#Drought news: Improvements in central and E. #Colorado

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

A tandem of winter storms impacted the country during the week, bringing cold temperatures, heavy snow, and strong winds to the mountainous areas of the west, northern Plains, upper Midwest, and Northeast. Lower elevations and latitudes dealt with a combination of weather impacts, including moderate to heavy rainfall in the Southwest, showers and thunderstorms across the South and lower Midwest, and freezing rain to the Mid-Atlantic regions. Another week of above-normal precipitation in the Southwest continued to alleviate the effects of a sub-par monsoon season. In contrast, relatively little precipitation fell in the Northwest, continuing dryness-related impacts such as low streamflow, dry soils, and poor snowpack. Farther east, rain continued to chip away at lingering dryness in the southern Ohio River Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Southeast while rainfall amounts in Gulf Coast states were generally not enough to stave off developing dryness.

High Plains
Last week’s winter storms brought widespread snow and winds to the northern Plains leaving the Dakotas. Farther south, precipitation in southern Nebraska and northern Kansas was enough to avoid degradations, but not enough to warrant improvements. Southwest Kansas saw an expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) in response to continued developing dryness, low streamflow conditions, and impacts to winter wheat. Eastern Colorado was the one area in the region that saw improvements (to areas of D0 and D1) as the result of cold, wet conditions in November…

The two storms brought record-breaking precipitation to the Southwest, resulting in widespread one-category improvements across southern and central New Mexico, southern and western Arizona, southern California, southern Nevada, and southwest Utah. Heavy precipitation helped erase short-term precipitation deficits, replenished soil moisture, and improved streamflow conditions. Remaining drought and abnormally dry areas in these regions have been designated with an “L” to denote that dryness is only apparent in longer-term (greater than 4 months) indicators. While beneficial, these events were not enough to allow for improvements to the Four Corners area, which has been experiencing deficits for nearly a year. Despite the significant precipitation, much of California was left in D0 (abnormal dryness) after consultation with the state drought monitoring team. While the precipitation has helped improve conditions, water year to date deficits remain. In contrast, dryness continued to develop in the Pacific Northwest, with parts of Oregon and Washington experiencing among the driest Novembers on record. Precipitation over the last 60 days is less than 50 percent of normal across much of the region, resulting in the expansion of D0…

The South saw a mixture of degradations and improvements. Last week’s rainfall resulted in a general one-category improvement across central Texas, while the eastern part of the state continued to dry out with expansions to areas of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1). An area of extreme drought (D3) was also introduced as precipitation deficits continue to build and impact rangeland. Northwest Oklahoma also saw degradations with an expansion of D0 and D1 as continued dryness combined with last week’s high winds resulted in a wildfire outbreak. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the dry weather has dried out topsoil and left winter wheat underdeveloped. Additionally, Arkansas saw expansions to D0, while Louisiana saw expansions in D0 and D1. These areas missed out on the heaviest precipitation and continue to accumulate moisture deficits…

Looking Ahead
According to the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center forecast for the remainder of the week, a storm is expected to bring rain and higher elevation snow to the West Coast, with the highest totals focused over northern California, the southwest corner of Oregon, and the Sierra Nevada. Other areas of the West will likely see lesser amounts. Farther east, cold air moving over the Great Lakes is expected to generate bands of lake effect snow. Elsewhere, dry conditions should be in place for the remainder of the week. By early next week, precipitation will begin to develop over the eastern half of the country with the heaviest amounts favored over portions of the Tennessee Valley, southern Appalachians, and parts of the Ohio River Valley and Mid-Atlantic.

The Climate Prediction Center 6 to 10 day outlook for December 9-13 calls for an outbreak of cold arctic air across the across the lower 48 with temperature departures approaching -15 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather pattern favors above-normal temperatures over Alaska and the West Coast. Variable temperatures are expected along the East Coast. Precipitation is expected to be above normal for most of country, with the exception of California and the Southwest.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending December 3, 2019.

Fort Morgan councillors approve water and sewer rate increases #NISP

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Slade Rand):

Rate increases tied into planning for possible NISP construction, city officials say

Brent Nation, the city’s director of water resources and utilities, proposed to City Council members on Tuesday night rate increases that would mean that city customers will pay 8% more for water utilities and 2% more for sewage utilities starting in January 2020.

The Fort Morgan City Council then unanimously voted to approve those higher rates during the regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

“Looking at your average water bill for a resident in the City of Fort Morgan, it would go from $84 per month up to $90.75 per month, is what (our consultant) was projecting the change would be,” Nation said.

That expected average increase of $6.75 per month for residential customers represents an 8% increase to the monthly consumer charge and a $0.29 bump in the commodity charge per 1,000 gallons of water. The consumer charge for a 3/4-inch water meter will increase from $42.39 to $45.78, and the charge for a 1-inch water meter will rise from $74.05 to $79.97 with the new rates.

Sewer collection rates will increase, as well, in January 2020, with a $0.42 increase in the monthly charge for a 3/4″ residential water meter. The metered consumption charge per 1,000 gallons collected is rising 4 cents or 5 cents depending on the water meter size.

The city is enforcing those higher rates as per the recommendation of a consulting firm Fort Morgan commissioned in 2018 to develop a 10-year water utility financial plan and a five-year sewer utility financial plan. Raftelis Financial Consulting gave the city a report that called for the two recent water rate increases and the sewer rate increase.

Last year, the city also raised water consumer charge rates by a similar 8% across the board…

Nation said the higher rates are necessary to better position the city and its cash reserves for completing the Northern Integrated Supply Project in the coming years, and to support the bond payments that project will require. NISP, which is entering its 16th official year in 2020, could provide up to 40,000 acre-feet of municipal water supplies for 15 cities in the Northern Colorado region by building two large water storage facilities.

Fort Morgan committed to paying a $900,000 portion of NISP’s $10 million budget for the upcoming year during Tuesday’s council meeting.

@NOAA: Indo-Pacific Ocean warming is changing global rainfall patterns #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From NOAA Research News (Monica Allen):

Rainfall declines may affect U.S. West Coast and parts of the East Coast

New research by NOAA and a visiting scientist from India shows that warming of the Indo-Pacific Ocean is altering rainfall patterns from the tropics to the United States, contributing to declines in rainfall on the United States west and east coasts.

In a study published this week in the journal Nature, researchers report a doubling in the size of a warm pool of water spanning the western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean in recent years. This Indo-Pacific warm pool in what is already the warmest part of the global ocean is expanding each year by an area the size of California.

The expansion is changing a key weather and climate feature called the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which is characterized by a band of rain clouds that move over the tropical ocean from the Seychelles off Africa toward India and into the Pacific Ocean, influencing everything from monsoons in India to heat waves and flooding in the United States.

Rainfall patterns are changing around the globe due to warming of the Indo-Pacific Ocean that is altering the Madden-Julian Oscillation — a weather maker that influences weather from India to the United States. The shining sun depicts areas of declining rainfall while the rain clouds show where rainfall is increasing. Credit: Roxy M. Koll, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, et al., Nature

Warming ocean driving change in key climate pattern

The changes in the behavior of the MJO have brought a decline in rainfall to the central Pacific, the west and east coasts of the United States, north India, east Africa and the Yangtze basin in China. These same changes are causing an increase in rainfall over northern Australia, the Amazon basin, southwest Africa and Southeast Asia, researchers conclude.

“NOAA is part of coordinated international efforts to extend the range of accurate weather forecasts out to lead times of two to four weeks and the MJO is one of the most important keys to the success of this enterprise,” said Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and co-author of the study. “Our research provides a critical benchmark for determining which computer models to trust for extended range weather forecasting, based on their ability to simulate the observed behavior of the MJO in changing the climate.”

Though the entire Indo-Pacific Ocean has warmed, the warmest waters are over the west Pacific, creating a temperature contrast that drives moisture from the Indian Ocean to the west, enhancing cloud formation. This has changed the life cycle of the MJO. The length of time these clouds linger over the Indian Ocean has shrunk by four days from an average of 19 to 15 days. Over the west Pacific, the clouds now reside five more days. It is this change in the residence of MJO-driven clouds that is altering weather patterns around the globe, researchers found.

“Climate model simulations indicate that continued warming of the Indo-Pacific Ocean is highly likely, which may further intensify these changes in global rainfall patterns,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, lead author of the study with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology who worked with McPhaden while visiting PMEL for the last year. “This means that we need to enhance our ocean observational arrays to monitor these changes accurately, and update our climate models to skillfully predict the challenges presented by a warming world.”

The study is part of a collaboration between NOAA and India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences, facilitated by the National Academy of Sciences with funding from NOAA’s Climate Program Office Climate Variability and Predictability Program. In addition to McPhaden, Chidong Zhang, also of NOAA PMEL, is a co-author of the research.

For information, please see the article in Nature online : “Twofold expansion of the Indo-Pacific warm pool warps the MJO cycle.”

Media contact: Monica Allen, NOAA Communications, at 202-379-6693 or by email at monica.allen@noaa.gov

@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. Here’s the summary:

Summary: December 3, 2019

The last week’s precipitation analysis is much more colorful than usual for the Intermountain West in late fall/early winter. Two significant storms tracked across the region. Last Monday and Tuesday heavy snow fell across NE CO, and SE WY. Thursday through Saturday, storms produced heavy mountain snows, and winds on the plains. High elevation areas of the Colorado Rockies, received 2.00″-3.00″ of new moisture. Lower elevations benefitted as well with valley totals largely in the 0.50-1.00″ range.

As expected, temperatures were mostly below normal across the IMW. The Colorado Mainstem and Yampa Basins maintained temperatures a little above normal, likely due to downslope winds from Monday/Tuesday’s storm. The rest of the region was on the cool side of average. SE WY and NE CO were as much as 10 degrees below normal for the week.

With a large boost from last week’s storms, above average snowpack is nearly ubiquitous across the IMW. Subbasins in the Tetons and Wind River Range of WY are still just 80-100% of normal snowpack. While the high snowpack is encouraging, it no guarantee of good April numbers. In fact, it is still early enough in the season that a two-week dry spell could bring down these numbers significantly.

Streamflows across the Upper Colorado River Basin are running above normal for the most part. There is a higher proportion of gauges reporting below normal flows in the San Juan and Dolores River Basins. For the most part, reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin are retaining adequate winter storage. Lake Powell, of course, is still below the long-term average. Most major reservoirs, however, are retaining near-normal to above normal storage thanks to last year’s great snowpack.

The coming week’s forecast calls for warmer temperatures and dry conditions across eastern WY, CO, and NM. This should at least partially melt the snow from last week’s blizzard. The UCRB will be wetter. Another 1.00-2.00″ is expected in the high country with measurable precipitation on the plains. The Four Corners area is forecast to see 0.25-0.75″ of precipitation in the valleys. This continued reprieve from the historically dry late summer/early fall is quite welcome.