@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.

Get outside and interact with nature as part of global competition — @COParksWildlife

From email from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Which city in the world is most engaged in its natural environment? During four days in April, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins residents will be competing against over 170 cities around the world to find out.

From April 26 through 29, Colorado residents are encouraged to go outside to photograph and identify plants and animals, using the free iNaturalist app, as part of a global competition to win the City Nature Challenge!

Colorado counties participating in 2019 include: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson, and Park.

City Nature Challenge 2019 is an international effort to find and document plants and wildlife across the globe. Cities are competing against each other to see who can make the most observations of nature, who can find the most species, and who can engage the most people. The City Nature Challenge is organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Colorado nonprofits and government agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, the WILD Foundation, MetroDNA, the City and County of Denver, and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) all see the value in this effort to connect people to their environment and reap the benefits of crowd-sourced citizen science.

“We have so much amazing nature in and around Denver, that we encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and nearby natural areas to discover incredible wildlife,” said Chris Hawkins, urban conservation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “Not only will participants be having fun outside, but they will also be making valuable scientific contributions that will help The Nature Conservancy as we work to create a thriving region for people and nature.”

“I love the City Nature Challenge because it provides an outstanding opportunity for people to appreciate and pay attention to the smaller things in life, like the newly emerged insects, our diverse plant species, and the resident or migratory birds of the area,” said Melanie Hill, Director of Communications & Outreach for the WILD Foundation. “Once you begin noticing these things, whether it be in your backyard, urban areas, or nearby parks and open spaces, you quickly see that everything is connected and that we have a thriving natural world all around us. All you have to do is look and listen.”

Citizen Science and the iNaturalist app
To participate, download the free iNaturalist app, join the project, then get outside and start taking pictures of the nature around you. By participating, you will not only help a Colorado city win the competition, you will also be contributing crucial data about Colorado’s unique biodiversity. Scientists can then use this information to make important decisions about how to protect and improve Colorado’s nature.

The iNaturalist app that people use to identify species in the competition has been part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to engage citizen scientists over the past few years.

“At its core, it’s a citizen science project that is trying to engage as many people as possible to record the diversity of life wherever they happen to be,” said CPW Forest Management Coordinator Matt Schulz.

In just under four years, the app has documented more than 11,000 observations of nature in Colorado’s 41 state parks. The new technology is helping CPW biologists track the wildlife resources, and in some cases, even contributing toward furthering important research.

“Anyone can participate with this challenge,” Schulz said, “just by observing what is outside their door, whether it’s the tree that lines your street or the bird stopping over to find a bit of food. Anything alive and wild counts, so please help give Colorado a good showing. The information collected is used by land managers and scientists working on a variety of issues, from learning about the type of habitat an animal uses to what time of year certain flowers bloom. Also, iNaturalist allows other users to provide identification of each observation, so even if you don’t know what something is, it can still be valuable to snap a picture and load it up.”

In fact, other users jumping on the app to help identify species will be crucial to winning the contest. From April 30 – May 5, users who identify photos of wildlife down to the species level will count toward the point tally!

CPW has created a set of Denver-specific plant and animal guides in the app so people engaged in the challenge can better identify what they are looking at.

All of the supporting organizations see the City Nature Challenge as a great way to both get people outdoors in friendly competition and as a way to introduce people to a new tool that is both helpful to the casual wildlife viewer and to those who help manage those wildlife resources and habitats.

“Our money’s on Colorado communities taking the lead in the City Nature Challenge this year,” said GOCO Executive Director Chris Castilian. “Coloradans know how amazing our outdoors are – from our backyards to the backcountry, in our cities and towns and beyond. Here’s our chance to explore nature close to home and appreciate what makes our state so wild and beautiful.”

Join a more intense “BioBlitz” at a state park:
You can participate in the City Nature Challenge with others at two “BioBlitzes” in Denver-area state parks! What’s a BioBlitz? It’s a special event where groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period (e.g., usually 24 hours).”

Although CPW does host 24-hour BioBlitzes, the City Nature Challenge BioBlitz is a five-hour version designed to get you outside using the iNaturalist app with others. Come join us!

BioBlitz Dates and Times
​Sat., April 27 from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. – Barr Lake State Park
Sat., April 27 – TBD – Chatfield State Park​​

Colorado state parks are a great place to be outdoors, as well as a great place to participate in the City Nature Challenge. Colorado State Parks within this year’s boundaries include: Barr Lake, Castlewood Canyon, Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Cheyenne Mountain, Eldorado Canyon, Eleven Mile, Golden Gate, Roxborough, Spinney Mountain, and Staunton.

Check CPW’s City Nature Challenge page for updated information on the City Nature Challenge project.

More information on the City Nature Challenge is available at: http://citynaturechallenge.org.

For those interested in the Boulder-Denver Metro Area competition:
https://www.wild.org/naturechallenge/ and

For those interested in the Colorado Springs Area competition: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2019-colorado-springs

Down on the Ground in the Anthropocene City-State — Colorado Central Magazine

George Sibley

Full disclosure, I have written articles for the magazine in the past.

Here’s a look at Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project and the Boulder County Commissioner’s hearing on 1041 jurisdiction from George Sibley that’s running in Colorado Central Magazine. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

An interesting thing happened mid-March in Boulder which the media seem to have mostly missed. Commissioners from Grand County showed up at a noisy Boulder County commissioners’ hearing on a West Slope-to-East Slope transmountain water diversion project – to testify on behalf of the project. It is probably the first time ever, in the generally contentious history of Colorado water development, that the people in a basin of origin have supported a transmountain diversion project that people in the basin of destination oppose.

Although this is a story from just beyond our Central Colorado boundaries, it is a story of interest to anyone in the West who is wondering how, or even if, we are going to finally leave the 20th century and venture into the 21st and the Anthropocene Epoch we keep trying to pretend we haven’t brought on ourselves.

The report on the Boulder County hearing sounded like your usual 20th century public hearing on the kind of issue that seems almost structured to pit environmentalists against the developers of something or other – a hearing in which no one has to listen because everyone already knows what everyone else is going to say.

The issue in this case pits the usual Front Range environmental organizations against a public utility that everyone loved to hate through the 20th century, Denver Water (DW). DW wants to enlarge the Gross Dam and Reservoir it built in the 1950s in the foothills near Boulder, to hold some additional water it wants to import from the West Slope – its “Moffat Firming Project” which would bring a third more water on average through its Moffat Tunnel Project from the Fraser and Williams Fork Rivers in the Upper Colorado River watersheds…

For the West Slope and Grand County, DW is both funding and actively participating in planning and executing a Learning by Doing process – essentially, an adaptive management process of active experimentation in learning how to live with less water. Some of it is more conventional work providing funding and expertise to water treatment districts and irrigation districts needing to use less water more efficiently.

But some of it will actually be what strikes me as “creative environmentalism”: Actually reconstructing some streams to function ecologically with a permanent reduction of water – call it “downsizing” the stream to fit the unignorable realities of the future. Channels are narrowed and deepened to cool the waters, helping both the aquatic ecosystem and the human economy of floaters and fishermen; riparian vegetation is planted to shade the stream and stabilize banks; meanders are induced to give a healthy stability and resilience for the foreseeable diminished future. Half a mile of the Fraser near U.S. 40 has been so ‘remodeled’ and is open to public inspection (and fishing). DW has committed millions to this work. (The CRCA can be found online by browsing for the name in full.)

Say Hello to the “The Water Desk” at the Center for Environmental Journalism — @CU_CEJ

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click here to go to the Water Desk website:

The Center for Environmental Journalism’s newest initiative is “The Water Desk,” an independent news organization dedicated to increasing the volume, depth and power of journalism connected to Western water issues.

Our focus is the Colorado River Basin, the water source for some 40 million people living in seven U.S. states and Mexico. Climate change, population growth and other forces are posing unprecedented challenges for managing water in a region stretching from Colorado’s Front Range to Southern California’s coast, and from the snow-capped peaks of Wyoming to the deserts of Northwest Mexico.

The Water Desk will work with journalists and media outlets to strengthen their water-related coverage and expand its influence. It will also produce its own content, help train the next generation of water journalists, engage with the community to inform water reporting and pursue innovative approaches to 21st-century storytelling.

The Water Desk will strengthen water journalism in a variety of ways, including:

  • Support for journalists: The Water Desk will provide funding, training and other resources to journalists and media outlets that cover Western water issues and the Colorado River.
  • Original content: Coverage of water issues produced by The Water Desk itself will have particular emphasis on data, multimedia, explanatory and solutions-oriented journalism.
  • Education and community engagement: The Water Desk will work with CU students, its News Corps program for investigative journalism, as well others beyond the campus to advance learning and to engage the community on Western water issues.
  • The Water Desk launched in April 2019 with support from a two-year, $700,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation. We are seeking additional funding to build and sustain the initiative.

    As a journalistic effort, the Water Desk will maintain a strict editorial firewall between its content and funders. Likewise, the Water Desk will have editorial independence from CU.

    The Water Desk is interested in working across platforms and will be looking for ways to support journalism through newspapers, magazines, websites, radio/podcasts, television, video and other media. We’ll be releasing guidelines for applying for funding soon.

    In short, the Water Desk will operate as a small news organization that also provides resources, training and other support to journalists, media outlets and students so that the public and policymakers are better informed about Western water issues and the Colorado River.

    Follow us on Twitter @thewaterdesk.

    Questions? Please contact Mitch Tobin via email or at 303-330-9487

    Detailed Colorado River Basin map via the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    How Meteorologists Compare To Other Professions That Predict The Future — Forbes

    Here’s a report from Marshall Shepherd that’s running on the Forbes website. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    A recent piece by Dennis Mersereau in Forbes described how [the administration’s] proposed budget (likely “dead on arrival” in Congress) would result in mass layoffs of National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists. On the Forbes Facebook page, I saw cliche and misinformed comments like “Good, meteorologists are always wrong anyhow.” Such statements are rooted in misperceptions based on experiences, lack of math-statistical literacy, and knee-jerk reactions. The reality is that weather forecasts are quite good when consumed with proper perspective. I pose the following question: If the weather forecast called for 70 degrees F in two days and it ended up being 68 degrees F, will people say the forecast was wrong? The answer is probably like many relationships. It’s complicated. Meteorologists seem to be held to a different standard than other professions that predict the future.

    In response to the question posed, some people will say it was right and others will say it is wrong. How do meteorologists compare to other professions that try to predict the future like investors, economists, sports analysts, doctors, and political pundits? If an investor could pick the best performing stocks 80 to 90 percent of the time, would you likely give her your business? What if your doctor said that there was a 90% chance that your symptoms will worsen unless you take a certain medication, are you likely to fill the prescription? There is probably someone reading this and overanalyzing the questions. However, most people probably said “yes” to both questions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Scijinks website is a good place to start:

    “A seven-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about 80 percent of the time and a five-day forecast can accurately predict the weather approximately 90 percent of the time. However, a 10-day—or longer—forecast is only right about half the time.”

    These percentages are even higher within 2 to 3 days. Jason Samenow and Angela Fritz wrote in the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang:

    “A one-day temperature forecast is now typically accurate within about two to 2.5 degrees, according to National Weather Service data. In other words, when you see a forecast high of 82, most of the time the actual high will be between 80 and 85.”


    Nate Silver’s excellent essay, “The Weatherman Is Not a Moron,” was published a few years ago in the New York Times. He clearly laid out that weather forecasting is an area that has seen tremendous strides in recent decades. He writes,

    “Still, most people take their forecasts for granted. Like a baseball umpire, a weather forecaster rarely gets credit for getting the call right….Six years earlier, the National Weather Service also made a nearly perfect forecast of Hurricane Katrina, anticipating its exact landfall almost 60 hours in advance.”

    @ColoradoClimate: March 2019 precipitation as a percent of normal for the Intermountain West

    March 2019 Intermountain West precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center.