Fires, #drought and dust storms: #Colorado’s extreme weather events in the past year — The Ark Valley Voice #ActOnClimate

From The Ark Valley Voice (Brooke Gilmore):

This year, Colorado has seen the two worst fires in its history. On top of this, the dust levels in the Great Plains have doubled in the past 20 years. Both are examples of the real impacts of global warming and the changing of our climate…

It’s November, and the Colorado fires are still not out. According to the Denver Post the East Troublesome Fire, the second-largest fire in Colorado’s history, has burned 193,812 acres and was only 47 percent contained. The Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in Colorado’s history has burned 208, 913 acres and as of November 5 was 92 percent contained with ongoing investigations of the fire…

There are currently seven active wildfires across Colorado. The fire season is in part due to the compound issue of short-term natural climate variability layered with fundamental changes to the long-term climate from global warming. According to the Colorado Climate Center, Colorado is experiencing a drought for the first time since 2013. Fully 97 percent of the state is in exceptional, extreme, or severe drought categories.

The senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, Brad Udall told CBS News “This year was shocking because we had a decent winter and on April 1, we had 100 percent of the snowpack. With 100 percent of snowpack, you’d expect a decent runoff year. Instead, we ended up with 52 percent of what is normal.”

This water runoff is important because how quickly it melts determines water availability for soil and vegetation. The decrease in runoff is due to an increase in evaporation brought on by significant heatwaves in the state.

The high country isn’t the only landscape impacted by rising temperatures and climate change. In October, a storm reminiscent of the dust bowl swept across the Great Plains creating a wall of dust that could be seen from space stretching from eastern Colorado into Nebraska and Kansa.

A study conducted by Gannet Haller, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah, explained that these dust storms have become more common and more intense over the past 20 years, due to frequent droughts and the expansion of croplands. Haller even went as far as to say that the result of this study suggests a tipping point that mirrors the return of conditions of the 1930s dust bowl.

These dust storms remove soil nutrients and decrease agricultural productivity while also presenting health hazards, according to Andy Lambert the co-author of the study and a meteorologist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. This dust contains ultrafine particles that can penetrate cells in the lungs, impacting people with long conditions like Asthma, and causing cancer and heart disease.

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