#Drought news: Moderate to extreme drought covers most of #Colorado and #WY

Click on a thumbnail graphic below 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

High pressure dominated the southern half of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) again during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. Upper-level weather systems tracked across the U.S.-Canadian border, dragging surface lows and fronts along with them. The High brought hot temperatures to much of the South, East, and West, with daily maximum temperatures exceeding 90 degrees F every day. The fronts brought cooler temperatures to the Upper Midwest at the beginning of the week, but maximum temperatures began to exceed 90 degrees across the Plains and eastward as the week wore on. The hot temperatures increased evapotranspiration (ET) which dried soils and stressed crops and other vegetation. This was seen in ET models such as the EDDI and ESI and several soil moisture models, satellite observations of soil moisture, and agricultural field reports. As noted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 27, 50 percent or more of the topsoil moisture was short or very short (dry or very dry) in states across the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, southern Plains, southern to central Rockies, and Far West. For the nation as a whole, 37 percent of the topsoil moisture and 35 percent of the subsoil moisture was short or very short, and 30 percent of the pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition. Drought or abnormal dryness expanded or intensified across parts of the West, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast where little to no rain fell and 30- to 90-day precipitation deficits mounted. But locally heavy rainfall was generated by the fronts in parts of the Plains, Midwest, and East. Heavy rain also fell across southern Texas when Hurricane Hanna struck, and Hurricane Douglas graced parts of Hawaii with beneficial rain. Where the rain fell on drought or abnormally dry areas in these regions, contraction occurred…

High Plains

Areas of 2+ inches of rain occurred over parts of Nebraska and Kansas and a few parts of the Dakotas, while parts of Colorado had an inch or more of rain. But little to no rain fell in a few areas of Kansas, across parts of Nebraska and Colorado, across even more of the Dakotas, and across most of Wyoming. Contraction of abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought occurred across Kansas and parts of Colorado; abnormal dryness and moderate to severe drought contracted in parts of Nebraska; and abnormal dryness and moderate drought were trimmed in parts of the Dakotas. But abnormal dryness or moderate drought expanded in parts of Colorado and the Dakotas, and abnormal dryness and moderate to severe drought expanded in Nebraska. Wyoming saw expansion of abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought. Moderate to extreme drought covers most of Colorado and Wyoming…

West
The Southwest Monsoon sparked some showers over New Mexico, with a few showers making an appearance over parts of Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Montana, but most of the West received little to no rain this week. Severe drought disappeared from southwest Montana, but the rain that fell in New Mexico was not enough to improve conditions there. Severe to extreme drought expanded in New Mexico; moderate to extreme drought expanded in Utah, and Nevada; moderate to severe drought grew in Arizona; abnormal dryness and moderate to severe drought added acres in Montana; and moderate drought expanded in northeast California and adjacent Nevada…

South

Central Oklahoma was inundated with heavy frontal rain while Hanna brought heavy rain to the Gulf Coast from southern Texas to Mississippi. Rainfall exceeded 3 inches in these areas, with locally heavier amounts. Parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and northern Texas received an inch or more of rain. But little to no rain occurred in a large swath from southwest Texas to western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought contracted, especially in central Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. Abnormal dryness contracted in parts of Tennessee and Louisiana. But abnormal dryness expanded in parts of eastern Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Abnormal dryness and moderate to extreme drought expanded in other parts of Texas…

Looking Ahead

For July 30-August 3, the ridge of high pressure shifts to the West with a trough setting up in the upper atmosphere over the eastern half of the CONUS. Little to no rain is forecast for most of the West, with half an inch or less across parts of the Rockies and only a couple inches stretching across the middle of New Mexico. But an inch or more of rain is expected from the central Plains to southern Appalachians and southern Great Lakes, with heavy rain (4 inches or more) widespread from Missouri and northern Arkansas to Kentucky, Indiana, and western North Carolina. A tropical system is predicted to sideswipe the East Coast, dumping an inch or more of rain across Florida to the Mid-Atlantic states, 3 or more inches over southern Florida, and up to 2 inches over eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia. Half an inch or less of rain is expected from Texas to southwest Georgia, and across the northern Plains to wester Great Lakes. In the Northeast, predicted precipitation amounts range from nearly 2 inches in western New York to a tenth of an inch along coastal New England. The ridge will keep temperatures warmer than normal in the West while the trough brings cooler-than-normal temperatures to much of the CONUS east of the Rockies. The outlook for August 4-8 calls for a greater than average chance of wetter-than-normal conditions along the East Coast, in the northern Plains, across Deep South Texas, and most of Alaska. Odds favor drier-than-normal conditions across most of the West, the southern Plains, the central Gulf of Mexico coast to the Great Lakes, and over northern Alaska. Warmer-than-normal temperatures are likely across the Southwest and along the immediate East Coast, while cooler-than-normal temperatures are likely to dominate from the Plains to Appalachians, in the Pacific Northwest, and across most of Alaska.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 28, 2020.

Navajo Nation Sees Farming Renaissance During #Coronavirus Pandemic — KUNC #COVID19

The $1 billion Navajo-Gallup water pipeline will take 12 years to build and could serve as many as 250,000 people a year by 2040, officials say. Image via Cronkite News.

From KUNC (Laurel Morales):

Historically Navajos have lived off the land. But decades of assimilation, forced relocation and dependence on federal food distribution programs changed that.

Navajo farmer Tyrone Thompson is on a mission to help people return to their roots. He’s even taken to social media to teach traditional farming techniques.

In a recent video he demonstrates how to layer organic matter to turn dry clay into rich fertile soil.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls the Navajo Nation a food desert. People travel up to 40 miles to get their groceries. But Thompson says they don’t have to.

“As we see the shelves emptying of food and toilet paper we kind of reconnect to our roots,” Thompson says. “Some of the tools that were given by our elders and our ancestors — our planting stick and our steering sticks — those are our weapons against hunger and poverty and sickness.”

Yes, kids can get COVID-19 – 3 pediatricians explain what’s known about #coronavirus and children — The Conversation #COVID19


Children are at risk of getting sick from coronavirus and need to practice social distancing and mask wearing too.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Kathryn Moffett-Bradford, West Virginia University; Martin Weisse, West Virginia University, and Shipra Gupta, West Virginia University

We are three pediatric infectious disease specialists who live and work in West Virginia. The West Virginia University health system serves 400,000 children and according to our internal data, to date, 2,520 children up to 17 years of age have been tested for the coronavirus. Sixty-seven of them tested positive and one became sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.

We are asked almost daily about children and COVID-19: Do they get COVID-19? Should they attend day care or school, play sports, see friends and attend summer camps? What are the risks to themselves and to others?

Based on current research and our own experiences, it would seem that kids 17 years old and younger face little risk from the coronavirus. Nearly all children have asymptomatic, very mild or mild disease, but a small percentage of children do get very sick. Additionally, there is evidence that children can spread the virus to others, and with huge outbreaks occurring all across the U.S, these realities raise serious concerns about school reopenings and how children should navigate the pandemic world.

A doctor in personal protective gear treating a young child inside of an ambulance.
Though somewhat rare, children can get severely ill from the coronavirus and a few have died.
John Moore/Getty Images News via Getty Images

Children at risk

When considering the role of children in this pandemic, the first question to ask is whether they can get infected, and if so, how often.

Of the 149,082 reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of late April, only 2,572 – 1.7% – were children, despite children making up 22% of the U.S population.

But current research shows that children are physiologically just as likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as adults. This discrepancy between case numbers and biological susceptibility may be due to the fact that children generally generally have minimal to mild symptoms when infected with the coronavirus and are therefore less likely to get tested. It also may be that children in general have had less exposure to the virus compared to adults. Kids aren’t going to work, they are probably going out to stores less than adults, and in the states that had relaxed quarantine measures, they aren’t going out to bars or gyms.

Even though children are less likely to get sick from the coronavirus, they are definitely not immune. Data shows that children less than one year old and those with underlying conditions are the most likely to be hospitalized. These kids usually experience the respiratory distress commonly associated of COVID-19 and often need oxygen and intensive care support. As of July 11, 36 kids 14 or younger had died from the virus.

In addition to the typical COVID-19 cases, recently there have been some frightening reports of children’s immune systems going haywire after they are exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

Notable are reports of Kawasaki disease. Normally, Kawasaki disease affects toddlers and preschool children, causing prolonged high fever, rash, eye redness, mouth swelling and swelling of arteries in the heart. The vast majority of children that get Kawasaki disease survive when given treatments that bring down the swelling, but sadly, a few children have died from it, after exposure to the coronavirus led to the disease. Physicians don’t know what causes Kawasaki disease normally or why a coronavirus infection could trigger it.

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In the past few months, there have also been reports of some children, after becoming infected with the coronavirus, experiencing fever and rash along with a life-threatening blood pressure drop and sudden severe heart failure. The children and teenagers with this COVID-19-related shock syndrome – now named multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C – are older than those doctors usually see with Kawasaki disease. Experts think these two illness are not the same, despite having similar features and similar treatments.

A group of kids without masks gather around a teacher wearing a mask outside.
Research shows that kids are able to spread the coronavirus – older children more easily than younger children.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Children as spreaders

So if kids can catch the coronavirus, the next important question is: How easily can they spread it? Since children have milder symptoms, some experts think that children are probably not the drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, recent research has shown that most kids who catch the coronavirus get it from their parents, not other children.

Small children may have weaker coughs and therefore would release fewer infectious virus particles into their environment. A recent study from South Korea found that while young children seem less able to spread the disease compared to adults, children 10 to 19 years old spread the virus at least as well as the adults do. The lack of evidence that children are major sources of transmission may simply be because the pathway of infection was interrupted due to the nationwide school closures in the spring. As children resume more of their normal daily activities – like school, sports and day care – we just might find the answer to how easily children spread this dangerous virus.

Two boys in a classroom wearing masks, with one raising his hand.
Should schools reopen if children can get sick from and spread the coronavirus?
AP Photo/LM Otero, File

So what now?

The evidence clearly shows that all people, regardless of age, can get infected by SARS-CoV-2. While research shows that kids are more resistant to severe illness from the coronavirus, they are still at risk and can spread the virus even if they themselves are not sick.

Given all this information, a question naturally arises: Should schools reopen in the coming weeks? In places where transmission rates are low, reopening schools could be a viable option. But at the present time, in the U.S., new case numbers are surging in most states. This requires a more nuanced approach than a full-scale reopening of schools.

Since young children face low risk of getting seriously ill, are less likely to spread the disease and benefit greatly from in-person interactions, we believe in-school learning should be considered. Opening schools for elementary school children, and coming up with increasingly online options for the older grades, could be one way to approach this thorny problem.The Conversation

Kathryn Moffett-Bradford, Professor of Pediatrics, Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, West Virginia University; Martin Weisse, Professor of Pediatrics, West Virginia University, and Shipra Gupta, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease, West Virginia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

@USBR to Host Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations Public Meeting #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From email from Reclamation (Elizabeth Jones):

The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled the annual public meeting to discuss the Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations for the 2020 water year.

The meeting will be held on August 5, 2020, from 6:30-8:00 pm using Webex (Webex is a web-based platform that hosts online meetings with HD video, audio and screen sharing.)

To join from a mobile device (attendees only):
Dial: 1-415-527-5035, 1992510741## US Toll

To join by phone:
Dial: 1-415-527-5035 US Toll

The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2020 projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. Also, representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation on the upcoming implementation of the Ute Water Conservancy District and Garfield County leases of Ruedi Reservoir water to the Board for instream flow use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.

For more information, please contact Tim Miller, Hydrologist, Eastern Colorado Area Office, by phone or e-mail: (970) 290-4895, or tmiller@usbr.gov.

The blue expanse of Ruedi Reservoir as seen from the air. Students with the Carbondale-based Youth Water Leadership Program took to the air with EcoFlight to see how people have modified water in the Roaring Fork watershed. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Interview: ‘Not Another Decade to Waste’ — How to Speed up the Clean Energy Transition — The Revelator #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Wind turbines, Weld County, 2015. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

From The Revelator (Tara Lohan):

Energy policy expert Leah Stokes explains who’s pushing climate delay and denial — it’s not just fossil fuel companies — and what we need to do now

The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14% in April. But the drop won’t last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7% this year.

After that, unless we make substantial changes to global economies, it will be back to business as usual — and a path that leads directly to runaway climate change. If we want to reverse course, say the world’s leading scientists, we have about a decade to right the ship.

That’s because we’ve squandered a lot of time. “The 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s were lost decades for preventing global climate disaster,” political scientist Leah Stokes writes in her new book Short Circuiting Policy, which looks at the history of clean energy policy in the United States.

But we don’t all bear equal responsibility for the tragic delay.

“Some actors in society have more power than others to shape how our economy is fueled,” writes Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We are not all equally to blame.”

Short Circuiting Policy focuses on the role of one particularly bad actor: electric utilities. Their history of obstructing a clean-energy transition in the United States has been largely overlooked, with most of the finger-pointing aimed at fossil fuel companies (and for good reason).

We spoke with Stokes about this history of delay and denial from the utility industry, how to accelerate the speed and scale of clean-energy growth, and whether we can get past the polarizing rhetoric and politics around clean energy.

What lessons can we learn from your research to guide us right now, in what seems like a really critical time in the fight to halt climate change?

What a lot of people don’t understand is that to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we actually have to reduce emissions by around 7-8% every single year from now until 2030, which is what the emissions drop is likely to be this year because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Lean Stokes. Photo credit: University of California Santa Barbara

So think about what it took to reduce emissions by that much and think about how we have to do that every single year.

It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be some big sacrifice, but it does mean that we need government policy, particularly at the federal level, because state policy can only go so far. We’ve been living off state policy for more than three decades now and we need our federal government to act.

Where are we now, in terms of our progress on renewable energy and how far we need to go?

A lot of people think renewable energy is growing “so fast” and it’s “so amazing.” But first of all, during the coronavirus pandemic, the renewable energy industry is actually doing very poorly. It’s losing a lot of jobs. And secondly, we were not moving fast enough even before the coronavirus crisis, because renewable energy in the best year grew by only 1.3%.

Right now we’re at around 36-37% clean energy. That includes nuclear, hydropower and new renewables like wind, solar and geothermal. But hydropower and nuclear aren’t growing. Nuclear supplies about 20% of the grid and hydro about 5% depending on the year. And then the rest is renewable. So we’re at about 10% renewables, and in the best year, we’re only adding 1% to that.

Generally, we need to be moving about eight times faster than we’ve been moving in our best years. (To visualize this idea, I came up with the narwhal curve.)

How do we overcome these fundamental issues of speed and scale?

We need actual government policy that supports it. We have never had a clean electricity standard or renewable portfolio standard at the federal level. That’s the main law that I write all about at the state level. Where those policies are in place, a lot of progress has been made — places like California and even, to a limited extent, Texas.

We need our federal government to be focusing on this crisis. Even the really small, piecemeal clean-energy policies we have at the federal level are going away. In December Congress didn’t extend the investment tax credit and the production tax credit, just like they didn’t extend or improve the electric vehicle tax credit.

And now during the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of the money going toward the energy sector in the CARES Act is going toward propping up dying fossil fuel companies and not toward supporting the renewable energy industry.

So we are moving in the wrong direction.

Clean energy hasn’t always been such a partisan issue. Why did it become so polarizing?

What I argue in my book, with evidence, is that electric utilities and fossil fuel companies have been intentionally driving polarization. And they’ve done this in part by running challengers in primary elections against Republicans who don’t agree with them.

Basically, fossil fuel companies and electric utilities are telling Republicans that you can’t hold office and support climate action. That has really shifted the incentives within the party in a very short time period.

It’s not like the Democrats have moved so far left on climate. The Democrats have stayed in pretty much the same place and the Republicans have moved to the right. And I argue that that’s because of electric utilities and fossil fuel companies trying to delay action.

And their reason for doing that is simply about their bottom line and keeping their share of the market?

Exactly. You have to remember that delay and denial on climate change is a profitable enterprise for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities. The longer we wait to act on the crisis, the more money they can make because they can extract more fossil fuels from their reserves and they can pay more of their debt at their coal plants and natural gas plants. So delay and denial is a money-making business for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities.

There’s been a lot of research, reporting and even legal action in recent years about the role of fossil fuel companies in discrediting climate science. From reading your book, it seems that electric utilities are just as guilty. Is that right?

Yes, far less attention has been paid to electric utilities, which play a really critical role. They preside over legacy investments into coal and natural gas, and some of them continue to propose building new natural gas.

They were just as involved in promoting climate denial in the 1980s and 90s as fossil fuel companies, as I document in my book. And some of them, like Southern Company, have continued to promote climate denial to basically the present day.

But that’s not the only dark part of their history.

Electric utilities promoted energy systems that are pretty wasteful. They built these centralized fossil fuel power plants rather than having co-generation plants that were onsite at industrial locations where manufacturing is happening, and where you need both steam heat — which is a waste product from electricity — and the electricity itself. That actually created a lot of waste in the system and we burned a lot more fossil fuels than if we had a decentralized system.

The other thing they’ve done in the more modern period is really resisted the energy transition. They’ve resisted renewable portfolio standards and net metering laws that allow for more clean energy to come onto the grid. They’ve tried to roll them back. They’ve been successful in some cases, and they’ve blocked new laws from passing when targets were met.

You wrote that, “Partisan polarization on climate is not inevitable — support could shift back to the bipartisanship we saw before 2008.” What would it take to actually make that happen?

Well, on the one hand, you need to get the Democratic Party to care more about climate change and to really understand the stakes. And if you want to do that, I think the work of the Justice Democrats is important. They have primary-challenged incumbent Democrats who don’t care enough about climate change. That is how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected. She was a primary challenger and she has really championed climate action in the Green New Deal.

The other thing is that the public supports climate action. Democrats do in huge numbers. Independents do. And to some extent Republicans do, particularly young Republicans.

So communicating the extent of public concern on these issues is really important because, as I’ve shown in other research, politicians don’t know how much public concern there is on climate change. They dramatically underestimate support for climate action.

I think the media has a really important role to play because it’s very rare that a climate event, like a disaster that is caused by climate change, is actually linked to climate change in media reporting.

But people might live through a wildfire or a hurricane or a heat wave, but nobody’s going to tell them through the media that this is climate change. So we really need our reporters to be doing a better job linking people’s lived experiences to climate change.

With economic stimulus efforts ramping up because of the COVD-19 pandemic, are we in danger of missing a chance to help boost a clean energy economy?

I think so many people understand that stimulus spending is an opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that creates good-paying jobs in the clean-energy sector that protects Americans’ health.

We know that breathing dirty air makes people more likely to die from COVID-19. So this is a big opportunity to create an economy that’s more just for all Americans.

But unfortunately, we really are not pivoting toward creating a clean economy, which is what we need to be doing. This is an opportunity to really focus on the climate crisis because we have delayed for more than 30 years. There is not another decade to waste.

Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
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