January 2020 #Drought Update — @CWCB_DNR

From the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Megan Holcomb/Tracy Kosloff):

2019 Calendar Year in Review: 2019 followed one of Colorado’s warmest, driest years on record with a severe drought in southwest Colorado. This drought (of 2018) was followed by a cold, wet 2019 spring and 150% of normal snowpack that helped clear the state of drought by June 2019. The 2019 monsoon season, however, was nearly absent and September 2019 was the hottest September on record. The dry 2019 October set much of the state below normal for the 2020 Water Year. These early deficits can still be made up, particularly with snowpack running slightly above normal to date. This, however, does not guarantee an above average runoff given our dry soils.

  • The 90-day Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) from October 22 – January 19 shows geographically distributed average and slightly below average precipitation statewide.
  • According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, released January 15, D0 (abnormally dry), D1 (moderate drought), and D2 (severe drought) collectively cover 53% of Colorado. 35% of the state is under D3 (extreme) and D4 (exceptional) drought.
  • The long term ENSO forecasts are trending toward neutral conditions remaining for spring and summer 2020, while losing El Niño conditions. This could mean reduced​ odds of SW Colorado spring moisture.
  • NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center shows warmer than average temperature outlooks February through April for the SW half of the state, and normal precipitation outlooks for the entirety of the state.
  • Reservoir storage remains near to above normal (86 to 124% of average) in all major basins and is 109% of average statewide. This time last year reservoirs were 81% of average statewide.
  • Water providers and water users did not report any unusual impacts or concerns at this time.
  • Colorado Drought Monitor January 28, 2020.

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation: A Joint Commitment to the Nation’s Water Infrastructure — @USBR

    The Folsom Dam Auxiliary Spillway project is an approximately $900-million cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation.

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth and Major Kimberly Farmer Mendez):

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation recently released The State of the Infrastructure: A Joint Report by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The two agencies have a long history of collaboration to construct, operate and maintain the nation’s crucial water-related infrastructure.

    National water-related infrastructure provides water supply, hydroelectric power generation, navigation, flood control, recreation and other benefits. Combined, the Army Corps and Reclamation oversee and manage more than 1,200 dams, 153 hydroelectric power plants, over 5,000 recreation areas, 25,000 miles of navigable waterways and tens of thousands of miles of canals and other water conveyance infrastructure. Those facilities provide enough water for 130 million people and irrigation for 10 million acres of farmland. And, combined hydroelectric power plants generate renewable electricity for 10 million homes.

    “Millions of people rely on this infrastructure for their water, their food, and their electricity,” said Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tim Petty, Ph.D. “This partnership is important; it helps us coordinate attention and resources to ensure that infrastructure is robust and well-maintained. I appreciate the partnership between Reclamation and the Army Corps and look forward to continued success moving forward.”

    The partnership between the Army Corps and Reclamation brings together a wide array of resources that serve to enrich public services as well as water resource management and environmental protection. The agencies regularly assess the health, safety and sufficiency of existing infrastructure and continually work to upgrade aging infrastructure and construct new projects to meet the needs of families, farms and communities.

    “This report provides visibility to the public on the vast and diverse federal portfolio of water-related infrastructure our agencies maintain and their value to the safety and economic prosperity of the nation” said Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) R.D. James. “This is a great example of how the Army Corps’ partners and collaborates with other agencies on water-related infrastructure by sharing challenges, best practices and strategies to utilize resources to most efficiently and effectively maintain this critical infrastructure”.

    Affordable power production, reliable water supply, navigation, flood risk reduction, and recreation have a positive impact on the Nation’s economy and are a daily way of life for countless Americans. The rigorous and systematic maintenance programs both agencies use ensure these precious water-related resources will be available for years to come.

    Ongoing attention to the Nation’s water-related infrastructure will provide maximum value to the American people. The Army Corps and Reclamation are jointly committed to the management and maintenance of this critical infrastructure both today and in the future.

    The report is available at http://www.usbr.gov/infrastructure.

    Scientists Discover Alarming Warm Water Under [#Thwaites] Glacier — H2O Radio @H2OTracker #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    From H2O Radio:

    A team of scientists has made an alarming discovery of warm water beneath the so-called “doomsday glacier” in Antarctica. In January, a team of researchers from the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration drilled a 2000-foot hole into Thwaites Glacier, which sits on the western edge of the continent and, for the first time, measured water temperatures more than two degrees Celsius above freezing. The discovery is leading to concerns that the glacier could collapse and raise sea levels nearly a meter, perhaps overwhelming populated areas.

    From the British Antarctic Survey:

    Teams from the US and UK have successfully completed scientific fieldwork in one of the most remote and hostile areas of West Antarctica – coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the continent. This research will help scientists determine whether Thwaites Glacier may collapse in the next few decades and affect future global sea-level rise.

    Thwaites Glacier, covering 192,000 square kilometers (74,000 square miles) an area the size of Florida or Great Britain, is particularly susceptible to climate and ocean changes. Over the past 30 years, the amount of ice flowing out of Thwaites and its neighbouring glaciers has nearly doubled. Already, ice draining from Thwaites into the Amundsen Sea accounts for about four percent of global sea-level rise. A run-away collapse of the glacier would lead to a significant increase in sea levels of around 65cm (25 inches) and scientists want to find out how quickly this could happen.

    The ice front of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. Photo credit: David Vaughan via the British Antarctic Survey.

    Five dedicated teams of scientists and engineers have been working on Thwaites Glacier for the last two months in below freezing temperatures and extreme winds. Two of these teams have used hot water to drill between 300 and 700 metres through the ice to the ocean and sediment beneath. The MELT team drilled two places beneath the glacier using hot water, including within two kilometres of the grounding zone, the area where the glacier meets the sea. The TARSAN team drilled at two locations about 30 kilometres further out on the floating shelf to explore the oceanographic conditions beneath the ice and the GHC team drilled four bedrock cores using a Winkie drill.

    It’s the first time scientists have drilled through Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. Photo credit: British Antarctic Survey

    At the grounding zone site a series of instruments were fed through the borehole – including the small yellow under-ice robot, Icefin, which collected data on how the glacier interacts with the ocean and the underlying sediments. In mid- January, Icefin swam nearly two kilometres from the drill site, right up to the Thwaites grounding zone, to measure, image, and map the melting and dynamics at this critical part of the glacier. Another team (THOR) also extracted five metre-long cores of soft sediment by lowering a metal tube through the two holes in the ice and driving it into the muddy sediment below. This will reveal the past history of the glacier.

    Lead scientist for Icefin, Dr Britney Schmidt from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who’s still working in Antarctica, says:

    At the grounding zone site a series of instruments were fed through the borehole – including the small yellow under-ice robot, Icefin, which collected data on how the glacier interacts with the ocean and the underlying sediments. In mid- January, Icefin swam nearly two kilometres from the drill site, right up to the Thwaites grounding zone, to measure, image, and map the melting and dynamics at this critical part of the glacier. Another team (THOR) also extracted five metre-long cores of soft sediment by lowering a metal tube through the two holes in the ice and driving it into the muddy sediment below. This will reveal the past history of the glacier.

    Lead scientist for Icefin, Dr Britney Schmidt from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who’s still working in Antarctica, says:

    “We designed Icefin to be able to access the grounding zones of glaciers, places where observations have been nearly impossible, but where rapid change is taking place. To have the chance to do this at Thwaites Glacier, which is such a critical hinge point in West Antarctica, is a dream come true for me and my team. The data couldn’t be more exciting.”

    The MELT team test the Icefin robot before deployment through the borehole. Photo: David Vaughan via the British Antarctic Survey

    Dr Keith Nicholls, an oceanographer from British Antarctic Survey and the UK lead on the MELT team says:

    “We know that warmer ocean waters are eroding many of West Antarctica’s glaciers, but we’re particularly concerned about Thwaites. This new data will provide a new perspective of the processes taking place so we can predict future change with more certainty.”
    Dr Paul Cutler, who manages the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) at the US National Science Foundation, says:

    “Thwaites Glacier is extremely remote, with only a handful of people setting foot on it until this year. This has been our first season of land-based fieldwork to get a deeper understanding of this important yet under-studied glacier. It’s amazing to think we’ve only now drilled in this remote region some 200 years after the continent was first sighted.”
    UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore says:

    “This is an exciting achievement by our researchers. We are leading the fight against climate change and UK researchers are at the forefront of investigating the impact of rising temperatures in Antarctica. The Government is making significant investments toward their vital work such as the impact of glaciers melting on future sea-level rise.”

    Over 100 scientists and support staff are participating in the 2019/20 field season on Thwaites Glacier, which is situated some 1600 kms from both the UK’s Rothera Research Station and the US Antarctica Program’s (USAP) station of McMurdo.

    Hot water drilling requires the team to melt snow in large rubber tanks. Photo credit: David Vaughan via the British Antarctic Survey

    The ITGC aims to improve future predictions of global sea-level rise from Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica through a better understanding of the present and past context of ice-sheet dynamics. The project is a collaboration between the US and UK over five years at a cost of $50 Million.

    Notes to Editors:

    The ITGC research teams have worked in Antarctica from November 2019 with fieldwork taking place until March 2020. Most researchers will travel through the US McMurdo research station, and then eastward to camps located near the Antarctic coast. The logistics are primarily hosted by the US Antarctic Program (USAP).

    This austral summer is the second of four field seasons. Five of ITGC’s eight research projects will be deployed in Antarctica focusing on different aspects of the glacier and its environment. This season’s expeditions will undertake work for several ITGC projects: Geological History Constraints on the Magnitude of Grounding-Line Retreat in the Thwaites Glacier System (GHC), Thwaites-Amundsen Regional Survey and Network Integrating Atmosphere-Ice-Ocean Processes (TARSAN), Melting at Thwaites grounding zone and its control on sea level (MELT), Thwaites Interdisciplinary Margin Evolution—The Role of Shear Margin Dynamics in the Future Evolution of Thwaites Drainage Basin (TIME) and Thwaites Offshore Research (THOR).

    Teams are staged at an existing camp on the ice called West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide) while equipment is moved and surveys of surface conditions on Thwaites Glacier are conducted. Moving from WAIS Divide to six smaller research camps allows scientists to use a range of methods to investigate the region. The MELT team comprising glaciologists and engineers used hot water jets to drill through the ice at several sites, allowing them to deploy a suite of instruments, including the robotic AUV/ROV Icefin, to look at how the glacier interacts with the ocean and the underlying sediments. MELT and TARSAN are surveying the region using ice-penetrating radar and active seismic profiles. TARSAN is also using hot water jets to drill through the ice. They are also deploying multisensory stations called AMIGOS to study the ocean circulation underneath the floating ice shelf and the weather patterns to study the environmental factors that influence the structural stability ice shelf. MELT and TARSAN are surveying each region using ice-penetrating radar and active seismic profiles which provide key information on the shape of the ice and the ocean basin. A THOR researcher has retrieved a sediment core from beneath the ice through the holes drilled by the MELT and TARSAN teams.

    Two teams representing the project GHC have been working in the Hudson Mountains and at Mt Murphy, where they are collecting rocks and using radar to collect data on past ice surface elevation changes. The team in the Hudson Mountains will identify suitable sites for subglacial bedrock drilling to take place the following season. The Mt Murphy team have used radar and have drilled through the ice to collect rock samples that were covered by the ice sheet. A team representing TIME have been based at the Eastern Shear Margin inland from the coast, where they have used radar and passive seismics to survey the bed under the glacier at its eastern border.

    This week, a research cruise set off from Chile on USAP’s Nathaniel B. Palmer, a US icebreaker bound for the Amundsen Sea, remaining in the area until March 2020. The expedition will support the THOR and TARSAN projects, which will survey and collect sediment cores from the seabed and tag seals to acquire ocean current and temperature data. The scientists will not set foot on the glacier itself, but rather will study the output of the glacier and the ocean that it flows into—the sediments it drops to the ocean floor, the water temperatures under the glacier and more—in order to reconstruct the history of glacier changes in the area and to improve the reliability of the ice sheet models that are used to predict future sea level change.


    Locals learn snow science during Marble class — The Aspen Times #snowpack #runoff

    Map of the Roaring Fork River drainage basin in western Colorado, USA. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69290878

    From The Aspen Times (Maddie Vincent):

    On Sunday, a group of roughly a dozen locals took part in this snow science method as well, collecting core samples and learning about how snowpack contributes to watersheds during a “field trip for adults” in the Marble area.

    Led annually by the Roaring Fork Conservancy and United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service officials for the past six years, the daylong, hands-on snow science education course has aimed to help locals see snow as integral to our ecosystems year-round, not just as a recreational benefit in the winter, according to Megan Dean, director of education for Roaring Fork Conservancy…

    …[Megan] Dean said the Roaring Fork watershed contributes about 11% of the water that goes into the Colorado water basin, mostly because the valley’s mountains capture and hold a great deal of water via snow…

    After Dean touched on geographic climate trends and key snow science definitions — like the snow water equivalent, which is the actual amount of water in a given volume of snow — soil conservationist Derrick Wyle jumped in to talk snowpack data.

    According to Wyle, who works with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack, precipitation, temperature and other climatic conditions are collected consistently throughout the winter season at NRCS SNOTEL sites…

    So far this year, Wyle said historic and current data for the Colorado water basin show snowpack is about average for this time of year, with a “coin flip chance” of being above or below average for the whole season…

    Karl Wetlaufer (NRCS), explaining the use of a Federal Snow Sampler, SnowEx, February 17, 2017.

    During the second half of the Sunday field trip on McClure Pass, Wyle and Dean showed the group both how to look at snow depth, density and the snow water equivalent manually using a [Federal Snow Sampler] and by digging a snow pit, and how the McClure Pass SNOTEL station works to collect the same data on its own.

    From small measurements to big picture graphs and newer technology to traditional scientific methods, Wyle and Dean aimed to give the group a snow science crash course and to help put the snowpack numbers they may hear in passing or see online into perspective.