What is a Tree? How Does it Work? — #Colorado State Forest Service

Limber pine. Photo credit: Colorado State Forest Service

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado State Forest Service website:

Every year, trees grow two annual rings. In the spring, the usually wider and thinner-walled layer, called springwood, grows. In the summer, a thicker-walled layer, called summerwood, develops. Annual rings are typical in temperate forest trees.

Tree Physiology

  • A tree is a tall plant with woody tissue. Trees gather light for photosynthesis through their leaves; this process creates “food” for the tree.
  • Most of a tree trunk is dead tissue and serves only to support the weight of the tree crown. The outside layers of the tree trunk are the only living portion. The cambium produces new wood and new bark.
  • The band of tissue outside of the cambium is the phloem. Phloem transports new materials (the sugars created from photosynthesis) from the crown to the roots. Dead phloem tissue becomes the bark of a tree.
  • The band of tissue just inside of the cambium is the xylem, which transports water from the roots to the crown. Dead xylem tissue forms the heartwood, or the wood we use for many different purposes.
  • Every year, trees grow two annual rings. In the spring, usually a wider and thinner-walled layer called springwood forms. In the summer, a thicker-walled layer, called summerwood, develops. Annual rings are typical in temperate forest trees.

Parts of a Tree

  • Leaves – broadleaf or needles; primary location for photosynthesis and production of hormones and other chemicals.
  • Twigs and Branches – support structures for leaves, flowers and fruits.
  • Crown – the upper part of the tree composed of leaves, twigs, branches, flowers and fruit.
  • Flowers – the site of reproduction. Trees can be male, female or both. Conifers, however, do not have petals and typical flower structures.
  • Fruits and Seeds – all trees have seeds, most are inside of the fruit.
  • Trunk – generally a single “stem,” but can be multiple-stemmed. Main functions are materials transport and support.
  • Bark – main function is to protect the living tissue called cambium from damage.
  • Roots – two main functions: (1) collect nutrients and water and (2) anchor the tree.

Trees Grow:

  • At the twig tips (apical meristem)
  • At the root tips (root apical meristem)
  • At the cambium (old xylem cells become heartwood, old phloem cells become bark)

Why do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?

Chlorophyll production goes down as night length increases (fall and winter). The green colors are no longer reflected and other chemicals in the leaf become dominant, revealing red and yellow pigments. Weather during the period of declining chlorophyll production influences intensity of colors.

  • Warm fall weather generally reduces color quality.
  • Moist soils following a good growing season contribute to greater color intensity.
  • A few warm, sunny days and cool nights increase brilliance.
  • Drought usually results in poorer displays.

Leaves fall in autumn as part of a tree’s preparation for winter dormancy. Because it is too cold for water to remain in the plant tissues (freezing water would rupture cells in the tree), and because the water in the soil is frozen and cannot be absorbed, trees shut down major processes in the cold months. Deciduous trees drop their leaves; conifers have strategies to maintain their needles during the winter.

Concentric rings of various widths mark the annual growth of trees. Photo by Peter Brown, Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research. Photo credit: NOAA

#Colorado ski area #snowpack far above January average (January 6, 2023): 10 resorts, including Steamboat, Vail and Crested Butte, are more than 30% above normal — The #Denver Post

West snowpack basin-filled map January 5, 2023 via the NRCS

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

Last fall the U.S. Climate Prediction Center’s 90-day forecast for our region predicted above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Temperatures have been mostly normal or colder, while the Colorado snowpack as a whole stands 26% above normal…

According to figures posted by OpenSnow, three ski areas — Steamboat, Powderhorn and Sunlight — have snowpacks that are more than 40% above normal. Seven more are 30-39% above normal, including Beaver Creek, Buttermilk, Crested Butte, Monarch, Purgatory, Snowmass and Vail. Another seven stand at 20% to 29%. Only two are currently below average, and barely so: Breckenridge (97%) and Cooper (99%). Here’s another eye-popping number: Rocky Mountain National Park stands at 60% above normal.

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map January 5, 2023 via the NRCS.

#Water Resources Development Act signed with NGWA-supported MAR study

Figure 2: Recharge basin with down-gradient recovery well.

Click the link to read the release on the NGWA website:

President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Appropriations Act, which also included the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA), on December 23.

WRDA is a biennial bill that grants authority and funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to carry out water resource development projects and studies.

For the first time since its creation, this year’s Water Resources Development Act contains a provision focused on studying the expansion of managed aquifer recharge (MAR) in current and future USACE projects. MAR is the purposeful resupply of water to aquifers for subsequent recovery or for environmental benefit.

The provision was drafted with the assistance of NGWA and its members and was a key policy focus for the Association throughout the year.

The provision:

  • Authorizes the USACE, in consultation with nonfederal partners, to conduct a national assessment on the implementation of MAR in current and future projects
  • Creates a working group within the USACE to centralize the corps’ knowledge on MAR and assist with feasibility studies
  • Requires a report to Congress on the results and data collected from the study and an evaluation of the benefits of a potential center of expertise for MAR
  • Authorizes up to 10 MAR feasibility studies with a 90:10 federal/nonfederal partner cost share.

The study would focus specifically on regions that have experienced prolonged drought, aquifer depletion, or water scarcity issues. The study would also include tribal lands and territories.

“Our country’s water future will rely heavily on finding new opportunities to expand and implement managed aquifer recharge programs which is why this study is so vital,” said NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC. “I would like to thank the NGWA membership who helped advocate for this provision and those lawmakers who continuously fought for it throughout the process.”

NGWA has been a leader in MAR research. The November-December 2022 issue of its hallmark technical journal, Groundwater®, was a special issue dedicated to MAR. The Association is also hosting a conference titled Managed Aquifer Recharge: Unleashing Resiliency, Protecting Groundwater Quality April 24-25, 2023, in San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about MAR by visiting the resource center NGWA has dedicated to it.

Tribal #water settlements slipped into must-pass budget bill — The Payson Roundup

Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Click the link to read the article on The Payson Roundup website (Peter Aleshire). Here’s an excerpt:

The White Mountain Apache Tribe scored a last-minute coup last week, with the inclusion of funding for a long-studied, long-delayed water project in a must-pass, year-end budget bill. Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly managed to wedge money for tribal water settlements into the bill. The bill’s failure would have resulted in a government shutdown. However, the long-standing water rights claim for the Tonto Apache Tribe remains in limbo. The finagle included funding for the White Mountain Apache water settlement, which includes money to build a $100 million dam and distribution system on the Salt River. The Miner Flat Dam will include a pipeline and pumping station that will provide water to Cibecue and other communities on the White Mountain Apache Reservation…

Many tribes have centuries-old claims to water, which they have pursued through decades-old lawsuits and negotiations. Most of the water settlements involve tribes giving up long-standing claims in return for money to actually utilize a portion of the water they claimed. Settling the claims has the net effect of removing a layer of uncertainty about who has a legal right to water from the Colorado River and other waterways. Tribes that have pursued their claims for decades found themselves at the head of the line, when the infrastructure money intersected with the water crisis.

Other tribes have been largely shut out of the rush to settle claims and fund projects. For instance, the Tonto Apache Tribe in Payson has a long-standing claim to water — which includes a claim to water in the Colorado River. The tribe and the Town of Payson tried to convince the federal government to settle that claim when Payson was seeking help funding the $50 million C.C. Cragin pipeline. The deal would have given the tribe rights to water in the pipeline in return for several million in federal funding. In return, the tribe would have dropped claims to water from the Colorado River.

The “energy gap” nobody wants to tussle with — Writers on the Range

Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the Range website (David Marston):

Many Western states have declared they will achieve all-renewable electrical goals in just two decades. Call me naïve, but haven’t energy experts predicted that wind, sun and other alternative energy sources aren’t up to the job?

Alice Jackson, former CEO of Xcel energy’s Colorado operation, was blunt at a renewable energy conference in February 2020: “We can reliably run our grid with up to 70% renewables. Add batteries to the mix and that number goes up to just 72%.”

Grid experts now say that Jackson’s number is 80%, but still, how will that utility and others produce that missing power?

A schematic of TerraPower’s proposed Natrium nuclear power plant. Credit: TerraPower

Bill Gates and a raft of other entrepreneurs see the answer in small, modular nuclear reactors, pointing to the small nuclear engines that have safely run America’s nuclear submarines for decades.

Here’s what we know about these efficient reactors: They’re built in factories, and once in operation they’re cheap to keep going. Each module is typically 50 megawatts, self-contained, and installed underground after being transported to its site. The modular design means that when more power is needed, another reactor can be slotted in.

Breakthrough features include safety valves that automatically send coolant to the reactor if heat spikes. This feature alone could have eliminated disasters like Fukushima or Chernobyl, where water pumps failed and cores started melting down.

If small nuclear modules don’t fill the renewables gap, where else to find the “firm power” that Jackson says is needed? The Sierra Club calls on pumped hydro and geothermal as sources of reliable electricity you can just flip on when renewables slow down. But the best geothermal spots have been taken, and pumped hydro has geographic limits, and environmental resistance.

Another proposal is linking grids across the country for more efficiency. The idea is that excess wind blowing in Texas could be tapped after the sun goes down on California’s solar farms. This holds incremental promise but progress has been routinely blocked by conservative lawmakers.

There’s also the cost argument — that renewables are cheaper. In a fossil-fuel-dominated grid that’s true. However, MIT points out that as renewables dominate the grid, on-demand forms of power rise in value.

The extreme danger to the grid is the dreaded “dunkelflaute,” a German word for cloudy, windless weather that slashes solar and wind power generation for weeks.

So the problem remains: To avoid rolling blackouts, we need reliable power at the right times, which are usually from 5-8 p.m. That’s when people come home and fire up their gadgets and appliances.

The increasing demand for electricity only adds to the problem: A 2020 Washington Post articlepredicted that electrification of the economy by 2050 would result in a usage bump of 38%, mostly from vehicles. Consider Ford’s all-electric F150 Lightning, cousin to the bestselling gasoline F150. The $39,000 entry-level truck was designed to replace gasoline generators at job sites, meaning vehicle recharge happens when workers go home, just as renewables flag.

This calls into question what many experts hope car batteries can provide — doing double duty by furnishing peak power for homes at night.

Longer-lasting storage batteries have long been touted as a savior, though Tara Righetti, co-director of the Nuclear Energy Research Center at the University of Wyoming, has reservations. “There are high hopes that better batteries will be developed. But in terms of what is technically accessible right now? I think nuclear provides an appealing option.”

Kemmerer, Wyoming. By Daniel Mayer – Daniel Mayer, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6038359

Meanwhile, small nuclear reactors are underway, with Bill Gates’ TerraPower building a sodium-cooled fast reactor in the coal town of Kemmerer, Wyoming. One 345-megawatt reactor, which generates enough electricity for 400,000 homes, will be paired with a molten-salt, heat storage facility.

Think of it as a constantly recharging battery in the form of stored heat. In the evening as renewable power flags, it would pump out 500 megawatts of power for up to 5 hours.

These reactors also tackle the little-known problem of cold-starting the electrical grid after an outage. In 2003, suffering a blackout, the Eastern grid could not have restarted with renewables alone.

However we choose to close the energy gap, there’s no time to lose. Wild temperature swings have grid operators increasingly nervous. California has come close to rolling blackouts, and temperatures in the West now break record after record.

As our climate becomes more erratic, reliable electricity is becoming a matter of life and death. 

Dave Marston is the publisher of Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. He lives in Colorado.