From the folks at the Dwingeloo Radio Telescope – C.A. Muller Radio Astronomy Station:
This image shows the far side of the Moon, as well as our own planet Earth. It was taken with a camera linked to an amateur radio transceiver on board the Chinese DSLWP-B / Longjiang-2 satellite (call sign BJ1SN), currently in orbit around the Moon, and transmitted back to Earth where it was received with the Dwingeloo Telescope.
This image represents the culmination of several observing sessions spread over the past few months where we used the Dwingeloo telescope in collaboration with the Chinese team from Harbin University of Technology, who build the radio transceiver on board Longjiang-2, and radio amateurs spread across the globe.
During these sessions we tested receiving telemetry through low-bit rate and error-resistant digitally modulated transmissions, as well as the JT4G modulation scheme designed by radio amateur and Nobel prize winning astrophysicist Joe Taylor (K1JT) for weak signal Moon bounce experiments. Besides telemetry, we performed a VLBI experiment by simultaneously observing Longjiang-2 from China and Dwingeloo, and also downloaded images taken by Longjiang-2 of the lunar surface, lens flares, and the starry sky as seen from lunar orbit.
The transceiver on board Longjiang-2 was designed to allow radio amateurs to downlink telemetry and relay messages through a satellite in lunar orbit, as well as command it to take and downlink images. In that it has succeeded, as many radio amateurs have received telemetry and image data. Being able to use the Dwingeloo telescope to help with this has been a lot of fun.
This full color adjusted image is received by radio amateurs, including the radio amateurs of the Dwingeloo Radio Telescope (PI9CAM) operated by Tammo Jan Dijkema and myself. Commands were created by MingChuan Wei (BG2BHC) and uplinked by Reinhard Kuehn (DK5LA). The color correction of the image is done by Wei.
An annual survey reveals a leap in support of conservation policies.
According to a recent poll, voters across the West are substantially more worried about climate change now than they were just two years ago. What’s more, a majority identify as “conservationists.” These attitudes are at odds with the priorities of President Donald Trump’s administration, which have included aggressively cutting environmental regulations while shrinking national monuments and encouraging fossil fuel production on public lands.
These findings come from Colorado College’s annual Conservation in the West poll, which surveys residents in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming on issues of climate, energy and public lands. This year, a majority of the approximately 400 respondents in each state rated climate change a serious problem, and every state saw an increase in climate concern.
These fears may be driven by climate change’s growing impacts in the West, such as drought and fire. Nearly 70 percent of poll respondents said that wildfires where more of a problem today than ten years ago. Climate change is playing an increasing role in the West’s lengthening fire season and intensifying blazes, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Indeed, the survey found that climate impacts have started to surpass more traditional political preoccupations, like the economy: Respondents rated low river and stream levels, water quality and insufficient water supplies of greater concern than wages and unemployment.
Approximately two thirds of respondents also prioritized environmental protections and public lands access for recreation, compared to 24 percent who support Trump’s “energy dominance” policy of ramping up energy production on federally regulated land. Almost every state polled had at least a 30 percent margin in favor of conservation, including states that tend to vote red in statewide elections, including Arizona, Idaho and Utah. Only Wyoming stood apart, with just an eight percent gap between those who emphasize public lands and those who support increased energy production. In all, a significant bipartisan majority — almost 90 percent of respondents — rated the outdoor recreation economy as important to their state, while 70 percent called themselves “outdoor recreation enthusiasts.”
The poll has habitually found bipartisan support for the outdoor recreation industry and land access, said Corina McKendry, director of the State of the Rockies Project and an associate professor of political science at Colorado College. But “the rejection of the current administration’s priorities is particularly intense here,” she said in a press release.
Whether that influences upcoming elections — such as 2020 re-election bids by Trump and by the politically vulnerable Colorado. Sen. Cory Gardner, R, who will face questions about his ties to the administration and support of fossil fuel industries — is unclear. Public opinion polls often find widespread concern regarding climate change and support for policies to address the crisis. But these issues rarely swing elections, where foes of climate policies often highlight the economic and social costs of increased environmental regulations. In Colorado, where poll respondents overwhelmingly claimed to prefer environmental protection over energy production, voters roundly rejected a ballot measure in 2018 to limit hydraulic fracturing, following an industry-backed publicity campaign against the measure.
“There is strong evidence that Americans support environmental protection and conservation efforts and that they have substantial concerns about environmental issues such as climate change,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, who has worked on other environmental polling projects. “However, their concerns are often less intense than those regarding other issues.” Midterm exit polls showed healthcare, immigration, the economy and gun control as the top national issues for voters in 2018.
According to Borick, achieving robust climate policy requires that the environment compete with, and even surmount, these other political concerns. How soon this happens is an open question, even as Westerners increasingly worry about rising temperatures, drying streams and hotter fires.
Nick Bowlin is an editorial intern at High Country News.
Click a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.
US Drought Monitor February 5, 2019.
West Drought Monitor February 5, 2019.
Colorado Drought Monitor February 5, 2019.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
Significant precipitation evaded most areas of dryness and drought this week, with one major exception. Heavy precipitation pelted much of California, particularly along the coast and in the higher elevations. Most of the higher Sierra Nevada received 4 to 8 inches, with locally higher amounts. Coastal areas from Los Angeles northward through the Bay Area received 3 to 6 inches of precipitation, as did much of the Cascades and interior northwestern California. Only parts of the interior valleys, the Mojave Desert, and northeastern sections of the state received less than an inch. In sharp contrast, the only dry areas recording over an inch of precipitation in the rest of the 48 contiguous states were in parts of the northern Intermountain West, Isolated higher elevations in the central Rockies, a few patches in western parts of Washington and Oregon, and a small sliver along the southeastern Florida coast…
Only a few patches of dryness were observed in the northern half of the Great Plains, but dryness and drought remained far more intense and widespread in Wyoming and especially Colorado. In the Great Plains, recent precipitation was sufficient to remove the area’s only remaining area of drought in northeastern North Dakota, and restrict D0 conditions to the northern tier of the state. In contrast, D0 expanded through northeastern Colorado and the Nebraska Panhandle, where little precipitation has been observed for the last couple of months. But it is a cold and dry time of year in the region, and few impacts have been observed despite only 10 to 30 percent of normal precipitation has fallen on parts of the new D0 area since late last year. Farther west, dryness and drought is generally more intense and far more widespread. Little precipitation fell on either state last week, generally keeping conditions in Wyoming ( mostly D0 to D1) and Colorado (D3 to D4 in southwestern quarter of the state). Once east of the Colorado Rockies, however, no severe drought exists anywhere from the Plains eastward to the Atlantic Coast…
In this region extending from New Mexico and Montana [westward] to the Pacific Coast, precipitation was unremarkable this past week outside California, and only isolated tweaks were made to the Drought Monitor depiction to cover some spots of deficient snowpack. In contrast, heavy precipitation continued to chip away at the dryness and drought across California. A large swath from western Nevada through the Sierra Nevada, much of the central valleys, and the Bay Area is now free of any significant dryness, and continued heavy precipitation removed most of the moderate drought that had covered southern and southwestern sections of California from around San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria through the southern tier of the state. D1 was kept in a small southwestern part of the state from east of Los Angeles to the Mexican border. Though this area has received surplus precipitation for the water year to date (since Oct. 1, 2018), several reservoirs have failed to significantly respond, remaining at or near their lowest levels in at least a year, to as long as three years in one case…
Little or no precipitation fell on the few areas of dryness depicted in the Drought Monitor, specifically in the Texas Panhandle and adjacent Oklahoma, parts of west Texas and the Big Bend, and parts of southern Texas. As a result, the dry areas expanded somewhat, and the extent of moderate drought increased very slightly. Further increases should be slow as this is climatologically the driest time of year in southern Texas and especially the High Plains. The dry weather allowed for enhanced fire activity was observed in the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma…
During the next 5 days (February 7-11, 2019) a large storm system is expected to bring heavy rain, freezing rain, and snow to a broad area across the eastern Great Plains, the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, the Great Lakes region, and the Northeast. Precipitation totals exceeding an inch will be common throughout these regions, with totals as high as 4 to 6 inches forecast in parts of Tennessee. But with respect to areas of dryness and drought, its impact will be limited at best. Only the D0 areas in the east half of the Dakotas will be affected by the fringes of the system, with a few tenths of an inch of precipitation resulting in several inches of snow.
Outside the higher elevations, only a few tenths of an inch of precipitation at best is expected over the entrenched and extensive areas of D0+ from the Intermountain West and Great Basin to the High Plains. Amounts topping an inch should be restricted to the highest elevations from central Idaho into northeastern Oregon. Similarly, a few tenths of an inch are expected in southeast Florida, the dry patches in Texas, and southern California from greater Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert southward to the Mexican Border. But another round of moderate to heavy precipitation is expected across central and northern California, this time extending northward through parts of Washington and Oregon from the Cascades to the Pacific Coast. Most of these areas should pick up at least an inch of precipitation, with a little less possible in the central California Valleys, but significantly more (2 to locally 4 inches) likely throughout the Sierra Nevada. Temperature anomalies should be divided by the Ohio Valley, lower Mississippi Valley, and southern Texas, with warm weather expected to the south and east, and below-normal temperatures farther north and west. Daily highs will average 6 to 10 degrees F above normal in the interior Southeast while temperatures 15 to 35 degrees F below normal cover northern reaches of the Plains and Rockies, with the most severe conditions covering Montana
The CPC 6-10 day extended range outlook (February 12-16, 2019) calls for an almost identical temperature pattern featuring enhanced chances for warmth in the Southeast, and extremely high probabilities for below-normal temperatures from the northern Plains through the Pacific Northwest. southeastern Alaska also has elevated chances for colder than normal weather.
The odds favor dryness in southeast Alaska during this period, but enhanced chances for surplus precipitation covers most of the contiguous 48 states. Chances for a wet 5 day period are particularly high from the California coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco eastward into southwestern Nevada. The only areas without elevated chances for heavy precipitation are western Washington, the Florida Peninsula, and from central and southern Texas westward through the southern High Plains.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
Hard rock mines would have to find the money up front to show they have the ability to assure that any water supplies are protected from contamination under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Wednesday.
The measure, HB19-1113, stems from issues with abandoned mines throughout the state that have led to contamination of Colorado’s water supplies, not the least of which was the dramatic spill in the Animas River from the long-closed Gold King Mine in 2015.
While the measure doesn’t address similarly abandoned mines, one of its sponsors said it is an attempt to prevent future mishaps with active mines.
“Up until now, people can self-bond,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “They can put the money down and promise that they will pay to clean up the water after their mining operations are finished. In many, many cases they go bankrupt before they can actually clean up the mine, and you the taxpayers are left with the bill of cleaning it up.”
Under current law, mining companies can submit audited financial statements to show they have the financial wherewithal to deal with any environmental issue from their operations, and can handle proper reclamation when those operations cease.
But several companies either have walked away without doing any reclamation or went out of business and had no way to pay for the cleanup. As a result, there are more than 23,000 abandoned mines in the state, according to the Colorado Geological Survey.
The bill, which requires a final House vote before heading to the Senate, would eliminate the audited statement and require new mining permits to include sufficient bonds to handle reclamation costs. Active mines that used audited statements to get their permits would have a year to establish a bond.
McLachlan, who introduced the bill with Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, pointed to the Summitville Mine in the San Luis Valley as an example. That closed gold mine became a Superfund site because of environmental damage in the 1980s from byproducts that leaked into the Alamosa River.
“Summitville is one we’re going to be starting to pay $2.2 million,” McLachlan said. “This company went in and they showed all the paperwork saying they had the money to clean this up, but by the time the mine was done, they went bankrupt and we the taxpayers have to pay.”
Supporters of the measure say the Colorado Mining Association no longer opposes the bill, but some lawmakers still questioned it.
While Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, said the state should support more mining in Colorado, if for no other reason than to stop supporting questionable mining practices in other countries, Rep. Kimmi Lewis, R-Kim, said she opposes the measure because one mining company asked her to do so.
“That one independent business owner who owns that mine, I’m going to stand with them,” she said. “And I’m going to remind you all … how much we need those small independent business owners.”
Summitville Mine superfund site
Acid mind drainage Cement Creek watershed
Commodore waste rock superfund site Creede
California Gulch back in the day
One of the many smelters that once operated in the Pueblo area. Photo credit: Environmental Protection Agency
San Juan Smelter Durango via
Workers pose in front of the Boston and Colorado Smelter at Argo Photo Colorado Historical Society
Here’s a report from Jim Robbins writing for Yale 360. Click through and read the whole article and to check out the photo gallery (from Ted Wood). Here’s an excerpt:
Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends. Fourth in a series.
The Hohokam were an ancient people who lived in the arid Southwest, their empire now mostly buried beneath the sprawl of some 4.5 million people who inhabit modern-day Phoenix, Arizona and its suburbs. Hohokam civilization was characterized by farm fields irrigated by the Salt and Gila rivers with a sophisticated system of carefully calibrated canals, the only prehistoric culture in North America with so advanced a farming system.
Then in 1276, tree ring data shows, a withering drought descended on the Southwest, lasting more than two decades. It is believed to be a primary cause of the collapse of Hohokam society. The people who had mastered farming dispersed across the landscape.
The fate of the Hohokam holds lessons these days for Arizona, as the most severe drought since their time has gripped the region. But while the Hohokam succumbed to the mega-drought, the city of Phoenix and its neighbors are desperately scrambling to avoid a similar fate — no easy task in a desert that gets less than 8 inches of rain a year.
“We are fully prepared to go into Tier 1, 2, and 3 emergency,” said Kathryn Sorensen, Phoenix’s water services director, referring to federally mandated cutbacks of Colorado River water as the levels of Lake Mead, the source of some of the city’s water, continue to drop. And what of the dreaded “dead pool,” the point at which the level in the giant man-made lake falls so low that water can no longer be pumped out?
“I can survive dead pool for generations,” says Sorensen, pointing to a host of conservation and water storage measures that have significantly brightened the city’s water outlook in an era of climate change and drought.
These days, Phoenix’s alternative water supplies are not dependent on the Colorado. But there’s a caveat. Phoenix may have enough water to secure its near-term future, but it still needs to build $500 million of infrastructure to pipe it to northern parts of the city that now rely on Colorado River water. And Phoenix may need the water sooner than it planned. “You could hit dead pool in four years,” Sorensen said. “That’s worst case.”
Many cities and towns in the Southwest — including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Albuquerque — are trying to figure out solutions to a dwindling Lake Mead, the key reservoir on the Colorado. One of the most ambitious efforts is a new $1.35 billion, 24-foot-wide tunnel — the so-called Third Straw — that Las Vegas drilled at the very bottom of Lake Mead to function like a bathtub drain. Las Vegas gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado via the lake, which is located just east of the gambling and tourist mecca. In 2000, as the lake’s level dropped, the city placed a second, deeper straw to replace the original outtake. As the region moved into its second consecutive decade of drought and lake levels continued to drop, Las Vegas officials got more nervous and the third straw was completed in 2015; it should continue to siphon off water unless the lake dries up completely.
In Arizona, the modern equivalent of the Hohokam irrigation system is the 17-foot-deep and 80-foot-wide concrete aqueduct called the Central Arizona Project, which carries water from the Colorado River to Phoenix, Tucson, and elsewhere. It was a feat of engineering when it was finished in 1993, snaking across the sere desert landscape for 336 miles as it pumps water up 2,900 feet in elevation. So much power is needed to flush this water along its route that the massive coal-fired Navajo Generating Plant was built to provide it.
Supplying enough water to sustain a city this size in the desert has long been controversial, and as Phoenix and its neighbors continue their unrelenting sprawl — Arizona’s population has more than tripled in the past 50 years, from 1.8 million in 1970 to 7.2 million today — the state has often been regarded as the poster child for unsustainable development. Now that Colorado River water appears to be drying up, critics are voicing their “I told you so’s.”
That’s a bad rap though, at least for Phoenix, according to Sorensen. The city is prepared to carry on with business as usual even if the last of the Colorado River water evaporates into the desert sky, depriving Phoenix of 40 percent of its water supply. City officials have been busy planning for this eventuality, and much of the responsibility for that has fallen to Sorensen.
As she stands behind her large desk on the 9th floor of the municipal building in the heart of downtown Phoenix, surrounded by windows that look out on glass office towers gleaming in the desert sun, Sorensen deftly handles questions about the city’s water future. On her desk sits a crystal ball, a joke gift that she says she wishes was real. She’s proud of the work she has done since she was appointed in 2013 — before that she served four years as head of Mesa, Arizona’s water department — although she admits it has been a challenge.
The Phoenix Water Services Department is one of the nation’s largest, with 1.5 million customers spread out across 540 square miles. It maintains 7,000 miles of water lines and 5,000 miles of sewer lines.
The Salt River is the single biggest source of water for metro Phoenix, and provides about 60 percent of its needs. It is a large desert river, some 200 miles long, that begins at the confluence of the snow-fed White and Black rivers, is joined by a series of perennial, spring-fed streams, and then meets the Verde River east of Phoenix.
Just after the turn of the 20th century, the first of four dams was constructed on the Salt for a growing Phoenix, and today those reservoirs are Phoenix’s main water supply. However, Phoenix’s north side gets only Colorado River water, and should that source dry up one day, constructing infrastructure to connect north Phoenix to new sources of water would cost a half-billion dollars. Funding for such a project would hardly be a fait accompli; in late December, the Phoenix City Council rejected a water rate increase to pay for the infrastructure expansion. The Salt and Gila rivers also may someday be severely impacted by climate change. “They could be affected by a mega-drought,” said Andrew Ross, a sociology professor at New York University and author of Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City. “They are in the bullseye of global warming, too.” Perennial streams could dry up and snowfall in Arizona’s White Mountains could dwindle, as it has done in the Rockies, further depriving the rivers of a steady supply of water.
Beyond the Salt River, Phoenix has undertaken some innovative water strategies. Among the first of these was the Arizona Water Bank. California is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of water a year from the Colorado, but because Arizona was not using its full allotment of 2.8 million acre-feet, its excess water was being slurped up by a perpetually thirsty California. So the water bank, a unique system of underground storage, was created in 1996 as a way to store Colorado River water that the state couldn’t use, rather than letting it flow through to California. It turned out to be a prescient move, but not for the reason it was created. In that era, few people foresaw the crash of the Colorado River system.
Arizona has since created seven water banks, largely in empty underground aquifers. A series of large pools has been built above the aquifers and, as water is pumped into them, it slowly leaches through a layer of gravel and rock and fills the aquifer. So far the water banks have cost the state $330 million, storing 3.6 million acre-feet in 28 sites across three counties — more than a year’s worth of Colorado River water.
One of the largest water banks is 40 miles west of Phoenix near the tiny town of Tonopah, Arizona. The nearly $20 million facility has 19 infiltration basins covering more than 200 acres. It was constructed alongside the Central Arizona Project canal, and a pipe delivers 300 cubic-feet-per-second of Colorado River water a day to fill the basins.
In addition, other aquifers underneath Phoenix are brimming with 90 million acre-feet of water, some natural and some pumped in — enough to last the city for years. One problem is that much of it is contaminated, both from natural sources of arsenic and chromium and from the city’s many Superfund sites, which include manufacturing sites polluted by industrial solvents and unlined landfills that contain hazardous waste. But Sorensen dismisses the cleanup challenges as surmountable. “As long as the contamination isn’t nuclear, we can fix it,” she says. “What matters here is that the water is wet.”
Phoenix also recycles almost every bit of wastewater that journeys through its system. The vast majority of it — more than 20 billion gallons of recycled water a year — goes to cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. Another 30,000 acre-feet is traded to an irrigation district as gray water to use on agricultural fields and the district, in turn, sends potable water from the Salt River to the city.
And the city is working on “toilet-to-tap” technology aimed at someday making sewage water so clean it will be drinkable. The technology for recycling wastewater into drinking water exists, but is only used in a few places, including San Diego. Arizona says it will play a role in its water supply some day — if, that is, the city can sell the idea to consumers.
Desalinization of seawater has long been floated as a possibility for Arizona, and much of the U.S. Southwest, and officials say it too will be part of Arizona’s water mix — someday. The process, which forces water through an extremely fine filter, is energy-intensive, extremely expensive, and a major environmental problem because of the waste it generates. Nonetheless, Arizona sits on top of 600 million acre-feet of brackish water, and officials have also considered treating water from the Gulf of California, nearly 200 miles to the southwest.
For now, though, Phoenix appears to have positioned itself well for a new era of drought. Sorensen credits the people of Phoenix for adapting to the desert by using far less water per capita. “We’ve decoupled growth from water,” she said. “We use the same amount of water that we did 20 years ago, but have added 400,000 more people.” In 2000, Some 80 percent of Phoenix had lush green lawns; now only 14 percent does. The city has done this by charging more for water in the summer. Per capita usage has declined 30 percent over the last 20 years. “That’s a huge culture change,” Sorensen says.
In fact, the decoupling of water from growth through conservation has taken place throughout the Lower Colorado Basin. “Actual municipal water use across the basin, with the exception of Utah, is declining, even as population rises,” said John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program. “Albuquerque has built its long-range plan around conserving more than its demand for decades to come, and Las Vegas’ demonstration of its ability to use less water is stunning.”
But while Phoenix and Las Vegas are pursuing conservation strategies as a partial solution to the withering of the Colorado River, others entities in the region aren’t. Much of conservative Arizona is in denial about what the potential drying of the West may mean, if they recognize it at all. “We’re just starting to acknowledge the volatile water reality,” said Kevin Moran, senior director of western water for the Environmental Defense Fund. “We’re just starting to ask the adaptation questions.” Ross, of New York University, argues that the biggest problem for Arizona is not climate change, but the denial of it, which keeps real solutions — such as reining in unsustainable growth or the widespread deployment of solar energy in this sun-drenched region — from being considered. “How you meet those challenges and how you anticipate and overcome them is not a techno-fix problem,” he said, “It’s a question of social and political will.”
So, for now, Arizona’s rampant growth continues. To the west of Phoenix a new tech city is emerging. Mt. Lemmon Holdings, a subsidiary of computer magnate Bill Gates’s investment firm, Cascade Holdings, has plans to built a “smart city,” for example, on the outskirts of Phoenix near the town of Buckeye. The new city, on 24,000 acres — about the same size as Paris — would have infrastructure for self-driving cars, hi-tech factories, and high-speed public wi-fi.
Meanwhile, the so-called Sun Corridor — 120 miles of Sonoran Desert between Phoenix and Tucson — is seen as the state’s next burgeoning megalopolis. It’s one of the fastest-growing regions in the country and its population of more than 5.5 million — anchored by Phoenix in the northwest and Tucson to the southeast — is expected to double by 2040.
And what about the water for this growth? Under state law, a developer must prove it has a 100-year supply for any new housing development. The primary solution for that has been for the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District to fill or replenish aquifers where growth is planned — and the source for that is the precarious Colorado River water.
The reality, though, is that all of these well-intentioned measures may fall far short of being able to cope with a full-blown climate crisis. Someday the desert may reclaim what has been built here — as it did with the Hohokam.
Whether that unfolds remains to be seen. By Ross’s reckoning, the withering of Arizona will not be uniform, and those most affected will be the people least able to find alternatives, such as impoverished communities in South Phoenix.
“The well-resourced communities in the northeast are well set up,” for a drier future, said Ross. “And there are communities like South Phoenix that have been poisoned for decades that are not. It’s obvious who is going to suffer the most when the shortage really hits.”
“Here, we are all looking at Cape Town in shock,” said Taylor Hawes, of the Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River program, referring to the crisis last year when that South African city appeared on the brink of running out of water. “We’re not that far from that if things go south.”