What’s so funny about #climatechange? — CU Boulder Today

Daniel Hood performs stand-up comedy as a tree (Credit: Chelsea Hackett)

From the University of Colorado (Sam Linnerooth):

Environmental researchers know the problem all too well: the science on climate change is clear, but people won’t listen. For most people, perusing the latest 500-plus page report on global warming projections is more likely to inspire a nap than a drastic switch to a zero-waste lifestyle.

Beth Osnes and Max Boykoff, associate professors of theatre and environmental studies, respectively, have a suggestion: trade in thesis statements for punchlines.

In 2012, they helped launch the Inside the Greenhouse project at CU Boulder to explore comedy and other unique ways of framing issues surrounding climate change.

As part of the project, students in their spring 2019 Creative Climate Communications class took the stage Thursday to perform climate change-themed comedy in front of a packed Old Main theater. Some student performers were dressed head-to-toe as wind turbines while others took on more traditional stand-up sets.

Good-natured humor about nature

Joey Filmanowicz, Kyle Fowler and Jules Murtha parody David Bowie and The Beatles (Credit: Chelsea Hackett)

While it would be easy to fall into dark humor with the often apocalyptic nature of climate change conversations, Thursday’s show, Stand Up for Climate Change, took a light-hearted approach.

“Climate change especially is an issue associated with gloom and doom, guilt and fear—all negative emotions that most people would much rather avoid than confront,” said Osnes. “Through comedy, we hope to make an encounter with issues surrounding climate a positive one, which we hope will contribute towards more sustained pro-environmental action.”

Students created comedy to specifically communicate one of the Drawdown solutions to reverse global warming—a list of concrete steps to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

o explore the environmental benefits of switching to a plant-rich diet, for example, a group of students imagined the challenges of selling meat substitutes to a caveman in a modern grocery store.

“A lot of people aren’t taught to talk about that information in a way that will be received by other people,” said Jules Murtha, a senior theatre student who parodied The Beatles’ Let It Be on Thursday. “I think that comedy is a really great way to do that.”

Many in the class, which is typically split between environmental studies, ATLAS and theatre students, went in with little to no performance experience. The idea of a comedy-based final, for most, made syllabus week for scary than funny.

“You could witness the shock on other classmates’ faces because most of them have never performed in their lives,” said Murtha. “When they were told that they would have to get up on stage and try to make people laugh, they were terrified.”

A social experiment

Don’t be fooled by the laughter and silly costumes, Osnes and Boykoff are also conducting real science through the course.

The pair first connected in 2011 and Boykoff says this is the fourth time they’ve been able to teach this class together. Published in January, they drew on that experience in a joint study in Political Geography on the efficacy of communicating climate science through humor.

“This work is showing that we can open up new pathways to discussing, considering and engaging with climate change,” said Boykoff.

While the exact recipe for the class is still evolving after eight years, one ingredient has remained the same: fun.

“If you can create positive association with climate change, you’ve done something right,” said Beth Osnes. “Our goal in doing this is not to make light of the seriousness of this issue, but rather to bring light to a sustainable path forward.”

The latest newsletter is hot off the presses from the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District

Student volunteers from Greeley West FFA April 24, 2019. Photo credit: CCWCD

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

28th Annual Children’s Water Festival

Twelve-hundred 4th and 5th grade students from Adams, Weld, Morgan and Larimer Counties converged at Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, on Wednesday, April 24 to learn about groundwater and other natural resources at the Children’s Water Festival sponsored by Central Colorado Water Conservancy District (CCWCD).

The theme for the 28th annual Festival “The Wonders of Water” focused on water’s connection with all-natural resources and how it nourishes people through drinking water supplies and food production. Students learned through nearly 50 hands-on activities, lively entertainment and interactive displays.

This year more than 1,200 students representing 16 schools from Brighton, Fort Lupton, Firestone, Frederick, Johnstown/Milliken, La Salle, Greeley/Evans, Windsor and Fort Morgan attended.

New activities at this year’s festival included; Fire and Ice, Magician Show, an Escape Room, Earth Balloon, Master Gardeners, and a Storyteller.

The 2019 Children’s Water Festival is co-sponsored by West Greeley Conservation District, Poudre Learning Center, and the University of Northern Colorado. Other major corporate sponsors include Nutrien, United Water, Platte River Water Development, PDC Energy, Poudre Heritage Alliance, Greeley & Loveland Irrigation Company and Noble.

Paper: Russian olive habitat along an arid river supports fewer bird species, functional groups and a different species composition relative to mixed vegetation habitats

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Click here purchase access. Here’s the abstract:

The establishment and naturalization of non-native Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in southwestern US riparian habitats is hypothesized to have negative implications for native flora and fauna. Despite the potential for Russian olive establishment in new riparian habitats, much of its ecology remains unclear. Arid river systems are important stopover sites and breeding grounds for birds, including some endangered species, and understanding how birds use Russian olive habitats has important implications for effective non-native species management. We compared native bird use of sites that varied in the amount of Russian olive and mixed native/non-native vegetation along the San Juan River, UT, USA. From presence/absence surveys conducted in 2016 during the breeding season, we found 1) fewer bird species and functional groups used Russian olive habitats and 2) the composition of species within Russian olive habitats was different from the composition of species in mixed native/non-native habitats. Our results suggest Russian olive may support different bird compositions during the breeding season and as Russian olive continues to naturalize, bird communities may change. Finally, we highlight the paucity of research surrounding Russian olive ecology and stress the need for rigorous studies to improve our understanding of Russian olive ecology.

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

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

Aspinall Unit operations update: 825 cfs through Black Canyon

Looking downstream from Chasm View, Painted Wall on right. Photo credit: NPS\Lisa Lynch

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased by 250 cfs on Wednesday, May 1st. This will bring flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon up to shoulder flow levels, as described in the decree for the Black Canyon water right. The current forecast for the April-July runoff volume for Blue Mesa Reservoir is 860,000 AF of inflow, which is 127% of average. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for April and May.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 675 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 575 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be 675 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 825 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Boulder County will not process @DenverWater’s 1041 application with lawsuit winding its way through the courts #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan) via The Denver Post:

Boulder County has notified Denver Water it will not process the utility’s land use review application for a Gross Reservoir expansion at the same time it is defending itself in a lawsuit by Denver Water challenging the need to even submit to that procedure.

Denver Water on April 18 filed a lawsuit in Boulder District Court claiming a zoned-land exemption should excuse Denver Water from having to submit to the land use review process for the expansion, which — should it go through — would be the largest construction project in county history.

However, at the same time, Denver Water CEO/manager Jim Lochhead had said the utility was taking the steps to satisfy that county requirement, even while the lawsuit was pending.

“We remain committed to finding a path forward with the county that respects the community’s needs and concerns while allowing the project to proceed, which is why we have initiated the 1041 application process,” Lochhead said at the time…

Denver Water’s bid to participate in that process and simultaneously challenge it legally, however, is not going to work, according to Boulder County.

In a letter to Denver Water dated April 18, Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case said, “While the County believes it will prevail in litigation, it would not be appropriate for the Land Use Department to proceed with an application under these circumstances.”

It is Case who initially made the determination that Denver Water, although holding a permit for the expansion project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, still needed to submit to the county’s permitting process — a judgment Denver Water already unsuccessfully appealed before the county commissioners on March 14.

“It would be an imprudent expenditure of taxpayer dollars for the County to process an application when the process itself is the subject of a lawsuit,” Case added in his letter. “Accordingly, the Land Use Department will not accept an application for processing until the lawsuit is resolved.”

[…]

Denver Water public documents once showed a 2019 start date on construction, but that is no longer the case, and the lawsuit against Boulder County is not the only legal hurdle to launching the project. In separate courtroom action, a coalition of six environmental groups has sued at U.S. District Court in Denver, challenging the Corps of Engineers’ July 2017 decision to issue its permit for the $464 million (in 2025 dollars) project…

The current Denver Water project timeline now shows 2020 to 2026 for the project’s start to completion.

Denver Water Program Manager Jeff Martin answered Case’s recent letter with an April 29 letter, stating that Denver Water nevertheless intends to submit an application to initiate a land review process, citing the “significant resources” it has already expended in preparing its application in “a good faith effort” to comply with county requirements.

Denver Water also argues that processing the utility’s application should not put a financial strain on the county, because “Denver Water will reimburse Boulder County for its time in considering the application.”

#Snowpack/#Runoff news: Otero County commissioners discuss potential flooding scenarios

Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph April 30, 2019 via the NRCS.

From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Christian Burney) The Bent County Democrat:

Southeast Water Conservancy District board member Kevin Karney attended the April 22 Otero Board of County Commissioners meeting to discuss the summer’s projected water levels and the potential for flooding in North La Junta. Land Use Administrator Lex Nichols previously addressed the issue of flooding at a BOCC meeting on March 25.

The water collected in the Pueblo Reservoir and travels through the Lower Arkansas River is controlled by multiple entities, including the Colorado Division of Water Resources, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Whenever levels approach the reservoir’s capacity, the Army Corps of Engineers will release some water into the Arkansas River to prevent over-spill. However, as that water travels downstream, it can collect in North La Junta. If too much water is sent downstream at once, North La Junta cannot bear the load and tends to flood.

Karney attended the BOCC meeting to reiterate the threat posed to North La Junta and to share the Southeast Water Conservancy District’s projected water imports.

When water enters the Pueblo Reservoir flood pool, the Army Corps of Engineers takes over to empty it, said Karney.

The Corps doesn’t technically have any obligation to Otero County to watch how much water they release or how fast they release, Nichols said, but the county had a working relationship with the officials who formerly monitored the Pueblo Reservoir’s flood pool. The problem for Otero County is that those employees have since moved on, and the new crew isn’t savvy to North La Junta’s issue.

Karney encouraged the county to re-establish a working relationship with the new officials to ensure they are aware of North La Junta’s predicament. He indicated it is important to establish that relationship quickly because Southeast Water Conservancy District projections indicate that the county will be receiving higher than average water levels this summer.

In a series of Southeast Water Conservancy District graphics distributed at the BOCC meeting by Karney, the Fryingpan-Arkansas collection basin, as of March, the snowpack levels are at 162 percent above the median.

The historic median for the snow water equivalent of imported water in the Fryingpan-Arkansas collection basin is just over 10 inches for the month of March. In March of this year, however, the collection basin has experienced nearly 20 inches in imported water.

The Upper Arkansas Basin similarly experienced a 143 percent of median in imported water.

The historical median is just below 15 inches of water, while 2019 projections place water import into the Upper Arkansas Basin at 20 inches of water…

In another Southeast Water Conservancy District document provided by Karney, it’s shown that Pueblo Reservoir, as of April 18, contains 242,849 acre-feet of water out of a maximum available capacity of 245,373 acre-feet.

“There’s available 2,524 acre-feet of space before it gets into flood pool,” said Karney.

“We’re going to be running water soon. And a lot of it,” said Commissioner Jim Baldwin.

The total amount of water expected to be [released] down the Lower Arkansas River in the coming months is approximately 90,500 acre-feet of water, it was stated at the meeting. On average, Otero County sees about 50,000 acre-feet of water over the summer.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 30, 2019 via the NRCS.

From Discover Magazine (Tom Yulsman):

…many measuring sites in Colorado experienced their wettest spring on record, according to Paul Miller, a hydrologist for the Colroado River Basin Forecast Center. Temperatures also were relatively cool, limiting the kind of premature snowmelt that has been seen with increasing frequency in recent years…

And that’s especially good news for water supplies in the Colorado River Basin. For the past 20 years, drought, aridification from warming temperatures, and increasing consumption, have caused water levels in the region’s two largest and most critical reservoirs — lakes Mead and Powell — to drop to very concerning levels…

As of the end of March, Lake Powell was at 37 percent of capacity, and Lake Mead was at 42 percent. Even though flows into the latter reservoir are projected to be at 130 percent of average, it would take multiple years like this to bring the water back up to comfortable levels.

Don’t count on that happening. Tighi points out that after a very wet year in 2011, people began speculating that a long-term drought in the Colorado River Basin was over. But 2011 “was followed by two of the driest years on record,” she notes. “We consider ourselves lucky that we got this one year reprieve. But luck and hope is not a way to manage and plan for the future.”

The reprieve does appears to forestall a first-ever shortage declaration by the federal government that would occur when Lake Mead’s level drops to 1,075 feet above sea level. That declaration would trigger significant mandatory cutbacks in water use.