Fading Fast? Colorado’s Iconic Aspen Trees Will Likely Decline with Climate Change — H2O Radio #ActOnClimate

Aspens October 2019. Photo credit: Hsueh Shih

From H2O Radio:

Tourists in Colorado’s high country might want to snap a lot pictures while they can. Researchers predict that climate change will reduce the number of aspens that make fall color in the Rocky Mountains so captivating.

In Colorado, nothing says fall like a drive in the high country to see the bright orange and yellow leaves of the aspen trees shimmering against a crisp, blue sky. People flock to the mountains not only to see the vibrant colors, but they can hear them, too.

“When the wind blows, they kind of rattle or shake. So it’s sort of a multisensory experience,” says Dr. Jelena Vukomanovic, assistant professor in the North Carolina State University Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.

Vukomanovich and her team of researchers just released a study looking at how the iconic trees in the Colorado landscape will fare in a warming world. Unfortunately for aspens, the future is already here.

Vukomanovich told H2O Radio that scientists are already starting to see declines in aspen trees in recent years because of more drought and warming temperatures but that climatologists aren’t sure that, as the Colorado climate warms, if it will be drier or wetter. Vukomanovich says it’s not clear if the Front Range will “go with the Southwest or the Northwest in terms of changes.” For that reason, she modeled three scenarios: if climate does not change from historical conditions observed from 1980 to 2010; under a 4-degree temperature increase with 15 percent less precipitation; and with a 4-degree decline and 15 percent more precipitation.

NC State News explains that overall, they found that aspen are expected to decline in all three climate scenarios. In the two warmer scenarios, the losses were more than two times greater overall, and aspen loss was even greater in the visible areas from the scenic byways. And, even if current conditions continue, there would be declines in the trees. At elevations between 6500 to 9000 feet where aspen are most abundant, they saw consistent decreases across all three scenarios. At the highest elevations above 9000 feet they saw lower declines, and they think that means the trees will shift to higher elevations as warming occurs.

What the President’s Environmental Rollbacks Mean for Global Warming — The New York Times

From The New York Times (Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer):

President Trump has made dismantling federal climate policies a centerpiece of his administration. A new analysis from the Rhodium Group finds those rollbacks add up to a lot more planet-warming emissions.

A handful of major climate rules reversed or weakened under Mr. Trump could have a significant effect on future emissions.

Together, these rollbacks are expected to result in an additional 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2035.

That’s more than the combined energy emissions of Germany, Britain and Canada in one year.

Graphic credit Climate Central

Slight improvements in #Colorado’s #drought picture — The Kiowa County Press

From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

After weeks of increasingly intense drought, a few areas of improvement appeared in the latest conditions reported for Colorado by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

In north central Colorado, recently expanded extreme drought receded from Larimer and Gilpin counties, along with the eastern portion of Jackson County and parts of Clear Creek, Park, Chaffee and Jefferson counties, to be replaced with severe conditions. A pocket of extreme drought in Washington and Yuma counties was similarly replaced.

Colorado Drought Monitor September 15, 2020.

Severe drought in eastern Larimer and northwest Weld counties gave way to moderate conditions, as it did in Bent and Otero counties.

Drought remained stable elsewhere in the state, leaving most of western Colorado in extreme conditions.

Despite a mix of rain and snow last week for much of the state, topsoil moisture was rated 72 percent short or very short…

Overall, one percent of the state is abnormally dry, unchanged from the prior week. Moderate conditions increased from seven to 10 percent, while severe drought increased from 37 to 39 percent. Extreme drought dropped from 54 to 40 percent of the state…

A small area of exceptional drought – the worst category – that developed three weeks ago remains in central Kiowa County, representing less than one percent of the state’s area.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending September 15, 2020.