Changing snowfall makes it harder to fight fire with fire — The Associated Press

Women in Prescribed Fire Training Exchange participants practice different controlled burning ignition patterns. Photo courtesy Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network via USDA

Click the link to read the article on the Associated Press website (Brittany Peterson and Matthew Brown). Here’s an excerpt:

[Controlled burn] operations are a central piece of the Biden administration’s $50 billion plan to reduce the density of western forests that have been exploding into firestorms as climate change bakes the region. But the same warming trends that worsen wildfires will also challenge the administration’s attempts to guard against them. Increasingly erratic weather means snow is not always there when needed to safely burn off tall debris piles like those on Colorado’s Pike-San Isabel National Forest. And that seriously complicates the job of exhausted firefighters, now forced into service year-round…Western wildfires have become more volatile as climate change dries forests already thick with vegetation from years of intensive fire suppression. And the window for controlled burns is shrinking.

“It’s been a little bit harder just because of shorter winters,” said David Needham, a U.S. Forest Service ranger who led the Colorado burn operation in late February when the thermometer hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 Celsius). Surrounding hillsides showed barren scars from past wildfires, including a 2002 blaze that destroyed 133 homes and at the time was the largest in state history.

Aerial view from the south of Hayman Fire June 30, 2002. Road traversing from left to right is U.S. Highway 24. Town of Manitou Springs is in lower part of photo, Colorado Springs to the right. Garden of the Gods park defined by three upright orange rock formations in right center just below smoke line. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Here’s an annual reminder (from Water Year 2021) that for every cold record we break, there are 2 or more warm records broken. @ClimateBecky #cowx #Colorado

#Nebraska canal project targets #Colorado clears key hurdle — DenverChannel.com #SouthPlatteRiver

Ovid, entering from the east on U.S. Route 138. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56445787

Click the link to read the article on TheDenverChannel.com website (Via the Associated press: Grant Schulte). Here’s an excerpt:

State lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would allow Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources to lay the groundwork for the estimated $500 million canal…The measure advanced, 36-3, through the first of three required votes in the Legislature despite skepticism from some lawmakers about whether the canal is necessary.

The Latest Briefing (March 8, 2022) is hot off the presses from Western Water Assessment

Click the link to go to the Western Water Assessment Climate Dashboard. Here’s an excerpt:

Dry conditions continued across much of the region during February and regional snowpack generally declined relative to normal despite below average temperatures. March 1st seasonal streamflow volume forecasts also declined compared to February 1st forecasts. Streamflow forecasts generally range from below normal to slightly above normal throughout the region and the inflow to Lake Powell is forecasted to be 72% of median. Drought persists across 97% of the region and extreme drought developed in northwestern Wyoming. Current La Niña conditions and NOAA seasonal forecasts suggests that significant alleviation of drought conditions will not occur during the remainder of winter.

February precipitation was below to much-below normal for most of the region. Large portions of Utah and western Wyoming received less than 50% of normal precipitation. Western Colorado, southern Wyoming and eastern Wyoming generally received 50-90% of normal February precipitation. Precipitation was slightly above normal in central Wyoming and up to 300% of normal in eastern Colorado.

Temperatures were below average during February in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. In most of Utah and Wyoming, February temperatures were 2-4 degrees below normal and central to eastern Colorado saw temperatures that were 4-8 degrees below normal.

Regional snowpack continued to decline relative to normal and ranges from 62% to 106% of normal in regional river basins. Snowpack is deepest in Colorado with 95% of normal statewide snowpack. Statewide snowpack is at 82% of normal in Utah and 83% of normal in Wyoming. The largest declines in snowpack relative to normal during February were in northern Utah and western Wyoming.

March 1st seasonal streamflow volume forecasts range from much-below normal to normal across the region and decreased since February 1st for all regional river basins except the San Juan and Rio Grande Rivers which remained unchanged. Streamflow forecasts generally range from 55-135% of normal in the Upper Colorado River Basin, 50-11% of normal in the Great Basin and 50-110% of normal in Colorado and Wyoming east of the Continental Divide. The lowest March 1st seasonal streamflow forecasts were in the Bear, Dolores, Upper Green, Powder and Weber River Basins. The greatest decreases in season streamflow forecasts since February 1st were found in the Bear, Upper Green, Sevier, Six Creeks and Weber River Basins, roughly correlating to where February precipitation was lowest.

Drought conditions expanded slightly during February and now cover 97% of the region; extreme (D3) drought conditions continue to cover 18% of the region, but shifted in location. In Colorado, D3 drought was removed from the Eastern Plains and decreased in coverage in the Rio Grande River Basin. In Utah, drought remained unchanged except for a small area of improvement in southwestern Utah. In Wyoming, D3 conditions expanded in northeastern Wyoming and developed in the Teton and Wind River Ranges. Significant regional improvement in drought regional drought conditions seems unlikely during the remainder of winter.

West Drought Monitor map March 8, 2022.

A La Niña advisory remained in effect during February and Pacific Ocean temperatures are currently 0.5-1ºC below normal. Weak La Niña conditions are projected to remain in place through March-May, but ENSO neutral conditions are likely to return by May-July. NOAA seasonal forecasts for March suggest an equal probability of below or above average precipitation for the region and an increased probability of below average temperatures for Wyoming and most of Utah. On the three-month timescale, NOAA seasonal forecasts predict an increased probability of below average precipitation, especially for the Four Corners region, and an increased probability of above average temperatures for the entire region except northern Wyoming.

Significant February weather event: Wyoming cold wave. On February 22-23, an extremely cold air mass dropped into the Northern Rockies east of the Continental Divide, causing a short-lived but intense period of cold temperatures across Wyoming and northeastern Colorado. A cold front arrived on 2/21 causing record low minimum and maximum temperatures on 2/22-2/23. Temperatures bottomed out at -34ºF at Lamar Ranger Station in Yellowstone National Park on the morning of 2/23. Considering weather stations with at least 50 years of data (there are 77 such stations in Wyoming), 16 record low temperatures were set on 2/22 and 21 records set on 2/23. Even more record low maximum temperatures were set with this cold wave. Record low maximum temperatures were set at 44 sites on 2/22 and 52 records were set on 2/23. While the cold wave was not as extensive in Colorado, many record low temperature records along the Front Range were also broken, including in Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

This month’s climate summary includes a monthly weather almanac which highlights climate extremes for the month of February in each state. This will be a regular addition to future monthly climate summaries.

#Colorado isn’t getting enough snow to fully recover #drought-stricken rivers and reservoirs: Winter snowfall started off strong in late December and early January but lost momentum in the following weeks — The #Denver Post #snowpack

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

For a glimpse of the bigger picture across the American West, [Becky] Bolinger, also a climatologist with Colorado State University, pointed to the Lake Powell Reservoir, which is already at a record low.

“We’re not going to recover,” she said.

A drought like the one enveloping the West, which has lasted for two decades, needs much more than a single winter of average snowfall to bounce back, Bolinger said.

Winter snowfall started off strong in late December and early January but lost momentum in the following weeks.

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map March 10, 2022 via the NRCS.

Snowpack data shows that accumulation around Gunnison and Ouray sit at 109% of normal levels, down from 148% in early January. Snowpack around Durango sits at 101% of normal, down from 137%. Levels around Aspen and Glenwood Springs are 100% of normal, down from 124% in early January and the area around Steamboat Springs sits at 88%, down from 115%, according to the data, collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Snowpack around Denver sits at 96%, down from 114%…

Colorado Drought Monitor map March 8, 2022.

More than 90% of the state is considered to be in a drought, according to data released Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center. The rest of the state is still considered abnormally dry.

Douglas County cancels San Luis Valley live town hall after protest warning: Two commissioners say they still want to visit valley regarding water proposal — The Douglas County News Press #RioGrande

Potential Water Delivery Routes. Since this water will be exported from the San Luis Valley, the water will be fully reusable. In addition to being a renewable water supply, this is an important component of the RWR water supply and delivery plan. Reuse allows first-use water to be used to extinction, which means that this water, after first use, can be reused multiple times. Graphic credit: Renewable Water Resources

Click the link to read the article on the Douglas County News Press website (Elliott Wenzler). Here’s an excerpt:

The decision to cancel the event came during a March 9 work session in which county staff told the commissioners they were expecting 300 to 400 people to attend and that it appeared a protest was planned to take place…

Commissioner George Teal, who has voiced his support for the project, said was in favor of canceling the meeting, adding that he had initially hoped to have “actual conversations” with residents and “get past the visceral, emotional aspects of this project.”

He said he’s heard from people in the valley who support the RWR project but feel they are being intimidated to remain quiet….Commissioner Abe Laydon, who has said he hasn’t yet decided if he supports the project, said he still wants to go to the valley but said the event had been “hijacked by a group of folks” and said he didn’t want to be part of it…Commissioner Lora Thomas, who has vocally opposed the plan, said she’s not interested in going to the valley…

When asked where the county learned of reports of intimidation, a county spokesperson referenced comments from a speaker during one of the commissioners work sessions on the topic — Jerry Berry, who is a farmer in the San Luis Valley and a representative for RWR…

In a Feb. 28 meeting, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority Lisa Darling told the commissioners that none of the major water districts in Douglas County are interested in the water from RWR.