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Contiguous U.S. experienced a warm, dry June, and Alaska ranked seventh wettest for the month
The June contiguous U.S. temperature was 70.3°F, 1.8°F above the 20th-century average, ranking in the warmest third of the 126-year record. The year-to-date average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 50.0°F, 2.4°F above the 20th-century average, and ranked eighth warmest in the January-June record.
The June precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.72 inches, 0.21 inch below average, and ranked in the driest third of the 126-year period of record. Despite the dry conditions during June, the precipitation total for January-June was 16.32 inches, 1.01 inches above average, and ranked in the wettest third of the 126-year record.
There were 10 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters identified during January-June, which makes 2020 the sixth consecutive calendar year where 10 or more separate events were identified — a new record. All 10 disasters were due to severe storms with impacts from tornadoes, hail and high wind damage across more than 30 states.
This monthly summary from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.
- The primary circulation pattern during June was a ridge over the Great Plains with troughs along the East and West coasts. This brought above-average heat to the central U.S. and kept parts of the West and Southeast cooler than average.
- Above-average June temperatures were observed across portions of the West and Gulf coasts as well as from the Southwest to the northern Plains and from the Great Lakes into New England. Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota and Kansas ranked eighth warmest for the month.
- Below-average June temperatures were scattered across portions of the Deep South, Southeast and northern Rockies. However, only South Carolina ranked in the coolest third of its historical distribution for the month.
- The Alaska average June temperature was 50.5°F, 1.3°F above the long-term mean and ranked in the warmest third of the historical record for the state. Overall, western Alaska was warmer than average while the southeastern part of the state was near or below average for the month.
- Sea ice melt in the Chukchi Sea was slower than average for this time of year. June sea ice extent was 92% of average, which is the highest amount for June observed since 2017 and much higher than the record low extent observed during June 2019.
Above-average precipitation was observed across portions of the Pacific Northwest, northern and central Rockies, Great Lakes, Deep South and the Mid-Atlantic regions. Idaho ranked 13th wettest while an additional 10 states ranked in the wettest third of their historical distribution for June. Below-average precipitation occurred across portions of the Southwest, Great Plains, Ohio Valley, Southeast and much of the Northeast. Maine ranked 13th driest while 16 additional states ranked in the driest third of their record for June. Alaska received 3.24 inches of precipitation during June, which is 0.90 inch above average and ranked seventh wettest on record. Both Juneau and Ketchikan in the Panhandle had their wettest June on record. Across the Interior, Northway, Delta Junction and Fairbanks had a top-five wettest June, while Denali National Park ranked sixth wettest. According to the June 30 U.S. Drought Monitor report, approximately 25.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from nearly 20 percent at the beginning of June. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the Plains, Rockies, Southwest, Northwest and Puerto Rico. Drought blossomed across much of the Northeast during June as a result of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. Drought conditions improved across parts of Hawaii and were eliminated across the Florida Panhandle.
Year-to-date (January-June) Temperature
Above-average to record-warm January-June temperatures were observed across the vast majority of the Lower 48 states. Florida ranked warmest on record for this six-month period while New Jersey ranked third warmest and Rhode Island and Massachusetts ranked fourth warmest. The Alaska statewide average temperature for the year-to-date period was 21.4°F, 0.1°F below average, and ranked in the middle third of the record. Above-average temperatures were located across the Aleutians, part of the West Coast region and portions of the eastern North Slope. Below-average temperatures were concentrated across much of the Southeast Interior, Cook Inlet and southern Northeast Interior regions.
Year-to-date (January-June) Precipitation
Above-average precipitation occurred across portions of the Northwest and Southwest and from Texas to the Great Lakes and into the Southeast. Tennessee ranked wettest on record, North Carolina ranked fourth wettest and West Virginia and Alabama ranked fifth wettest for this year-to-date period. Below-average precipitation was observed from the West Coast into parts of the central and southern Rockies and from the southern High Plains to the Northern Tier. Below-average conditions were also present across the Northeast and parts of Florida. North Dakota had the sixth driest and Colorado eighth driest January-June on record. Through the end of June, 10 weather and climate disaster events have been identified, with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the U.S. during 2020. All 10 events were due to severe storms, which occurred across more than 30 states from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. In addition to significant economic impacts, these events resulted in 80 fatalities. This is a record sixth consecutive year with at least 10 separate billion-dollar disasters and is at near-record pace for billion-dollar disasters during the first half of the year — 2020 is tied with 2011 and 2016, but trailing 2017 by one event. Since these records began in 1980, the U.S. has sustained 273 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on the CPI adjustment to 2020) per event. The total cost of these 273 events exceeds $1.75 trillion.
From Bloomberg Law (Ellen M. Gilmer):
The Trump administration’s adoption of narrower protections for wetlands and waterways can take effect almost everywhere in the nation, except Colorado, while courts review whether the move was legal.
A federal Judge in California on Friday rejected a request for a nationwide injunction of the rule. Hours later, a federal Judge in Colorado agreed to freeze the federal rule within that state.
The California court’s decision is a major blow to environmentalists and states that had hoped to block the Navigable Waters Protection Rule across the country before it takes effect Monday. Colorado, meanwhile, is celebrating its success in blocking the rule in the Centennial State.
A coalition of liberal states and cities challenged the joint rule from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, saying the agencies violated multiple federal laws. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard a marathon session of arguments June 18…
Colorado had filed its own legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
Judge William J. Martinez said some of the state’s arguments were “unusual and partly self-contradictory,” but concluded that the state met the bar for a preliminary injunction, which will put the regulation on hold in that state while the litigation plays out.
Other lawsuits attacking the regulation are pending in district courts across the country, where litigants are pursuing similar efforts to block the measure.
The Trump rule defines which types of wetlands and waterways are subject to federal regulations under the Clean Water Act. The interpretation replaces the Obama-era Clean Water Rule and a set of Reagan-era regulations.
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NARROW WOTUS ON HOLD IN CO
The adoption of narrower Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands is currently blocked in Colorado, as a result of a court ruling on the state’s challenge to the new federal rule. Details are in this Bloomberg Law report.
Bemoaning uneven individual and state compliance with public health recommendations, top U.S. COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci recently blamed the country’s ineffective pandemic response on an American “anti-science bias.” He called this bias “inconceivable,” because “science is truth.” Fauci compared those discounting the importance of masks and social distancing to “anti-vaxxers” in their “amazing” refusal to listen to science.
It is Fauci’s profession of amazement that amazes me. As well-versed as he is in the science of the coronavirus, he’s overlooking the well-established science of “anti-science bias,” or science denial.
Americans increasingly exist in highly polarized, informationally insulated ideological communities occupying their own information universes.
Within segments of the political blogosphere, global warming is dismissed as either a hoax or so uncertain as to be unworthy of response. Within other geographic or online communities, the science of vaccine safety, fluoridated drinking water and genetically modified foods is distorted or ignored. There is a marked gap in expressed concern over the coronavirus depending on political party affiliation, apparently based in part on partisan disagreements over factual issues like the effectiveness of social distancing or the actual COVID-19 death rate.
In theory, resolving factual disputes should be relatively easy: Just present strong evidence, or evidence of a strong expert consensus. This approach succeeds most of the time, when the issue is, say, the atomic weight of hydrogen.
But things don’t work that way when scientific advice presents a picture that threatens someone’s perceived interests or ideological worldview. In practice, it turns out that one’s political, religious or ethnic identity quite effectively predicts one’s willingness to accept expertise on any given politicized issue.
“Motivated reasoning” is what social scientists call the process of deciding what evidence to accept based on the conclusion one prefers. As I explain in my book, “The Truth About Denial,” this very human tendency applies to all kinds of facts about the physical world, economic history and current events.
Denial doesn’t stem from ignorance
The interdisciplinary study of this phenomenon has made one thing clear: The failure of various groups to acknowledge the truth about, say, climate change, is not explained by a lack of information about the scientific consensus on the subject.
Instead, what strongly predicts denial of expertise on many controversial topics is simply one’s political persuasion.
A 2015 metastudy showed that ideological polarization over the reality of climate change actually increases with respondents’ knowledge of politics, science and/or energy policy. The chances that a conservative is a climate science denier is significantly higher if he or she is college educated. Conservatives scoring highest on tests for cognitive sophistication or quantitative reasoning skills are most susceptible to motivated reasoning about climate science.
Denialism is not just a problem for conservatives. Studies have found liberals are less likely to accept a hypothetical expert consensus on the possibility of safe storage of nuclear waste, or on the effects of concealed-carry gun laws.
Denial is natural
The human talent for rationalization is a product of many hundreds of thousands of years of adaptation. Our ancestors evolved in small groups, where cooperation and persuasion had at least as much to do with reproductive success as holding accurate factual beliefs about the world. Assimilation into one’s tribe required assimilation into the group’s ideological belief system – regardless of whether it was grounded in science or superstition. An instinctive bias in favor of one’s “in-group” and its worldview is deeply ingrained in human psychology.
A human being’s very sense of self is intimately tied up with his or her identity group’s status and beliefs. Unsurprisingly, then, people respond automatically and defensively to information that threatens the worldview of groups with which they identify. We respond with rationalization and selective assessment of evidence – that is, we engage in “confirmation bias,” giving credit to expert testimony we like while finding reasons to reject the rest.
Unwelcome information can also threaten in other ways. “System justification” theorists like psychologist John Jost have shown how situations that represent a perceived threat to established systems trigger inflexible thinking. For example, populations experiencing economic distress or an external threat have often turned to authoritarian leaders who promise security and stability.
In ideologically charged situations, one’s prejudices end up affecting one’s factual beliefs. Insofar as you define yourself in terms of your cultural affiliations, your attachment to the social or economic status quo, or a combination, information that threatens your belief system – say, about the negative effects of industrial production on the environment – can threaten your sense of identity itself. If trusted political leaders or partisan media are telling you that the COVID-19 crisis is overblown, factual information about a scientific consensus to the contrary can feel like a personal attack.
Denial is everywhere
This kind of affect-laden, motivated thinking explains a wide range of examples of an extreme, evidence-resistant rejection of historical fact and scientific consensus.
Have tax cuts been shown to pay for themselves in terms of economic growth? Do communities with high numbers of immigrants have higher rates of violent crime? Did Russia interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election? Predictably, expert opinion regarding such matters is treated by partisan media as though evidence is itself inherently partisan.
Denialist phenomena are many and varied, but the story behind them is, ultimately, quite simple. Human cognition is inseparable from the unconscious emotional responses that go with it. Under the right conditions, universal human traits like in-group favoritism, existential anxiety and a desire for stability and control combine into a toxic, system-justifying identity politics.
Science denial is notoriously resistant to facts because it isn’t about facts in the first place. Science denial is an expression of identity – usually in the face of perceived threats to the social and economic status quo – and it typically manifests in response to elite messaging.
I’d be very surprised if Anthony Fauci is, in fact, actually unaware of the significant impact of politics on COVID-19 attitudes, or of what signals are being sent by Republican state government officials’ statements, partisan mask refusal in Congress, or the recent Trump rally in Tulsa. Effective science communication is critically important because of the profound effects partisan messaging can have on public attitudes. Vaccination, resource depletion, climate and COVID-19 are life-and-death matters. To successfully tackle them, we must not ignore what the science tells us about science denial.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Jan. 31, 2020.
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