Pictures From Youth Climate Strikes Around the World — The New York Times #ActOnClimate #FridaysForFuture

Graphic via The Washington Post.

Click through to view a gallery of photos from the School Stride for Climate on March 15, 2019:

From Sydney to Seoul, Cape Town to New York, children skipped school en masse Friday to demand action on climate change.

It was a stark display of the alarm of a generation. It was also a glimpse of the anger directed at older people who have not, in the protesters’ view, taken global warming seriously enough.

#Snowpack news: #Drought is on the run in #Colorado

Colorado statewide snowpack basin-filled map March 18, 2019 via the NRCS.

From The Summit Daily (Allen Best):

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center described the snowy torrents thundering over the weekend as historic. There were deaths, there were bizarre circumstances. And at least one snowslide occurred at a scale perhaps not seen since 1910.

“The avalanches are running much larger than they have, in some cases, for maybe 50 to 100 years,” Spencer Logan, an avalanche forecaster with the center, told the Summit Daily News last Friday, soon after the avalanche cycle began.

First, the bizarre circumstances of the death of a 25-year-old man who was shoveling a low-angle roof with a companion on Saturday at a housing development near Crested Butte. According to a preliminary report by the avalanche information center, no one noticed the roof avalanche for about 10 minutes.

Help was summoned, and their bodies were located by probes. The second snow shoveler, a 37-year-old man, who had not been buried as deeply, was treated for hypothermia. They had been buried for 20 to 30 minutes.

This was in a subdivision about a mile south of the town of Crested Butte. Another roof avalanche buried a 28-year-old man the evening before in Mt. Crested Butte, the town at the base of the ski area. He was treated for low core-body temperature. Yet another roof shoveler had been rescued from a roof avalanche the weekend before.

CBS4 in Denver said the Crested Butte area had received more than 4 feet of wet, heavy snow in the days prior to the weekend avalanches. Several days more of snowfall are predicted for early this week…

In Summit County, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area was closed for two days as a precautionary measure. Probably a good thing, said the Summit Daily News as notorious avalanche paths called the Little Professor and the Widowmaker ran, burying the highway to the ski area.

More notable yet was an avalanche in the Tenmile Range above Frisco. There, a slide in 1910 took out a mining camp called Masontown. In local lore, everybody had been off to the bars in Frisco when the slide occurred. In fact, the town had been abandoned. Whatever. It was a big slide, and experts tell the Summit Daily that the slide that occurred last week might have been even bigger.

Finally, U.S. Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton in the San Juan Mountains had been closed for a week as of Monday. Also called the Million Dollar Highway, the route was projected by Colorado highway crews to remain closed “indefinitely.”

The notorious Riverside slide had claimed many lives over the years until a snowshed was erected to funnel snows over the highway. This time it wasn’t enough. There was 20 to 30 feet of snow on the pavement before state crews intentionally triggered more slides, leaving up to 60 feet of snow. The new slide filled in the snowshed, too.

Colorado Drought Monitor March 12, 2019.

From CBS Denver (Chris Spears):

Colorado’s snowpack is now over 140 percent of normal thanks to a series of winter storms. Southern river basins are above 150 percent of normal.

The state has already exceeded average annual snowpack which usually doesn’t happen until early April. Any additional snow this spring will simply be icing on the cake in terms of water storage and drought reduction.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map released on Thursday showed incredible news for southwest Colorado.

From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

For everyone who was caught in Colorado’s historic “bomb cyclone” blizzard Wednesday, a couple of visions come to mind: whipping winds, pelting snow and whiteout conditions.

But Weld County farmers and water managers are still thinking about what happened in the relative calm before the storm: steady rainfall that seeped into the ground early on.

It’s the type of moisture farmers want for their soil.

“This storm that we got was really beneficial from a moisture standpoint because a lot of that moisture came as rain early on,” said Randy Ray, the executive director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. “So that rain was able to penetrate and soak into the ground.”

The ensuing blizzard? “It’s not as beneficial in these ground blizzards because the snow doesn’t stick to the ground,” he said. “The most beneficial snow is a nice foot of snow that just falls naturally on ground without 80 mph winds pushing it.”

[…]

Snowpack in Colorado’s South Platte River Basin, as of a Thursday measurement, was at 16 inches of snow water equivalent, a measurement that accounts for the amount of water in snow. The basin is 133 percent of average snowpack, and 168 percent of last year…

During the 2018 water year, which ended in September and was the second-driest year on record for Colorado, behind 2002, about 15 percent of the state — mostly the southwest region — experienced exceptional drought conditions, the type states only expect once every 50 years. When the water year started over in October, conditions started to change dramatically. As of March, not one region of the state is experiencing exceptional drought conditions. Most of the state, 57 percent, is abnormally dry.

Greeley and portions of Weld County are experiencing a moderate drought…

[Russ Schumacher] said he usually expects the peak of snowpack to come in early to mid-April. But many portions of the state have already passed the normal peak in just the first half of March.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 18, 2019 via the NRCS.

Protecting infrastructure: It’s not about just dams and pipes – News on TAP

Because technology is a critical part of delivering water, Denver Water tested its readiness against a cyberattack.

Source: Protecting infrastructure: It’s not about just dams and pipes – News on TAP

March 2019 El Niño Update: Think spring — @NOAA

From NOAA (Emily Becker):

Our much-delayed weak El Niño continued into March, and forecasters give it an 80% chance to continue through the spring, with a 60% chance of continuation through the summer.

Spring showers
As you may remember from February’s update, the atmosphere finally started showing signs of a response to the warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific, leading the forecast team to issue an El Niño Advisory. More rain and clouds than average formed over the warmer waters of the central Pacific, less over Indonesia, and near-surface winds in the central Pacific slowed. These patterns continued over the past few weeks, with the dry-Indonesia/rainy-central-Pacific pattern showing up clearly in the cloud patterns.

Places that were more (purple) or less (orange) cloudy than the 1981-2010 average during February 2019, based on satellite observations of outgoing longwave radiation (heat). Thick clouds block heat from radiating out to space, so less radiation equals more clouds, and more radiation equals clearer skies. Climate.gov map from CPC OLR data.

(For a really cool investigation into why the atmospheric response may have been delayed this year, be sure to check out the recent post by Nat Johnson, P.I.)

The strength of the atmospheric component of ENSO, the Southern Oscillation, is measured using two different indexes. While they use different specific locations, both indexes compare the atmospheric pressure in the far western Pacific to that in the east-central Pacific. When these indexes are negative, it means there is less rising air than average (higher pressure) in the west, and more rising air (lower pressure) in the east. Both the Southern Oscillation Index and the Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index were -1.4 during February.

Near-surface wind anomalies over the tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S) during 2018, starting at the top in September 2018 and ending in early March 2019 at the bottom. Each row in this type of image is the departure from average (1981-2010) at that time. Pink areas show weaker-than-average trade winds, and green stronger. NOAA Climate.gov image, based on data provided by the Climate Prediction Center.

During most of February, the winds near the surface of the central Pacific were substantially slower than normal. When the trade winds slow, they allow the surface waters to warm, and can sometimes kick off or enhance a downwelling Kelvin wave, a large area of warm water that slides from the west to the east under the surface. Likely in part due to the slowing winds, sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Niño3.4 monitoring region increased to ~1°C warmer than average during February, reversing some cooling that had taken place in January.

Area-averaged upper-ocean heat content anomaly (°C) in the equatorial Pacific (5°N-5°S, 180º-100ºW). The heat content anomaly is computed as the departure from the 1981-2010 base period pentad (5-day) means. Heat content has been elevated for the last 12 months, but recently increased again. Climate.gov figure from CPC data.

The amount of warmer-than-average water below the surface of the tropical Pacific also increased substantially in February, after dropping over the past few months. As the current downwelling Kelvin wave continues to move to the east and gradually rise, it will provide warmth to the surface—one of the sources of confidence in forecasters’ predictions that El Niño conditions will continue through the spring.

Spring training
The state of the tropical Pacific in early 2019 has some eerie similarities to that of early 2015. After several months of warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures, the atmosphere responded with weak El Niño conditions, similar to 2015. And, a downwelling Kelvin wave is present, as in 2015. Many climate models are predicting that sea surface temperatures will remain elevated through the year.

Climate model forecasts for the Niño3.4 Index. Dynamical model data (purple line) from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME): darker purple envelope shows the range of 68% of all model forecasts; lighter purple shows the range of 95% of all model forecasts. Statistical model data (dashed line) from CPC’s Consolidated SST Forecasts. NOAA Climate.gov image from CPC data.

So are we in for another 2015-style strong El Niño? Even with now and then having so much in common, it’s far too soon to tell. Climate models are notoriously unreliable when making predictions in March and April, when ENSO is often in transition. As this graph of climate model forecasts shows, the range of potential outcomes is huge, and includes everything from a moderate La Niña through a stronger El Niño. This huge range tells us that the climate models do not have much agreement about what will happen next fall.

Also, wind patterns and heat content in March are not very powerful predictors of fall El Niño patterns. While it’s likely that the current weak El Niño conditions will continue through the summer, as Michelle said in 2015, “there are still plenty of innings left to play.” Hopefully, we’ll have a clearer picture of next fall after the spring predictability barrier is behind us.

Spring green
What do El Niño conditions through the spring portend for global weather patterns? El Niño’s effect on global circulation is weaker in the spring than in winter, but still detectable. Historical global temperature and rain patterns during El Niño in the spring show less rain than average over a lot of the tropics, for example.

Weak El Niño conditions mean these impacts may be less consistent than during strong El Niño. Check the Climate Prediction Center for an outlook on US seasonal patterns. El Niño conditions through the summer can affect the hurricane season, too—the Climate Prediction Center’s hurricane season outlook will be issued in May, so stay tuned!

Facing $billions in costs for #PFAS cleanup the Pentagon is lobbying for reduced standards

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

The Pentagon is reportedly lobbying for a more lenient standard for cleaning up toxic chemicals used for decades in firefighting foam that have been found in drinking water in southern El Paso County and around the country.

Even if the Pentagon is successful, the Air Force appears unlikely to get off the hook for cleaning up the contaminated Widefield aquifer serving tens of thousands of residents south of Colorado Springs, state health officials said.

The Defense Department’s push to revise safety standards comes as it faces billions of dollars in cleanup costs tied to its decades-long use of a firefighting foam laced with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals, known as PFAS, are tied to cancer, liver disease and low infant birth weight.

The lobbying appears aimed at influencing the Environmental Protection Agency’s groundwater cleanup standard — a level at which cleanup would be required of polluters.

In a report to Congress, the Pentagon said an appropriate level is 380 parts per trillion, the New York Times reported. It’s at least five times what the EPA says could be harmful to people, and dozens of times higher than another federal agency says is toxic to people.

At that level, the military could avoid paying to clean up many contaminated sites across the nation, said David Andrews, senior scientist for the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group.

“Even if it’s the same number of sites, the amount of cleanup you’re doing at each site would be drastically reduced,” Andrews said. “The likely impact is that DoD is really trying to pass on the responsibilities and the cost for cleaning up this contamination. Which is dreadful.”

In a statement, the Pentagon said it takes its cleanup responsibility “seriously.”

“DOD is not seeking a different or weaker cleanup standard but wants the standard risk-based cleanup approach that is based on science and applies to everyone,” the statement said.

Still, one of Delaware’s Democratic U.S. senators, Tom Carper, claimed in a letter to the EPA that the Defense Department is currently only cleaning up sites where groundwater readings exceed 400 parts per trillion, and only removing the chemicals to 70 ppt. The Pentagon was joined by NASA and the Small Business Administration in lobbying for more relaxed standards, the senator said.

The Pentagon report only referenced two PFAS varieties — PFOA and PFOS — even though thousands of other varieties are known to exist. The report was issued last year, and reported Thursday by The New York Times, along with Carper’s letter.

The Defense Department’s maneuvering is expected to have little impact on cleanup operations around Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado health officials say.

State regulations would still force the Air Force to clean up the tainted Widefield aquifer to a more stringent standard that is in line with the EPA’s current health advisory, according to Kelly MacGregor, a Colorado Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman.

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously in April to adopt a site-specific groundwater quality standard of 70 ppt for the same two chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — combined.

Even without the state standard, the aquifer’s contamination downstream from the base is so bad that cleanup efforts around Peterson would likely go unaffected by the Pentagon’s lobbying.

Seven wells drilled about three years ago in the Widefield aquifer showed PFOS at levels of 400 ppt or greater. One well drilled at the Colorado Springs Airport found the chemical at 1,600 ppt.

Neither the state’s adopted groundwater standard, nor lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., touch on the thousands of other types of chemicals, also called perfluorinated compounds.

For communities affected by use of the foam, such as Security, Widefield and Fountain, that could be a significant problem, Andrews said.

For example, another type of chemical called PFHxS is often associated with use of the firefighting foam. And no other type of perfluorinated compound was as common in drinking water samples taken from Security or Fountain wells as PFHxS, nor present at such high levels, according to EPA drinking water data.

A couple of other chemicals were reported as frequently in wells serving Widefield. But again, none were as consistently high as PFHxS.

It also has been found in the drinking water of dozens of other water districts across the country, EPA results show. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says it could cause liver damage and a decreased ability to respond to vaccines.

Several other types of PFAS also have raised health concerns while being found in water systems across the country.

“Really we’d like to see the EPA and the DoD focusing on reducing the total PFAS contamination … shifting into high gear and taking responsibility for cleaning up all of this contamination,” Andrews said.