#Drought news: Slight improvement in NE #NM depiction along the border with #Colorado

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought information from the US Drought Monitor.

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

Summary

This week, another strong storm system crossed the southern continental United States, delivering moderate to heavy precipitation from parts of Texas and Oklahoma east and northeastward through the Ohio Valley and Southeast to the Atlantic Coast. Moderate to heavy precipitation also occurred from the central California coastline northward to the Canadian border, and in the interior northwest in northeast Oregon, eastern Washington, and the Idaho Panhandle. Elsewhere, little to no precipitation fell. With the exception of southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, northern New England, and a few pockets in the Intermountain West, most of the continental United States experienced warmer than normal weather this week. The warmest conditions with respect to normal occurred in the central and northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Relatively minor changes were made to the drought depiction this week. Abnormal dryness expanded over much of the southern Plains in response to increased short-term precipitation deficits and windy conditions. Areas of the South and Southeast that were in drought were adjusted in response to where the moderate to heavy rain fell and missed this week. Any changes to the map in the Northwest have been deferred to next week, when the effects of recent precipitation on meteorological and hydrological drought in the region can be more thoroughly evaluated. Moderate drought was added to the leeward sides of some of the Hawaiian Islands, where short-term dryness and windiness led to agricultural impacts. Abnormal dryness expanded in Puerto Rico, where soil moisture, streamflow, and short-term precipitation deficits worsened. Precipitation in the Alaska Panhandle this week was insufficient to improve any of the areas experiencing short- and long-term drought or abnormal dryness…

High Plains

Warm and dry conditions dominated the region this week, with the warmest weather compared to normal occurring in the Dakotas. Dry conditions continued this week in southern Kansas, which led to the introduction of abnormal dryness where 1- to 2-month precipitation deficits increased and high winds increased evaporative demand. Outside of southern Kansas, no changes to the drought depiction were made this week…

West

Widespread heavy rain and snow fell along much of the Pacific Coast this week, from central California northward to the Canadian border. As much of this precipitation fell around the data cutoff for this week, any changes to the drought depiction are being deferred to next week’s map, when the effects of this precipitation on ongoing meteorological and hydrological drought can be more thoroughly evaluated. Elsewhere in the region, precipitation also fell in northeastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and much of the Idaho Panhandle. Above-normal temperatures were common this week in the West, particularly in eastern Washington and Oregon, while near or cooler than normal temperatures occurred in northern Utah, southeastern Wyoming, northeastern Nevada, and southeastern New Mexico. Low snowpack is evident in some of the mountainous regions of central Idaho, northwestern Montana, and the region around Yellowstone National Park, though overall conditions in these areas were not sufficient for degradation this week. Short-term and long-term precipitation deficits in the Sangre de Cristo mountains and adjacent foothills and high plains in northeastern New Mexico had improved enough for small improvements to the drought depiction here. Abnormal dryness was also slightly expanded near Laramie, Wyoming. Elsewhere, no changes to the drought depiction were made…

South

Widespread moderate to heavy precipitation from this week’s storm system occurred from central Oklahoma eastward through Arkansas into Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Western north Texas, east Texas, and Louisiana also received moderate to heavy precipitation, while the dry slot of the storm system kept precipitation amounts minimal from central Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Generally warm conditions prevailed from the Texas Panhandle eastward through Tennessee this week, while more moderate temperatures and a few areas of below-normal readings were common in southern Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. With continuing dry conditions on short and long timescales, abnormal dryness expanded from the Amarillo area to cover more of the Texas Panhandle. Continued dryness in the 1- to 2-month timeframe in western Oklahoma and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, combined with very high winds associated with this week’s strong storm system increasing evaporative stress, led to the introduction and expansion of abnormal dryness over parts of western Oklahoma and the panhandles. The short-term dryness and depleted soil moisture here is beginning to apply stress to wheat, and fires are starting to become a concern in the region too. Adjustments to moderate drought and abnormal dryness were made in central and northeastern Oklahoma in response to where the heavy rain fell and where it missed this week. Areas that missed out on the heavier rains saw status quo or degradations as short- and long-term precipitation deficits increased, while deficits decreased and conditions improved in areas that received more rainfall. Short-term dryness also continued in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where abnormal dryness expanded.

Looking Ahead

For the rest of this week, the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center is forecasting widespread moderate to heavy precipitation, with the highest amounts generally confined to an area ranging from eastern Texas northeast to the Atlantic Coast. Moderate to heavy precipitation is also forecast in the Pacific Northwest. Primarily warmer than normal temperatures are also expected in the Lower 48 this week.

US Drought Monitor one week change map through December 18, 2018.

The latest three month outlooks are hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Center

Warmer than average, above average precipitation, and some drought improvement expected for Colorado, through March 31, 2019.

Do climate policies have a negative effect on jobs? — @HighCountryNews #ActOnClimate

From the High Country News (Garth Heutel):

Climate change will hammer the U.S. economy unless there’s swift action to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, according to the latest National Climate Assessment report.

But [the] President…has dismissed this forecast, even though his own administration released a comprehensive synthesis of the best available science, written by hundreds of climate scientists and other experts from academia, government, the private sector and nonprofits. Like most opponents of policies aimed at slowing the pace of climate change, he has long wanted actions to reduce these emissions off the table because, in his opinion, they are “job-killing.”

As an environmental economist who is studying the relationship between regulations and employment, I find this question vitally important both economically and politically. What does the research on this question say?

THE ARGUMENTS

Opponents of climate regulations embrace a straightforward and long-standing argument. In their view, anything the government forces businesses to do will negatively affect their ability to employ workers. To them, everything from safety regulations to raising taxes makes it costlier and harder for businesses to operate.

[The President] has taken this philosophy to heart by pledging to eliminate what he calls “job-killing regulations” across the board.

Some supporters of strong climate policies counter that the costs of climate change are high enough to justify climate policies even though they might negatively affect workers.

They base this argument on observations that environmental rules and clean energy can benefit public health, even by saving lives. They also point out that these policies could counter the economic damage the National Climate Assessment forecasts.

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

EVIDENCE

What about those jobs, though?

The evidence on how environmental policies affect unemployment is generally mixed. The book “Does Regulation Kill Jobs?,” edited by University of Pennsylvania professor Cary Coglianese, covers regulations generally. It concludes that “regulation overall is neither a prime job killer nor a key job creator.”

Michael Greenstone, a University of Chicago economist, found that 1970s-era environmental regulations, which in some ways resemble the climate-related rules debated today, led to the loss of more than half-a-million manufacturing jobs over 15 years.

Another team of researchers, which reviewed the impact of environmental policies on four heavily polluting industries, found that environmental regulations have no significant effect on employment.

To be sure, the number of coal mining jobs has plummeted, falling from over 150,000 in the 1980s to about 53,000 in July 2018.

But this mainly has to do with two other factors. Due to increasing automation, it now takes far fewer workers to mine coal than it used to.

And a drilling boom has increased not just oil output but natural gas production. The increased natural gas supply cut prices for that fuel, prompting a raft of coal-fired power plant closures. It also eroded coal’s market share for electricity generation while creating new jobs in other energy industries.

GREENER JOB GROWTH

A weakness I often see in the standard regulations-kill-jobs argument is a focus on the regulated industries that ignores the fact that those same regulations tend to spur growth in other industries.

In this case, climate policies are proving to be a boon for jobs in renewable energy industries like wind and solar, as well as in efficiency efforts like weatherization.

For example, the stimulus bill enacted during the Great Recession included provisions designed to bolster renewable energy.

That spending helped spur the creation of millions of new jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a federal agency, predicts that the number of solar panel installers will increase by 105 percent and the number of wind turbine technician jobs will rise by 96 percent between 2016 and 2026, making those the nation’s two fastest-growing professions.

The power the U.S. gets from wind, which increased more than 30-fold between 1999 and 2017, now accounts for 6.3 percent of total electricity.

One study concluded that retraining all coal workers to become solar panel installers is feasible and in fact would mean a raise for most of these American workers. More than twice as many Americans work in the solar energy industry than in the coal industry.

THE WHOLE EMPLOYMENT PICTURE

So what is the net effect on jobs when some energy industries shrink and others grow?

Resources for the Future, a think tank that researches economic, environmental, energy and natural resource issues, has developed complex computational models of the economy that clarify the whole picture on the connection between regulations and jobs.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan group assessed the impact on unemployment, something that – believe it or not – these large-scale economic simulations usually don’t do.

The think tank predicts that a hypothetical $40 per ton carbon tax, which would translate into an increase of about 36 cents per gallon of gasoline, would increase the overall unemployment rate by just 0.3 percentage points. The effect is even smaller, at just 0.05 percentage points, if the government were to uses the carbon tax’s revenue to cut other tax rates.

This effect is one-third as large as previous estimates, such as a 2017 study from NERA Economic Consulting, a global firm, that were not as detailed in their unemployment modeling.

Some studies have even detected a net gain in jobs from climate policies.

For example, University of California, Berkeley researchers found that California’s efforts to cut emissions have bolstered the state’s economy and created more than 37,000 jobs. And the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Political Economy Research Institute has determined that every $1 million shifted from fossil fuel-generated power to “green energy” creates a net increase of 5 jobs.

Based on my review of the research, I see little evidence that policies to reduce pollution from fossil fuels have or will likely result in widespread job losses.

DIFFERENT OPTIONS

Different types of policies can have different effects – and some can minimize labor market disruption more than others.

A carbon tax, like other revenue-raising policies such as cap-and-trade systems with auctioned permits, has the advantage of generating revenue that can be used to offset any economic harm from job losses. Policies that do not generate revenue, such as renewable portfolio standards, which require utilities to get a set proportion of their electricity from renewable energy, lack this advantage.

Despite the spread of these efforts in states, there is no federal carbon tax or cap-and-trade system yet.

The evidence suggests that climate policies will cause some industries to lose workers, while others will employ more people and that the overall employment effects are modest. But what is going on with displaced workers? Are solar and wind companies hiring all the jobless coal miners?

My current research is examining how easy – or hard – it is for workers to move between industries due to changes brought on by these regulations. So far, my colleagues and I are finding that when we account for the costs of workers switching jobs, unemployment rates rise slightly more than predicted when ignoring those costs, but the overall effect on unemployment is still just 0.5 percent.

We also are seeing that the effects are much more severe for some workers, such as coal miners. That is why I believe that the government would be wise to do more to train dislocated workers for new professions and help them land new jobs while at the same time implementing climate policies.The Conversation

Garth Heutel is an Associate Professor of Economics at Georgia State University.

Moffat Collection System Project update: Environmental groups file lawsuit

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

A suit filed against three U.S. government agencies seeks to stop the expansion of Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir in Boulder County…

Gross Reservoir provides water to 1.4 million Front Range customers. The expansion would divert more water from Colorado River headwater tributaries during wet years. In a nutshell, the project seeks to raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet; storage capacity would increase by 77,000 acre feet.

The environmental groups who sued say the U.S. government permitting process inadequately evaluated the impact of the large project on streamflows. There are also concerns about how construction would affect wildlife.

“We went above and beyond mitigation of environmental impacts under the permits,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said. “We sat down with Grand County, Eagle County… and a host of agencies across Western Colorado, and developed a series of environmental enhancements to the streams of Western Colorado.”

Trout Unlimited is one such group that has supported the Gross Reservoir expansion, citing successful stream augmentation programs along the Fraser River…

Revving up the legal gears could pose a setback for Denver Water, which has spent years securing the necessary permits. Now that it has those in place, environmental groups are seeking to stop construction.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS