The Birds Are Back at Turquoise Lake It’s nice when a plan comes together, but it’s even nicer when that plan has sustainable success, season after season. Such is the case for the bird’s nest platform erected back in August 2016 near the May Queen Campground at the west end of Turquoise Lake located just…
From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton) via EcoWatch:
When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics.
The U.S. Geological Survey researcher had collected rain samples from eight sites along Colorado’s Front Range. The sites are part of a national network for monitoring changes in the chemical composition of rain. Six of the sites are in the urban Boulder-to-Denver corridor. The other two are located in the mountains at higher elevation.
The monitoring network was designed to track nitrogen trends, and Wetherbee, a chemist, wanted to trace the path of airborne nitrogen that is deposited in the national park. The presence of metals or organic materials like coal particles could point to rural or urban sources of nitrogen.
He filtered the samples and then, in an inspired moment, placed the filters under a microscope, to look more closely at what else had accumulated. It was much more than he initially thought.
“It was a serendipitous result,” Wetherbee told Circle of Blue. “An opportune observation and finding.”
In 90 percent of the samples Wetherbee found a rainbow wheel of plastics, mostly fibers and mostly colored blue. Those could have been shed like crumbs from synthetic clothing. But he also found other shapes, like beads and shards. The plastics were tiny, needing magnification of 20 to 40 times to be visible and they were not dense enough to be weighed. More fibers were found in urban sites, but plastics were also spotted in samples from a site at elevation 10,300 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The findings are detailed in a report published online on May 14.
From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):
The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday released its weekly “drought map” that showed, for the first time since the service was created in 2000, Colorado was free from all listings of drought, after a winter of heavy snow and a spring filled with precipitation lifted the state out of the red.
The Drought Monitor’s outlook prompted media reports and chatter on social media that Colorado’s long drought was over. But that conclusion is inaccurate and doesn’t tell the whole story of Colorado’s drying out in the face of climate change, according to several weather and climate experts who spoke to The Durango Herald this week.
The Drought Monitor’s weekly outlook is a snapshot of current conditions and doesn’t take into account long-term trends, said Richard Heim, a meteorologist for NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information, who created last week’s drought map…
“Drought is a very interesting phenomenon because it’s not the presence or occurrence of something, it’s the lack of something,” Heim said. “And it takes a while for drought to develop and for people to notice it.”
The Drought Monitor listed Southwest Colorado in a drought in fall 2017 and, with a practically non-existent winter, put the region in the most extreme level of drought conditions in spring 2018 in what turned out to be the second lowest water year in recorded history.
And there Southwest Colorado remained until this winter put on its best Jekyll and Hyde, resulting in the third largest snowpack since 1986 to hit the San Juan Mountains. As a result, the Drought Monitor started to reduce the severity of drought over the past few months.
But one year of epic snowfall does not end or reverse the long-term trend of drought in Southwest Colorado and other parts of the state, said Taryn Finnessey, a senior climate change specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
“Just because we have one good year … doesn’t negate the realities we’re seeing with consistent warming trends,” she said.
Colorado’s average temperature has risen 2 degrees in the last 30 years and is expected to increase another 2 to 4 degrees by 2050, driven by climate change and fossil fuel emissions. And higher temperatures can increase the intensity and duration of droughts.
Southwest Colorado and the Colorado River basin are particularly vulnerable to these changes. It led to the Colorado River Research Group to assign a new word to explain the region’s new normal.
Reagan Waskom, director of Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute, said the term “drought” no longer explains what is taking place in the Colorado River basin.
The research group’s study emphasized that the Colorado River basin isn’t in a normal drought cycle that is expected to end. Instead, the region’s arid climate is only expected to further dry out, and with rising global temperatures, there doesn’t seem to be any reversal to that pattern in sight…
“The public will forget about drought pretty quickly,” Waskom said. “But we live in a dry land, where it is getting hotter and drier, and we should continually be in front of our thinking how we manage our water resources.”
Indeed, Finnessey said drought has lasting impacts, and it takes a long time to recover forest health and agriculture.
From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):
This year the run-off in Colorado is late. “The native water hasn’t started to flow yet,” said Roy Vaughan with the Bureau of Reclamation. Vaughn is part of the team that helps manage what stored and released from Lake Pueblo Reservoir.
Water released from the dam is currently much less than typical. “We’re releasing about 15 percent of what we normally do this time of year.” The number is a correlation with the amount of run-off flowing into the reservoir. Run-off is late this year. “We see it start and then the weather changes, it cools down and it slows up again. It’s about three weeks late.” For now, spillways are mostly dry.