Synopsis: La Niña is favored to continue into the Northern Hemisphere summer (53% chance during June-August 2022), with a 40-50% chance of La Niña or ENSO-neutral thereafter.)
Below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) strengthened during February 2022 across the central and east-central tropical Pacific, with negative anomalies stretching from the central to eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. In particular,the weekly Niño-3.4 index decreased from -0.6°C at the beginning of February to -1.1°C in the last week, while the other Niño SST regions were between -0.6°C and -1.3°C in the last week. Subsurface temperatures anomalies (averaged between 180°-100°W and 0-300m depth) were near zero, as the recent warming associated with the downwelling Kelvin wave has attenuated. Below-average temperatures have expanded near the surface and at depth near~150°W. Tropical atmospheric anomalies strengthened during the past month, with the extension of enhanced low-level easterly winds across the equatorial Pacific and upper-level westerly wind anomalies remaining over the east-central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Suppressed convection strengthened around the Date Line, while convection was enhanced near Indonesia. Overall, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system reflected the continuation of La Niña.
The IRI/CPC plume average for the Niño-3.4 SST index continues to forecast a transition to ENSO-neutral during the Northern Hemisphere spring. This month, the forecaster consensus favors a slower decay of La Niña due to the recent renewal of ocean-atmosphere coupling, which contributed to cooler near-term forecasts from several state-of-the-art climate models. For the summer and beyond, there is large uncertainty in the state of ENSO; however forecasters lean toward negative Niño-3.4 index values even if the index does not reach La Niña thresholds. In summary, La Niña is favored to continue into the Northern Hemisphere summer (53% chance during June-August 2022), with a 40-50% chance of La Niña or ENSO-neutral thereafter.
Several storm systems from the northern Rocky Mountains to the Midwest brought with them rain, snow, and even some severe weather this past week. Temperatures for the week were cooler than normal over the northern Plains and into the West. The coldest readings were in the northern Plains and upper Midwest, with departures of up to 9 degrees below normal. Temperatures were warmer than normal over much of the eastern U.S., with the greatest departures (12-15 degrees above normal) over Tennessee and Kentucky. Areas of the Midwest, central Plains and into the West did see above-normal precipitation this week with areas of Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio receiving over 2 inches of precipitation during the period. The southern Plains and South continue to dry out. As spring approaches and dormancy is broken, impacts are already showing in these areas and drought intensification is widespread with quickly expanding extreme and exceptional drought areas…
Precipitation was mixed in the region as portions of Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas recorded rain and snow during the week, with the winter season being quite dry overall. Temperatures were cooler than normal over the Dakotas and into western Nebraska and Wyoming with temperatures 2-4 degrees below normal. Eastern Nebraska and most of Kansas were warmer than normal with departures of 5-7 degrees above normal. Most of the region did not have any changes this week due to the lingering dryness. Kansas did have some drought intensification with severe drought expanded over the north central part of the state and along the Oklahoma border. With long-term dryness over southwest Kansas, exceptional drought was expanded out of the southern Plains and into southwest Kansas. Extreme southeast Kansas did record enough precipitation for improvement to abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions…
Cooler than normal temperatures were common over the region with departures of 2-4 degrees below normal over much of the West. Some precipitation in the Rocky Mountains, central Utah and Nevada as well as the Pacific Northwest did help with seasonal snow values, reversing a dry trend that most areas have had. In California, there are many who fear that the snowpack has peaked for this season at 61% of normal, which will lead to further drought issues later on. Improvements were made to moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions in northern Idaho and western Montana. Northern Oregon had improvements to severe and extreme drought as well as to abnormally dry conditions. Extreme drought was expanded over portions of southern Oregon. Extreme drought was improved over northwest Colorado as both short- and long-term conditions were improving. A small area of moderate drought was improved over eastern Wyoming while moderate and severe drought were expanded over portions of southern Idaho. The dryness in the southern Plains is also impacting portions of southern and eastern New Mexico, where drought intensified this week. A new pocket of exceptional drought was added in southwest New Mexico while moderate and severe drought expanded in southern New Mexico and extreme drought expanded over eastern New Mexico…
Temperatures were warmer than normal over most of the region, with departures of 9-12 degrees above normal over Tennessee. Areas of northern Oklahoma and Arkansas experienced the only precipitation events in the region with above-normal amounts as most all of the region was quite dry. Degradation continued with drought status over the region. As dormancy breaks and green-up begins, water demand has increased along with warmer temperatures. Exceptional drought was expanded to cover more of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Severe drought was expanded over western Oklahoma along with a new pocket of exceptional drought. A full category worsening of drought conditions took place over west Texas and much of central and east Texas as severe and extreme drought expanded. Mississippi and Louisiana also had widespread degradation with extreme drought expanded over most of southern Louisiana and along the Mississippi River into Mississippi. Moderate and severe drought were also expanded over much of central Mississippi and into southeast Louisiana. The overall pattern from the southern Plains into the South has been dry and warm conditions that will only lead to worsening conditions as spring arrives. The 4-month period from November to February was the 2nd driest such period for Louisiana since 1895 with less than 10 inches of observed precipitation statewide. With some good rains in Louisiana after the data cutoff for consideration this week, there may be some opportunities for improvements next week where the greatest rains occur…
Over the next 5-7 days, it is anticipated that cooler than normal temperatures will dominate the country, with departures of 9-12 degrees below normal over the Rocky Mountains and 3-6 degrees below normal over the Southeast. It is anticipated that the greatest precipitation will take place over the East coast, with local maximum amounts over southern Georgia and north Florida. Most areas are expected to record precipitation, with the northern Plains and California anticipated to be the driest.
The 6-10 day outlooks show that the likelihood of above-normal temperatures is greatest over the eastern half of the U.S., with the best chances over the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast. Above-normal chances of below-normal temperatures are expected over Alaska. The best chances of above-normal precipitation are over the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains and eastern U.S. Above-normal chances of below-normal precipitation are anticipated in the Southwest and northern Plains.
The Colorado health department is investigating a contaminated underground plume issuing from land next to the Denver Fire Training Academy to determine whether it is responsible for high levels of so-called “forever chemicals” in the raw water supply of an Adams County water district that serves more than 65,000 people in the north metro area.
The contamination was discovered in 2018, and since then, officials said, the City of Denver’s fire training center has stopped using the fire-fighting foam containing hazardous PFAS, or poly- and per-fluoroalkyl substances. The compounds have long lifespans and have been linked to certain cancers. Contained in such common substances as Teflon and Scotchguard, they are also widely used to fight fires.
A spokesperson for the fire academy declined to comment on the investigation and referred media inquiries to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, which said via email that it was working with the state to address the problem. It declined an interview request.
Jennifer Talbert, a hazardous materials expert overseeing the investigation for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said she expects the investigation to be done later this year, at which time decisions on how to clean up the contaminants will be made.
“They did discover PFAS within a certain region of the [fire academy] site, but we need to do more sampling and investigation. We’re developing the plume boundary now,” Talbert said.
The four contaminated wells owned by the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District were shut down quickly in 2018 after testing showed extraordinarily high PFAS levels, 2400 parts per trillion (ppt), in the raw water, according to Kipp Scott, manager of water systems at the district.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory standard for PFAS says levels should be no higher than 70 ppt.
Since then the state and the Tri-County Health Department have issued alerts to private well owners in the area, notifying them not to drink the contaminated water. Other residents in the region are served by the South Adams County district, whose water is being treated to reduce PFAS levels to 35 ppt, a level that is considered safe under the existing voluntary federal guideline.
Anyone concerned about potential contaminants in their drinking water can have free testing done.
The CDPHE’s Talbert said it hasn’t determined who is responsible for the contamination and won’t be able to do so until its investigation is finished.
But Scott said no other PFAS sources within the district have been identified other than those found at the fire academy, whose site is less than a half mile from the contaminated wells.
“We infer that that is the largest source in the area that is affecting our groundwater supply,” Scott said. “There are no other sources identified.”
Little was known about the unregulated PFAS chemicals in Colorado until 2015 when national news began appearing about their links to cancer, their prevalence in fire-fighting foam used at military bases and fire-fighting centers, and their presence in groundwater.
Two years ago, as more testing revealed more contaminated sites, the CDPHE vowed to boost its oversight. Since then the Colorado Legislature has provided the health department with more authority and money to combat the problem. CDPHE’s approach has included conducting surveys to identify contaminated sites and affected drinking water systems, spending as much as $8 million to buy contaminated firefighting foam and store it, and helping communities whose water has been tainted by the compounds with testing support and grants to help cover treatment costs.
Dozens of fire departments, military facilities, water utilities, and commercial properties as diverse as hotels and apartment complexes are now monitoring and testing for the substances.
As Colorado ramped up its oversight, last year the EPA announced it would begin work on a regulation that will, for the first time, set an official limit on PFAS compounds in drinking water. It is set to be available for public review this fall and would be finalized by the fall of 2023.
In the meantime, Scott said the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District has spent $5 million to build a sophisticated testing and monitoring lab, and to strengthen its treatment program enough to comply with the 70 ppt federal health advisory limit.
But that won’t be enough long-term to ensure its customers have access to safe drinking water, Scott said, so the district is preparing to install an advanced $70 million treatment system to reduce PFAS levels even further. That price tag is almost three times the size of the district’s annual $26 million budget.
“If the health advisory number should go lower, and we think it will, we don’t have enough capacity to go to a lower number,” Scott said. “And we need that raw water from the wells we shut down to meet future demand.”
Who will pay to correct the situation isn’t clear yet, but Scott said the cost should not fall on his district. “We’ve spent around $5 million treating for this contaminant that is in our water supply, and we did not put it there. But that $5 million cost is being paid by each one of our residents through higher rates and fees.”
CDPHE’s Talbert said cleaning up the contamination near the fire training facility and other sites will likely be complicated because the chemicals have never been regulated and, as a result, methods and technologies for clean-up are still being developed. But she said most residents in the region have access to treated drinking water through their water utilities.
“The science is new,” Talbert said,” and we don’t know the extent of the contamination. If we find that people have an exposure we will get them on bottled water and/or a reverse osmosis system.”
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jerd_smith.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their 2nd part of the Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability on Feb. 28. The report comes as a dire warning about the consequences of inaction, according to a press release from the IPCC.
“(The report) is essentially a literature review of all the science on this topic,” said Dr. Lauren Gifford, an Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Locally, Gifford points to what she sees as a multi-decade drought hitting the Front Range. As well, the Marshall Fire, shifting ski seasons, the Boulder Floods in 2013, more frequent wildfires and the shortage of drinking water that can come from a changing climate.
Just a week earlier, the Westminster City Council nixed climate action from their strategic plan — a big mistake, according to Westminster City Councilor Obi Ezeadi….Both he and Gifford agreed that the evidence is apparent. Gifford studies the intersections of global climate change policy, conservation, markets and justice. She also assisted the 675 contributing authors, on top of the 270 regular authors from 67 different countries…
To shift away from a fossil fuel economy, she urges federal, state and local governments to step in, especially the federal government helping municipal governments who may lose tax revenue. For example, areas that depend on tax revenues from oil and gas would see revenues drop if production slows. That tax base, she said, goes to things like roads, infrastructure, schools and ambulances…
Gifford said that local municipalities play a huge role in combating climate change. Northglenn Mayor Meredith Leighty said their council keeps climate change at the forefront of their conversations while making decisions…
Mayor Jan Kulmann of Thornton — an oil and gas engineer as well — sees her city winning from addressing climate change from a business perspective…She points to increasing municipal electric vehicles, lighting structures to be less energy-intensive and changing yards to need less water.
Thornton City Councilor Julia Marvin would like to see a sustainability manager for the City of Thornton who would oversee a holistic, equitable perspective of sustainability with a dedicated budget. She is also in favor of subsidies for residents to install solar power…
Westminster completed a Sustainability Plan in 2021 with ambitious goals such as having 100% renewable electricity, 100% of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, 100% electric vehicles and 100% energy-efficient, healthy homes. These goals do not have a deadline, however…
[Max Boykoff] also recommended policies to help households switch over to heat pumps, commitments to tree planting and a carbon tax to help fund environmental initiatives and steer folks away from carbon.