, the Fryingpan is the exception. Releases from Ruedi Reservoir are supplementing low flows downstream, in the Colorado River.
The Bureau of Reclamation controls the amount of water that flows out of Ruedi dam, and announced this week that flows in the Fryingpan will increase to 400 cubic feet per second (cfs), more than double the average.
The increases will mean more water delivered to irrigators with senior water rights in the Grand Valley. It will also provide water to four endangered fish in an area known as the 15-Mile Reach near Grand Junction.
Flows in the Fryingpan River are expected to remain at 400 cfs through the end of September.
From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):
Hoping to avoid the wholesale shut down of agricultural wells in the San Luis Valley that occurred in the South Platte, water users here developed their own plan of action, Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Cleave Simpson explained during “A Tale of Two Rivers” Monday night at Adams State.
Simpson spoke about the Rio Grande Basin’s groundwater journey while CSU Director of the Colorado Water Institute Reagan Waskom spoke about the South Platte Basin.
Attendees at the September 17 talk asked Simpson if local efforts were going to be enough, especially in light of drought and generally warmer conditions in recent years.
He responded that if voluntary efforts to reduce water consumption are not successful, the state will force the issue, because local water users — at least those in the basin’s first water management sub-district — are mandated to bring the aquifer levels back up to a certain level in a specified amount of time.
That clock is ticking, he said.
In its eighth year of operation Sub-District #1, sponsored by the water district Simpson manages, is required by legislation to bring the Rio Grande Basin’s aquifer up to a more sustainable level in 20 years, which means it has 12 years remaining on that mandate, Simpson explained.
The sub-district concept was born as a way to self govern water use in the basin, he said. The various sub-districts throughout the basin focus on “communities of interest,” Simpson said.
The first sub-district, which will soon have several sister sub-districts throughout the basin, covers about 3,000 irrigation wells involving about 300 landowners. They have used many methods to reduce their consumption, repair their wells’ injuries to surface water users and to meet their aquifer sustainability mandate, Simpson said.
He said the first sub-district has invested $8 million in fallowing projects and $6 million in acquiring and drying up parcels irrigated by groundwater…
He said, however, that speaking personally and not as the district manager, he believed a lot more acreage would need to be taken out. He said of the approximately 500,000 irrigated acres currently in the San Luis Valley, he believed 100,000-150,000 irrigated acres could no longer be supported with the dwindling water supply and aquifer sustainability mandate, unless farmers found a crop that used half the consumptive volume of water they are now using.
“There’s social consequences for taking 100,000 acres out of production in the Valley,” Simpson said.
Waskom added that the South Platte Basin is different in that it is not as agriculturally dependent as the Rio Grande Basin. While the Valley’s economy is still largely dependent on agriculture, the South Platte has more diversity such as oil/gas, growth and commercial enterprises. Losing cropland in the South Platte is not as crucial as it is in the San Luis Valley, he said.
“It’s different here. You need to think about that as a community, what your future looks like,” he said…
Simpson said that while groundwater users in the Rio Grande Basin must replace their injurious depletions to surface rights, just as in the South Platte, one major difference in the requirements between the two basins is the obligation in this basin to “create and maintain a sustainable aquifer … unique requirements … Nowhere else in the state are well owners held to that standard.”
That requirement must be met 20 years from the formation of the first sub-district, which is now eight years into that timeline, Simpson said. He added that while there is flexibility on how to get there, “where you have to get to is clearly well defined.”
He pointed to the downward trends in stream flows, specifically on the Rio Grande at the Del Norte gauge where for the first time since flows have been measured at that gauge (1890 forward), the river has gone 10 years without reaching the 700,000 acre-foot annual flow and about 20 years without hitting 800,000 acre feet. The annual flow this year is about 285,000 acre-feet.
Simpson added, “It’s probably not fair to call it a drought anymore. It’s climate. It’s just where we are, natural or man made, it’s just where we are at.”
Simpson also referred to the unconfined aquifer study the district has undertaken since 1976, which is generally the same area covered by the first sub-district. The aquifer remained fairly steady prior to 2002 and in that drought year alone lost 400,000 acre feet volume of water in that study area, Simpson said.
The first sub-district through its varied efforts of fallowing and conservation recovered about 350,000 acre feet, Simpson added. Experiencing three or four years of close to average flows helped. This year has presented more of a challenge, Simpson added, and he expected a decline in the aquifer storage area of about 200,000 acre feet.
Here’s the release USFWS:
[Friday, September 14, 2018], the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted a 12.82-acre conservation easement donation in Colorado’s San Luis Valley from Western Rivers Conservancy. With the donation, the San Luis Valley Conservation Area becomes the 567th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, an unparalleled network of public lands and waters dedicated to the conservation of native wildlife and their habitats.
Western Rivers Conservancy has worked in partnership with the Service, state and local governments, as well as other conservation organizations to connect people and communities to this diverse ecosystem. Their donation of a conservation easement is yet another step in local efforts to conserve important fish and wildlife habitat and increase opportunities for public access. It will ultimately support increased biodiversity and recreational opportunities such as birding and hunting on nearby public and private lands.
“We are very pleased to partner with the Service to help create the San Luis Valley Conservation Area,” said Dieter Erdmann, Western River Conservancy Interior West Program Director. “The Rio Grande and its tributaries are the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley and we are committed to supporting voluntary conservation efforts that will benefit fish, wildlife and people alike.”
“By working collaboratively with our conservation partners and local communities to establish the San Luis Valley Conservation Area, we are helping ensure that the San Luis Valley continues to support some of the state’s most important fish and wildlife resources, as well as the people who live here, for generations to come,” said the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh.
In 2015, the Service approved the San Luis Valley Conservation Area Land Protection Plan, which clarified and guided the Service’s intent to continue working with partners and private landowners to establish voluntary conservation easements in this priority landscape. Easements allow landowners to retain their property rights and continue traditional activities such as livestock grazing and haying within the easement, while prohibiting commercial development. Under the plan, the Service could protect up to 530,000 acres with conservation easements donated or purchased from willing sellers.
The Conservation Area plan is designed to protect wildlife and wetland habitat in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Its limit is defined by the headwaters of the legendary Rio Grande, which begins its nearly 1,900-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico in the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains that surround the San Luis Valley. Runoff from mountain snowpack creates wetlands and riparian areas in the midst of what otherwise is a high-mountain desert, providing important habitat for plants and migratory birds such as greater sandhill cranes, waterfowl and other sensitive or imperiled species. As the Conservation Area expands over time, the Service intends to protect wildlife habitat and maintain wildlife corridors between protected blocks of habitat on public and private conservation lands.
The new Conservation Area is the fifth unit of the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the ninth national wildlife refuge in the state of Colorado.
The Service’s Refuge System now encompasses 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetlands management districts across 150 million acres. Refuges are critical to the local communities that surround them, serving as centers for recreation, economic growth, and landscape health and resiliency. Each state and U.S. territory has at least one national wildlife refuge, and there is a refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities.
Learn more about the National Wildlife Refuge System or the San Luis Valley Conservation Area.
For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/.
From The Guardian (Benjamin Franta):
Newly found documents from the 1980s show that fossil fuel companies privately predicted the global damage that would be caused by their products.
In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels).
Later that decade, in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030. Privately, these companies did not dispute the links between their products, global warming, and ecological calamity. On the contrary, their research confirmed the connections.
Shell’s assessment foresaw a one-meter sea-level rise, and noted that warming could also fuel disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, resulting in a worldwide rise in sea level of “five to six meters.” That would be enough to inundate entire low-lying countries.
Shell’s analysts also warned of the “disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction,” predicted an increase in “runoff, destructive floods, and inundation of low-lying farmland,” and said that “new sources of freshwater would be required” to compensate for changes in precipitation. Global changes in air temperature would also “drastically change the way people live and work.” All told, Shell concluded, “the changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”
For its part, Exxon warned of “potentially catastrophic events that must be considered.” Like Shell’s experts, Exxon’s scientists predicted devastating sea-level rise, and warned that the American Midwest and other parts of the world could become desert-like. Looking on the bright side, the company expressed its confidence that “this problem is not as significant to mankind as a nuclear holocaust or world famine.”
The documents make for frightening reading. And the effect is all the more chilling in view of the oil giants’ refusal to warn the public about the damage that their own researchers predicted. Shell’s report, marked “confidential,” was first disclosed by a Dutch news organization earlier this year. Exxon’s study was not intended for external distribution, either; it was leaked in 2015.