The latest (#ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion is hot off the presses from the #Climate Prediction Center

Plume of ENSO model predications December 2022. Credit: Climate Prediction Center

Click the link to read the discussion on the Climate Prediction Center webiste:

ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Advisory

Synopsis: A transition from La Niña to ENSO-neutral is anticipated during the February- April 2023 season. By Northern Hemisphere spring (March-May 2023), the chance for ENSO-neutral is 82%.

During December, below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) weakened over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. All of the latest weekly Niño index values were between -0.7oC and -0.8oC. The subsurface temperature anomalies also weakened substantially, but below-average subsurface temperatures persisted near the surface and at depth in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. However, the atmospheric circulation anomalies over the tropical Pacific Ocean did not notably weaken. Low-level easterly wind and upper-level westerly wind anomalies remained across most of the equatorial Pacific. Suppressed convection persisted over the western and central tropical Pacific, while enhanced convection was observed around Indonesia. Overall, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system continued to reflect La Niña.

The most recent IRI plume predicts that La Niña will transition to ENSO-neutral during the Northern Hemisphere winter 2022-23. Interestingly, the dynamical models indicate a faster transition (January-March) than the statistical models (February-April). At this time, the forecaster consensus favors the statistical models, with a transition to ENSO-neutral in the February-April 2023 season. The sustained atmospheric circulation anomalies and the weakening downwelling oceanic Kelvin wave do not support an imminent transition. However, lower accuracy during times of transition, and when predictions go through the spring, means that uncertainty remains high. In summary, a transition from La Niña to ENSO-neutral is anticipated during the February-April 2023 season. By Northern Hemisphere spring (March- May 2023), the chance for ENSO-neutral is 82%

#Water supply and growth: New annexation rule passes in #ColoradoSprings — KOAA #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

Click the link to read the article on the KOAA website (Bill Folsom), Here’s an excerpt:

The ongoing drought in the west motivated a request from Colorado Springs Utilities for an update to city ordinances on annexing new developments into the city. With five in favor and four against, City Council approved the change saying for any development annexations to be considered, the city’s water supply has to be at 130% of what is needed for existing residents. Mayor John Suthers supported the change saying tough decisions are being forced by the current water crisis along the Colorado River Basin.

“Our citizens are asking a simple question, ‘Can you ensure we’ll have enough water?’ This ordinance acts in the public interest and answers that question loud and clear,” said Suthers…

Many developers from the community spoke against the change saying it will make large developments outside the city almost impossible.

Suthers Tweeted, “If we do nothing to maintain a buffer between our water supply and our water usage, and the city suffers a major curtailment of our Colorado River water, further drought will put us in an untenable situation, and we will be responsible for a failure of public policy.”

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) recommended the 130% number following an in-depth review of the organization’s capacity and ability to provide water to the city’s citizens.  Utilities maintain that the city’s 30% margin buffer allows CSU to consistently provide water year in and year out.

2022’s billion-dollar disasters: #ClimateChange helped make it US’s 3rd most expensive year on record — The Conversation #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Several areas were hit with 1,000-year floods in 2022. Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images

Stacy Morford, The Conversation

U.S. weather disasters are getting costlier as more people move into vulnerable areas and climate change raises the risks of extreme heat and rainfall, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials warned as they released their annual billion-dollar disasters report on Jan. 10, 2023.

Even with an average hurricane season, 2022 had the third-highest number of billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. since 1980.

In all, there were 18 disasters that each caused more than US$1 billion in damage in the U.S. The list included three hurricanes, two tornado outbreaks, a destructive fire season, several extreme storms and a drought that disrupted sectors across the economy.

Map showing disasters, including several severe storms
2022 had 18 disasters that exceeded $1 billion each in damage. NCEI/NOAA

It was also the third-costliest year, with past years adjusted for inflation, due primarily to Hurricane Ian’s widespread damage in Florida. Together, the 2022 disasters topped $165 billion, with damage still being tallied from December’s winter storms.

Several scientists wrote about the year’s U.S. weather disasters and connections to climate change. Here are three essential reads from The Conversation’s archive:

1. Hurricane Ian

The most expensive U.S. weather disaster of 2022 was Hurricane Ian, which grew into a monster of a storm over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico in late September.

Ian hit the barriers islands off Fort Myers, Florida, with 150-mph winds, tying for the fifth-strongest wind speed at U.S. landfall on record. Its storm surge swept through coastal neighborhoods, where the population has boomed in recent years, and its rainfall caused flooding across a large swath of the state. Twenty inches of rain fell in Daytona Beach, triggering erosion, with devastating consequences.

At least 144 deaths were attributed to the storm in Florida alone, and the total damage neared $113 billion.

Houses on a road, now underwater, are torn apart, with water on both sides.
Hurricane Ian’s wind and storm surge tore up homes and roads on the Gulf Coast. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Did global warming play a role?

In some ways, yes, but there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to hurricanes, explained climate scientists Matthew Barlow of UMass-Lowell and Suzana Camargo of Columbia University.

For example, “it is clear that climate change increases the upper limit on hurricane strength and rain rate, and that it also raises the average sea level and therefore storm surge,” Barlow and Camargo wrote.

Less clear is global warming’s influence on hurricane frequency, though research points to an uptick in the strength of storms that do form. “We expect more of them to be major storms,” the scientists wrote. “Hurricane Ian and other recent storms, including the 2020 Atlantic season, provide a picture of what that can look like.”

Globally, 2022 was the fifth or sixth warmest year in over 140 years of record-keeping, according to data sets from NASA and NOAA. The last eight years have been the warmest on record. Ocean temperatures were also at record highs in 2022.

2. The drought

The second-costliest disaster, at over $22 billion, was the widespread drought across much of the U.S. West and parts of the Midwest. It left reservoirs near record lows, disrupted farming in several states and temporarily shut down barge traffic on the Mississippi River.

At one point, 2,000 barges were backed up along the river, where 92% of U.S. agriculture exports travel. The Mississippi River drought in October 2022.

Rivers the size of the Mississippi can be slow to respond to droughts, but during the flash drought of 2022, the river fell 20 feet in less than three months – even though its major tributaries were flowing at normal levels, wrote earth scientists Ray Lombardi, Angela Antipova and Dorian Burnette of the University of Memphis.

They described the dramatic drop in the river’s water levels as a “preview of a climate-altered future.”

“Warmer atmospheric temperatures have the potential to evaporate more water, causing drought, and to hold more water, causing extreme rainfall,” the scientists wrote. “Over the past 100 years, year-to-year changes from very dry to very wet in the Mississippi River Valley have become more frequent. We expect this trend to continue as global temperatures continue to rise because of climate change.”

3. Extreme storms and flooding

A girl in rain boots walks through a mud-filled yard. Damaged mattresses and other belongings from a flooded house are piled nearby.
Flash flooding swept through mountain valleys in eastern Kentucky in July 2022, killing more than three dozen people. It was one of several destructive floods. Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Many of 2022’s billion-dollar disasters involved extreme storms, including hail, deadly tornado outbreaks, and a derecho that damaged property from Wisconsin to West Virginia.

It was also a summer of flooding, beginning with rain falling on snow that turned the Yellowstone River into a record-shattering torrent. St. Louis, Dallas, eastern Kentucky, southern Illinois and Death Valley were all hit with 1,000-year floods. Storms in the South knocked out Jackson, Mississippi’s fragile water supply for weeks.

Climate models have consistently shown that extreme rainfall events will become more common as the climate warms, wrote University of Dayton climate scientist Shuang-Ye Wu.

Some of that is basic physics – warmer air increases the amount of moisture that the atmosphere can hold by about 7% per degree Celsius. Increased humidity can enhance latent heat in storms, increasing their intensity and leading to heavier rainfall, Wu explained.

Even though humans are becoming more adept at managing climate risks, research published in 2022 found that extreme flooding and droughts are still getting deadlier and more expensive, and the costs are likely to continue to rise.

“This past summer might just provide a glimpse of our near future as these extreme climate events become more frequent,” Wu wrote. “To say this is the new ‘normal,’ though, is misleading. It suggests that we have reached a new stable state, and that is far from the truth.”

This article was updated with NOAA’s release of global temperature data on Jan. 12, 2023. It is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.

Stacy Morford, Environment + Climate Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Department of Interior needs to review agricultural use of #water amid negotiations for #ColoradoRiver cuts — Bruce Babbit for The #Nevada Independent #COriver #aridification

A center-pivot irrigation system that replaced a less efficient irrigation system in Diamond Valley through a Nevada Department of Agriculture grant. (Courtesy of Nevada Department of Agriculture)

Click the link to read the guest column on Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit newsroom The Nevada Independent website (Bruce Babbit):

As Lake Mead continues to decline toward dead pool, federal officials are requesting the  Colorado River states  to offer major cuts in water usage.

Nevada has responded with a detailed and innovative plan set forth in a  December 20, 2022 letter to the Bureau of Reclamation,  calling for basic reform of water management throughout the entire Colorado River system. It is centered on protecting water levels in Lake Powell  and Lake Mead with new rules for apportioning reduced water deliveries throughout the system.

The plan assures that water levels behind Glen Canyon Dam in the upper basin will not fall below a level necessary to protect hydropower production and the structure of the dam itself.

For Lake Mead in the lower basin the plan would set rules assuring that water levels cannot fall below a new “Lake Mead Protection Level” sufficient to provide an 18 month reserve for “public, health and safety” of municipal users.

The plan calls on the three lower Basin states, Arizona, California and Nevada, to offer a million and a half acre feet of reductions, in addition to cuts previously agreed upon in the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). This new round of cuts calls for “equitable sharing of evaporation and system losses”  among the three states in proportion to their “average annual consumptive use for the period 2019 to 2021.” 

Reaching consensus on such an inventive, far reaching proposal, will take time. The seven basin states and the Interior Department have until 2026, when current regulations expire, to reach agreement on new rules. 

However, one critical provision—the 1.5 million acre feet reduction in diversions from Lake Mead—cannot wait that long. It must be agreed upon and implemented immediately to avoid disaster.  

Arizona and California have not responded in public.  They remain on the sidelines, unable  to summon the political will to either agree or to propose an alternative.   

The reason Arizona and California are internally deadlocked can be summed up in one word: agriculture. Irrigated agriculture uses more than 70 percent of  the water allocated to the two states from Lake Mead.  A fair settlement will not be possible unless agriculture takes its share of the cuts. 

Agricultural Irrigation districts in Arizona and California resist offering cuts, claiming an absolute priority under century-old legal doctrines. They claim an unqualified priority right to continue growing alfalfa for cattle feed that comes ahead of an adequate water supply for Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego and Los Angeles. 

The Interior Department has the power to break this deadlock. The department, as water master of the lower Colorado River, has broad authority over water allocation and management. A federal regulation, known as Section 417, gives the department authority to limit agricultural water deliveries to that amount “reasonably required for beneficial use.”

What is reasonably required is a judgment that can take into account many factors, including the needs of cities, towns, power plants, mineral extraction, recreation, and more. And what is reasonable for irrigation allocations in normal years may be entirely unreasonable when Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam and the entire Colorado River system are at risk of collapse. 

It is now time for the Interior to use its Section 417 authority for an expansive review of all agricultural use contracts and to reduce allocations to reflect a fair measure of burden sharing.  This review should begin in an open and transparent process without further delay.

Bruce Edward Babbitt is an attorney and politician from the state of Arizona. A member of the Democratic Party, Babbitt served as the 16th governor of Arizona from 1978 to 1987, and as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of the interior from 1993 to 2001.

#Aurora poised to double capacity of Prairie Waters riverbank filtration project with federal grant — The Aurora Sentinel #SouthPlatteRiver

Prairie Waters schematic via Aurora Water.

Click the link to read the article on The Aurora Sentinel website (Max Levy). Here’s an excerpt:

Aurora is planning an expansion to its innovative Prairie Waters project with the help of a $5 million federal grant, a project that city staffers say could recover enough water to support thousands of homes. The grant, which the federal government says the city is likely to receive, would be used toward the $11.5 million undertaking of digging a new pump station and radial well, which would draw water from below the South Platte River.

“Drought has been something we’re needing to tackle and handle more and more as the years go on, and so having this resource come from the South Platte instead of the mountains is definitely a drought resiliency component,” said Aurora Water staffer Justin Montes, who applied for the federal grant…

Radial wells consist of a single vertical shaft ending in multiple horizontal shafts that radiate outward like the spokes of a wheel. The radial well and pump station would be part of an expansion to the Prairie Waters project including another radial well that the city plans to dig in 2024. Aurora Water representatives say the entire expansion has the potential to double the water recovered by the project, which uses wells dug near the South Platte River to collect water that has been absorbed and naturally filtered by the riverbank. By the time water is collected by the wells, it has already passed through hundreds of feet of sediment beneath the South Platte, filtering out pathogens, organic chemicals and other contaminants. Montes said the process can also filter out debris introduced by wildfires.

Would you believe that 2/3 of total precipitation observations in NOAA’s dataset came from: @CoCoRaHS volunteer observers in 2022?! Incredible stat from Imke Durre at our session celebrating 25 years of the network — @Russ_Schumacher #AMS2023

A young Nolan Doesken with a rain gauge via @realwaterplease

New report downplays economic impact of #Colorado’s oil and gas industry: As energy transition continues, oil and gas jobs account for less than 1 percent of total state employment — Colorado Newsline #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround #COleg

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Newsline website (Chase Woodruff);

Monthly oil production in Colorado rebounded to over 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, putting it on track to produce more oil than all but four other states.

But with employment and wages in the industry still down from 2019 highs, a new report seeks to challenge what has long been an article of faith among Colorado policymakers — arguing that rather than being a major engine of growth for the state, the oil and gas sector has only a “modest” impact on its economy overall.

The analysis from the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute “shows Colorado’s oil and gas industry is in fact merely a fraction of Colorado’s diverse economy,” CFI senior economist Chris Stiffler, a co-author of the report, said in a statement.

“As of March of last year, the industry represented less than 1% of total employment and less than 2% of total wages,” Stiffler said.

The release of the report comes as Colorado lawmakers convene in Denver to begin another four-month session of the General Assembly, and debate a new slate of legislation that could impact the state’s energy industry and its ambitious goals for combating climate change.

“One the biggest barriers to these goals is the perception that Colorado is so economically reliant on the oil and gas industry that our state’s economy will prohibitively suffer if production declines,” CFI’s report says.

Past analyses published by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association have claimed that the industry accounts for as many as 89,000 local jobs. A 2021 report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute put the figure even higher, at 340,000 jobs in Colorado alone — 1 out of every 8 jobs in the state.

CFI’s report, however, faults those figures for their reliance on imprecise estimates of “indirect” and “induced” economic effects, which, the authors argue, lead to exaggerated perceptions of the potential impacts of a “gradual, managed transition” to clean energy.

Federal data show that direct employment in Colorado’s oil and gas sector declined from roughly 32,700 workers in March 2019 to about 20,500 in March 2022, or seven-tenths of one percent of total state employment. 

“If the oil and gas industry in Colorado gradually declines due to market forces, regulation, or a combination of these, we can expect the economy to evolve and develop to accommodate these changes,” wrote Stiffler and report co-author Pegah Jalali. (Jalali has contributed commentaries to Newsline.)

Among the largest benefits attributable to the industry are the local property taxes paid by the owners of oil and gas assets in the handful of Colorado counties where significant production occurs. In 2021, over 43% of the property taxes collected by Weld County, home to the vast majority of Colorado’s oil production, came from oil and gas. Other counties on the gas-rich Western Slope boast similar figures — though the value of the assets can fluctuate wildly from year to year, depending on global commodity prices.

“Some counties would be disproportionately affected by (the energy transition), and Colorado will need to come together to find a solution that will support these communities,” the authors conclude.

Clean-energy goals

Advocates with 350 Colorado, a progressive climate-action group, said Friday that CFI’s report shows that “a gradual phaseout of new oil and gas permits is feasible.”

For years, environmental activists have urged Gov. Jared Polis and other Colorado policymakers to begin phasing out oil and gas production in the name of climate change — and for years Polis and other top Democrats have rejected those calls. A 2019 law increased health and safety protections for drilling but has done little to hinder production, which state officials have projected will continue to increase until at least 2030.

biannual report released last week by the Polis administration touted progress on its “roadmap” for reducing emissions in line with targets set by a 2019 state law. Through a wide variety of voluntary measures and incentive-based regulations, the state aims to achieve a 26% overall emissions cut by 2025, and a 50% cut by 2030, though administration officials have acknowledged it’s falling behind on the 2025 goal, especially in the transportation sector.

“With momentum and progress on the initial Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, we look forward to updating our plans and working closely with our local, in-state, and federal partners to make progress towards our climate goals and continue to lead the nation,” Polis said in a statement.

Photo: DNR Director Dan Gibbs, Gov. Polis, CWCB Director Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado River District General Manager Andy Mueller at Elkhead Reservoir. Photo credit: Colorado Water Conservation Board

Proposals expected to be taken up by the Legislature this session include Polis’ request for an additional $120 million in state incentives for electric vehicles, e-bikes and electric lawn and garden equipment, as well as additional measures aimed at tackling Colorado’s ozone pollution problem. State Sen. Chris Hansen, a Democrat from Denver, told journalist Allen Best this week that he will introduce a bill to set an interim emissions-cutting target of 65% by 2035.

The potential of long-term declines in oil and gas property taxes could also loom over discussions about updating Colorado’s school funding formula. Advocates continue to press for a “just transition” that protects workers and residents in fossil-fuel-dependent communities as the energy transition accelerates.

“Unfortunately, we’re already seeing the incredible cost of delaying a transition away from pollution-causing fuels to clean energy,” Jalali said in a statement. “This report will give lawmakers a clearer picture of which communities — especially which school districts — will need the most attention in the years to come.”

‘Last nail in the coffin’: #Utah’s #GreatSaltLake on verge of collapse — The Guardian #aridification

PHOTO CREDIT: McKenzie Skiles via USGS LandSat The Great Salt Lake has been shrinking as more people use water upstream.

Click the link to read the article on The Guardian website (Maanvi Singh). Here’s an excerpt:

Emergency measures are required to avert a catastrophe in Utah’s Great Salt Lake, which has been drying up due to excessive water use, a new report warns. Within years, the lake’s ecosystems could collapse and millions will be exposed to toxic dust contained within the drying lakebed, unless drastic steps are taken to cut water use. A team of 32 scientists and conservationists caution that the lake could decline beyond recognition in just five years. Their warning is especially urgent amid a historic western megadrought fueled by global heating. To save the lake, the report suggests 30-50% reductions in water use may be required, to allow 2.5m acre-feet of water to flow from streams and rivers directly into the lake over the next two years.

“We really need to increase the speed of our response, and also increase our ambition for how much water we restore to the lake,” said Ben Abbott, an ecologist at Brigham Young University and one of the report’s lead authors…

Despite growing political momentum, Abbott said that existing policies and action plans will not be enough to save the lake from collapse. Already, the lake has lost 73% of its water and 60% of its surface area, as trillions of litres of water are diverted away from it to supply farms and homes. As a result, the lake is becoming saltier and uninhabitable to native flies and brine shrimp. Eventually, the lake will be unable to sustain the more than 10 million migratory birds and wildlife that frequent it. Declining lake levels could also make magnesium, lithium and other critical minerals extraction infeasible within the next two years. Dust from the exposed lakebed could further damage crops, degrade soil and cause snow to melt more quickly – triggering widespread economic losses for Utah’s agriculture and tourism industries. Toxic sediment, laced with arsenic, from the lakebed can exacerbate respiratory conditions and heart and lung disease, and could increase residents’ risk for cancer…

The climate crisis, which has increased average temperatures in northern Utah by 4F since the early 1900s, is further imperilling the lake, fuelling more severe droughts and heatwaves. But studies suggest that only about 9% of the lake’s decline due to evaporation and reduced runoff can be blamed on climate change. A legacy of water overuse is the main threat to the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere, and huge water diversions to irrigate vast operations to grow alfalfa and hay are no longer sustainable in Utah, Abbott said, nor are lush lawns in cities and suburbs.

Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Vice President and Division 2 Director JB Hamby will serve as Chairman of the #ColoradoRiver Board of #California #COriver #aridification

The All-American Canal conveys water from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley in Southern California. The Imperial Irrigation District is the largest user of Colorado River water. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Click the link to read the article on the Imperial Valley Irrigation District website:

Imperial Irrigation District Vice President and Division 2 Director JB Hamby will serve as Chairman of the Colorado River Board of California following his unanimous election during Wednesday’s meeting held in Ontario, California.

Imperial Irrigation District Vice President and Division 2 Director JB Hamby will serve as Chairman of the Colorado River Board of California following his unanimous election during Wednesday’s meeting held in Ontario, California.

Hamby has served on the Colorado River Board since April of 2021 and is IID’s fourth member to serve as its chairman. IID’s Executive Superintendent, President, and Division 1 Director Evan T. Hewes served as the board’s first chairman from 1938 to 1947, followed by the district’s Executive Officer Munson J. Dowd from 1962 to 1965, and last by Division 3 Director Lloyd Allen from 2002 to 2006.

As chairman, Hamby serves ex-officio as the Colorado River Commissioner for the State of California. The commissioner is responsible for conferring with representatives of the seven Colorado River basin states and United States on the use of Colorado River water and safeguarding the rights and interests of the state, its agencies, and citizens, pursuant to the federal Boulder Canyon Project Act and the California Water Code.

“This is a historic time of reckoning on the Colorado River where growing demand over the decades exceeds a shrinking supply due to chronic drought and aridification,” Hamby said. “Protecting California’s stake on the Colorado River is vital to our future in Southern California. I look forward to working closely with the board’s member agencies — both agricultural and urban — to develop solutions that respect the Law of the River for the benefit of all Californians.”

The Colorado River Board is composed of representatives of the Coachella Valley Water District, Imperial Irrigation District, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Palo Verde Irrigation District, San Diego County Water Authority, and the state directors of Water Resources and Fish and Wildlife.

California’s Colorado River contractors have proposed to conserve up to an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead each year, beginning in 2023 through 2026. The water, which would otherwise be consumed by California’s communities and farms, would leave up to 1.6 million acre-feet of water behind Hoover Dam at Lake Mead as part of a seven state and federal effort to stabilize the rapidly declining Colorado River system.

California has the largest entitlement to Colorado River water of the seven basin states which serves drinking water to over 19 million people in Southern California and irrigates over 600,000 acres of highly productive agricultural lands that produce fruits, vegetables, and other crops that are a core part of the national and global food supply.