@ColoradoClimate: Weekly #Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

The U.S. House passes historic public lands bill 363-62, now on to the @POTUS’s desk and the appropriations fight #lwcf

From the Associated Press (Matthew Brown) and Colorado Politics:

A wide-ranging bill that revives a popular conservation program, adds 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, expands several national parks and creates five new national monuments has won congressional approval.

The measure is the largest public lands bill approved by Congress in more than a decade. The House passed the bill Tuesday, 363-62, two weeks after it gained Senate approval, sending the measure to the White House for the president’s signature.

The bill would permanently reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country. The program expired last fall after Congress could not agree on language to extend it. Both of Colorado’s senators — Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet — supported its renewal.

The legislation combines more than 100 separate bills that designate more than 350 miles of river as wild and scenic and create nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas. The bill also withdraws 370,000 acres in Montana and Washington state from mineral development.

Among Colorado provisions in the measure are language calling for a study of designating the site of the Amache World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans as a national historic park, another study of adding the route of explorer Zebulon Pike (for whom Pikes Peak is named) to the national scenic trails system, the addition of 280 acres to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Teller County, and the addition of land to Arapaho National Forest…

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Denver-based conservation advocacy group Center for Western Priorities, hailed the measure’s passage.

“Such overwhelming support in the House and Senate once again demonstrates that public lands conservation transcends partisan politics,” Rokala said. “This legislation establishes new wilderness areas, mineral withdrawals, National Park Service units, and national monuments, a welcome contrast to the energy-first and anti-conservation policies that have flooded out of the Interior Department over the last two years.

She added: “Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will provide certainty for projects that protect and increase access to our national parks and public lands. It’s imperative that President Trump sign the legislation, then fully fund LWCF in his upcoming budget proposal.”

The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife estimates the LWCF helped pay for $147 million in state projects and another $120 million for federal projects. The federal part of the Colorado funding was only $61 million. However, the federal funds acted as seed money to help the state secure additional financing from other public and private sources.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the bill represents Congress at its best and “truly gives the American people something to be excited about.”

Grijalva called the bill as “a massive win” for conservation across the United States.

“Everyone from inner cities to suburbs to rural communities wins when we work together to preserve the outdoors,” he said…

The hodgepodge bill offered something for nearly everyone, with projects stretching across the country…

Environmental groups and lawmakers from both parties said they were especially proud the bill reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects throughout the U.S. since its creation in 1964. The program, one of the most popular and effective programs Congress has ever created, uses federal royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to fund conservation and recreation projects…

“In an era when bipartisanship remains elusive, conservation is a rare issue that still brings Congress together,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. The bipartisan public lands package “represents a historic victory for our wildlife heritage and outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe,” he said.

The bill creates three new national monuments to be administered by the National Park Service and two others overseen by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, respectively. The new monuments are the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Mississippi; the Mill Springs and Camp Nelson national monuments in Kentucky; the former Saint Francis Dam site in Southern California; and the Jurassic National Monument in Utah.

Paonia: “We realized we simply were using more water than we were able to produce based on the raw water supply” — Town Administrator Ken Knight

Paonia. Photo credit: Allen Best

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The town of Paonia was forced Tuesday to cut off water to about a third of its users in the second phase of a water emergency that began when it issued a boil order last week due to leaks and resulting low pressure.

Although the town believes it has fixed the leak problem, it’s now struggling to build back up storage in its main, 2 million gallon tank because its spring-fed water supply was diminished by last year’s drought.

Town Administrator Ken Knight said the town’s springs are producing about a quarter of what they currently do this time of year, and the water tank had only about a foot or foot-and-a-half of water left as of Tuesday morning.

“We realized we simply were using more water than we were able to produce based on the raw water supply,” he said.

The town decided to cut off service to 27 water companies it serves, and continue to supply areas that include downtown businesses, school facilities, and an urgent care center and nursing home. The town is providing bottled water, and the National Park Service also has loaned a potable water truck from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to give people drinking water. Delta County also is providing a truck that supplies raw water for uses such as flushing toilets and other nonconsumptive uses, Knight said.

The town’s water problems began early last week due to two major water leaks Knight said weren’t immediately noticeable because the leaked water ran underground to the nearby North Fork of the Gunnison River, rather than surfacing on streets as leaks typically do. Knight suspects at least one leak, which occurred in the area of a fire hydrant, was caused by the freeze-thaw cycles this time of year, but he said the cause isn’t yet known.

Due to low pressure and the potential for backwash in the system, the town had a state-mandated boil-water order in place from Monday through Friday of last week.

Service was back to normal over the weekend, but then the issue with the low spring water supply surfaced.

Knight said the problem is that last year’s low snowpack was compounded by a lack of rain later in the year, so heading into winter the springs never had the chance to recharge…

The water system serves about 1,800 people. Knight said it could be 24 to 48 hours before water service is restored to those who have been cut off, but that’s an educated guess and the town should know more this morning.

Once service is restored, a boil order will be in place for a while for those currently not getting water until tests of the restored water supply are completed. Knight said Mesa County health officials provide that testing and have been doing so in a timely manner amidst the current crisis. He credited Mesa County’s health and emergency management officials along with the Park Service, Delta County, state officials and others for their assistance to the town, and also praised town residents for their patience and understanding.

Assessing the Global Climate in January 2019, January 2019 was third warmest on record for the globe — @NOAA

From NOAA:

The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for January 2019 tied with 2007 as the third highest for the month of January in the NOAA global temperature record, which dates back to 1880.

This monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA 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.

January 2019 Temperature

  • The January temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.58°F above the 20th century average of 53.6°F. This value tied with 2007 as the third highest for January in the 140-year record. Januaries 2016 (+1.91°F) and 2017 (+1.64°F) were warmer.
  • The 10 warmest January global land and ocean surface temperatures have all occurred since 2002.
  • Record-warm January surface temperatures were present across much of Australia and its adjacent Southern Ocean waters, southern Brazil, the ocean off the south coast of South Africa, and across parts of Africa, Asia, and the southeastern Pacific Ocean. No land or ocean areas had record-cold January temperatures.
  • The January globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.72°F above the 20th century average of 37.0°F. This was the fourth highest January land global temperature in the 1880–2019 record, trailing behind 2007 (warmest), 2016 (tied second warmest), and 2017 (tied second warmest).
  • The most notable warmer-than-normal land temperatures were present across much of Australia and across parts of northeastern and southwestern Asia, where temperatures were 7.2°F above average or higher. The most notable cool temperature departures from average during January were observed across much of northern North America, with temperatures 1.8°F below average or less.
  • On a continental level, Oceania had its warmest January since continental records began in 1910, while South America and Asia had their fifth warmest January on record. Meanwhile, North America’s January 2019 temperature was the coldest January since 2011.
  • The January globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.17°F above the 20th century monthly average of 60.5°F – the third highest global ocean temperature for January in the 1880–2019 record. The record January global ocean temperature was set in 2016. The year 2017 was the second warmest on record.
  • Sea Ice and Snow Cover

  • The January average Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth smallest in the 41-year record at 332,000 square miles (6.0 percent) below the 1981–2010 average, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA. Sea ice coverage was below average in Baffin Bay, as well as the Barents, Okhotsk, and Bering Seas.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent during January was 450,000 square miles (23.4 percent) below the 1981–2010 average, the second smallest January extent on record. Only the Antarctic sea ice extent in January 2017 was smaller.
  • According to data from NOAA and analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during January was 140,000 square miles above the 1981–2010 average. This ranked near the median value in the 53-year period of record. The North American and Eurasian snow cover extents were each slightly above average.
  • For a more complete summary of climate conditions and events, see our January 2019 Global Climate Report.

    Paper: Mechanisms of a coniferous woodland persistence under drought and heat

    Piñon pine (Juniperus_occidentalis). Photo credit: Wikimedia

    Click here to read the paper. Here’s the abstract:

    Predictions of warmer droughts causing increasing forest mortality are becoming abundant, yet fewer studies have investigated the mechanisms of forest persistence. To examine the resistance of forests to warmer droughts, we used a five-year precipitation reduction (~45% removal), heat (+4°C above ambient) and combined drought and heat experiment in an isolated stand of mature Pinus edulis-Juniperus monosperma. Despite severe experimental drought and heating, no trees died, and we observed only minor evidence of hydraulic failure or carbon starvation. Two mechanisms promoting survival were supported. First, access to bedrock water, or ‘hydraulic refugia’ aided trees in their resistance to the experimental conditions. Second, the isolation of this stand amongst a landscape of dead trees precluded ingress by Ips confusus, frequently the ultimate biotic mortality agent of piñon. These combined abiotic and biotic landscape-scale processes can moderate the impacts of future droughts on tree mortality by enabling tree avoidance of hydraulic failure, carbon starvation, and exposure to attacking abiotic agents.

    #AnimasRiver: Sunnyside Gold wants @EPA out of the #GoldKingMine cleanup

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    Good luck with that.

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    Is it a conflict of interest for the Environmental Protection Agency, responsible for the Gold King Mine spill, to lead the Superfund cleanup of mine pollution around Silverton? The last company to operate a mine in Silverton, which is also possibly on the hook for cleanup costs, seems to think so.

    Sunnyside Gold Corp. on Monday sent a letter to the acting inspector general for the EPA, Charles Sheehan, asking the EPA be investigated for its part in the Superfund site and ultimately be recused as the lead agency in the cleanup.

    “The conflict of interest is clear,” Kevin Roach, director of reclamation for Sunnyside Gold, wrote in an email to The Durango Herald. “EPA caused the Gold King spill, which led to the Superfund listing, and resulted in the EPA being a defendant in multiple lawsuits.”

    […]

    Roach said the “conflict” has made the EPA incapable of cleaning up the site in an “even-handed” manner.