U.S. Senator Hickenlooper rallies senators to help accelerate #ColoradoRiver compromise — The Hill #COriver #aridification

Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

Click the link to read the article on The Hill website (Sharon Udasin). Here’s an excerpt:

Keeping the Colorado River flowing will require concessions from seven sparring states — but Congress may have the financial mobility to help get them there, according to Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.).

“We are working in a bipartisan fashion at this point,” he told The Hill on Monday. “There’s a recognition that a lot of people’s livelihoods are at stake, and there’s a real urgency.”

Hickenlooper is at the helm of the new Colorado River Caucus — a cohort of senators from both sides of the aisle who intend to help the states agree on consumption cutbacks.

Members of the group include representatives from all seven Colorado River states: California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

Biden-Harris Administration Delivers $728 Million in Historic Investments to Address Western #Drought, Improve #Climate Resilience — Department of Interior

Map of the Upper Colorado River Basin showing major tributaries and sub-basins. Credit: https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/14/23/3813#

Click the link to read the article on the Department of Interior website:

Critical infrastructure investments under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to provide clean, reliable drinking water to communities and support water conservation in the Upper Colorado River Basin

As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to enhance the resilience of the West to drought and climate change, the Department of the Interior today [February 13, 2023] announced a $728 million investment to deliver clean, reliable drinking water to rural and Tribal communities, support water conservation in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and complete projects to improve water supply reliability. This historic funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 supplements unprecedented investments to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System now and into the future.

Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, seven authorized rural water projects under construction in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota will receive $278 million. These investments build on the allocation of $420 million for rural water construction activities in fiscal year 2022. The funding is helping projects complete construction of water treatment plants and intakes, supporting work related to pipeline connections, pump systems, and reservoir construction, and advancing other efforts to provide potable water to rural and Tribal communities.

The Bureau of Reclamation is also making available up to $125 million to support the relaunch of a System Conservation Pilot Program in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The renewed program – funded with an initial allocation through the Inflation Reduction Act – will help support water management and conservation efforts to improve water efficiency and ultimately protect the short-term sustainability of the Colorado River System.

This is in addition to the over $325 million in fiscal year 2023 funding that Reclamation has allocated for ongoing work on drought resilience projects across the country. Separately, this week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $25 million in WaterSMART funds to help Western farmers and ranchers conserve water through a partnership with Reclamation and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change — this includes making the Colorado River Basin and the diverse communities that rely on it more resilient to the ongoing drought in the West,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We are investing historic resources through the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural and Tribal communities, protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System, and increase water efficiency across the West.”

“The Bureau of Reclamation is committed to ensuring the continued availability of water across the West, while at the same time enhancing the resiliency of our communities to a changing climate. As we move forward with these urgent priorities, we are doing so in close collaboration with Basin states, Tribes, water managers, farmers, irrigators, and other stakeholders,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “This historic funding underscores how proactive efforts from the Biden-Harris administration are helping increase water efficiency and conservation across the West.”

Overall, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides Reclamation with $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects to advance drought resilience and expand access to clean water for families, farmers, and wildlife. The Inflation Reduction Act is investing an additional $4.6 billion to address the worsening drought crisis and plan for the hydrology of today and into the future. Combined, these laws represent the largest investments in climate resilience in the nation’s history.

Historic Investments for Rural Water

Funding in fiscal year 2023 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will enable significant advances of rural water systems and associated features:

  • $77.56 million for the Rocky Boys / North Central Montana Rural Water System in Montana for core pipeline construction on segments 7 and 8, continued construction progress of a water treatment plant, as well as construction for segments associated with Havre, Chester and Shelby Hub service areas.
  • $62.11 million for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System in New Mexico for the construction of approximately 26 miles of raw water transmission pipeline.
  • $60 million for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota to support a water treatment plant, construction associated with the Sible service area, and to reimburse states for related costs.
  • $26.33 million for the Garrison-Diversion Unit of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program in North Dakota for efforts associated with construction of water treatment plants, as well as efforts to support service on the Spirit Lake, Standing Rock and Fort Berthold Reservations.
  • $25 million for the recently authorized Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System in Montana for substantial completion of phases 3 and 4 of rural water construction activities.
  • $15 million for the Fort Peck Reservation – Dry Prairie Rural Water System in Montana to support substantial completion of the project.
  • $12 million for the Jicarilla Apache Rural Water System in New Mexico to support progress toward water treatment plant upgrades.

Detailed information on the fiscal year 2023 spend plan is available on Reclamation’s website.

Upper Basin System Conservation Pilot Program

Up to $125 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will enable Reclamation, in partnership with the Upper Colorado River Commission, to immediately move forward to implement the System Conservation Pilot Program. From 2015 to 2018, the Upper Basin System Conservation Pilot Program(link is external) successfully tested new approaches to conserve water on the Colorado River and proved these measures are an effective approach to temporarily increase water efficiency and mitigate the impacts of drought.

The program is cooperatively managed by Reclamation and the Upper Division States of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming acting through the Upper Colorado River Commission.

This program supplements additional investments from the Biden-Harris administration to help increase water conservation, improve water efficiency, and prevent the System’s reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production. Reclamation is currently reviewing applications for a similar program in the Lower Colorado River Basin and expects to make additional announcements in the coming months to support water conservation and address the ongoing drought.

More about the implementation of the 2023 System Conservation Pilot Program can be found on the Upper Colorado River Commission website(link is external).

Investments from the Consolidated Appropriations Act:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 provides an additional $325 million in funding for work in five categories within the Water and Related Resources account, including:

  • Over $229 million for Water Conservation and Delivery;
  • $50 million for Rural Water;
  • $31 million for Environmental Restoration or Compliance;
  • $11 million for Fish Passage and Fish Screens; and
  • $4 million for Facilities Operation, Maintenance, and Rehabilitation.

This funding will go to construction and preconstruction activities where environmental compliance has been completed and the project will improve water supply reliability, improve water deliveries, enhance economic development, promote job growth, advance Tribal and non-Tribal water studies and activities or address critical backlog maintenance and rehabilitation activities.

More information on this funding can be found in Reclamation’s Fiscal Year 2023 Distribution of Additional Funds for Ongoing Work list.

Antarctic Researchers Report an Extraordinary Marine Heatwave That Could Threaten Antarctica’s Ice Shelves — Inside #Climate News

The inexorable rise of ocean heat is now evident off the coast of West Antarctica, potentially disrupting critical parts of the global climate system and accelerating sea level rise. Giant iceberg breaks off Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Credit: European Space Agency

Click the link to read the article on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn):

The inexorable rise of ocean heat is now evident off the coast of West Antarctica, potentially disrupting critical parts of the global climate system and accelerating sea level rise.

Research scientists on ships along Antarctica’s west coast said their recent voyages have been marked by an eerily warm ocean and record-low sea ice coverage—extreme climate conditions, even compared to the big changes of recent decades, when the region warmed much faster than the global average.

Despite “that extraordinary change, what we’ve seen this year is dramatic,” said University of Delaware oceanographer Carlos Moffat last week from Punta Arenas, Chile, after completing a research cruise aboard the RV Laurence M. Gould to collect data on penguin feeding, as well as on ice and oceans as chief scientist for the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research program

“Even as somebody who’s been looking at these changing systems for a few decades, I was taken aback by what I saw, by the degree of warming that I saw,” he said. “We don’t know how long this is going to last. We don’t fully understand the consequences of this kind of event, but this looks like an extraordinary marine heatwave.”

If such conditions recur in the coming years, it could start a rapid destabilization of Antarctica’s critical underpinnings of the global climate system, including ice shelves, glaciers, coastal ecosystems and even ocean currents. Such radical changes have already been sweeping the Arctic, starting in the 1980s and accelerating in the 2000s. 

Data collected during Moffat’s most recent research voyage includes the first readings from temperature and salinity sensors that were deployed a few years ago, which will give the scientists a starting point for comparisons. Moffat said it’s “too early, and difficult” to attribute this year’s conditions to long-term climate change until some peer-reviewed results are published.

“But it seems to me that this might be a really unprecedented event,” he said. “These episodes of relatively rapid ocean warming that can persist for months have been occurring all over the place. They haven’t been common in this region.”

He said ocean temperature readings going back to April 2022 speak to the persistence of the warm conditions off the Antarctic Peninsula. The cruise covered an area more than 600 miles long and criss-crossed waters above the 125-mile wide continental shelf, documenting widespread ocean heating.

“That’s a very significant region,” he said. “We don’t have data going back 30 years for the entire region. But for the parts of the shelf for which we do have that data, it really seems extraordinary. It’s very difficult to warm the ocean, and so when we see these conditions, that really speaks to a very intense forcing.”

A Dangerous Climate Feedback

Greenhouse gases, mostly from burning fossil fuels, are the force behind the warming of the atmosphere and the oceans. The latest reports from Antarctica raise concern that a perilous climate feedback cycle of warmer oceans and melting ice has started around the continent, said Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

“We know the melting of Antarctica is most sensitive to lubrication by water,” he said. “It’s the sea melting the ice from below, it’s not atmospheric melting from above. And this is really, really worrying … and quite surprising, because up until 10 years ago, we were absolutely convinced that the Greenland ice sheet and the Arctic was the more sensitive of the two poles.”

Up until about 2014, science suggested that Antarctica was still gaining ice, but “that has shifted,” he said. An assessment released that year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that there is likely an Antarctic tipping point between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius warming that would trigger irreversible melting of ice shelves and glaciers.

The Paris Climate Agreement to cap warming in that range was signed the following year with the understanding that a vicious climate cycle in Antarctica has global implications, raising sea level faster than expected, and contributing to the slowdown of the critical Atlantic thermohaline circulation that moves warm and cold water between the poles. He said research shows that system of currents has been affected by global warming in recent decades, leaving more warm water in the Southern Ocean to drive marine heatwaves. 

Instead of flowing northward to the Gulf Stream, the warmer water persists around Antarctica, because ”That whole system has slowed down by 15 percent,” he said. “So when the circulation slows down, and you have more heat, you get more warm surface water in Antarctica.”

The Potential Start of an Icy Death Spiral

Antarctica was seen as a frozen redoubt until very recently because its ice sheets average more than a mile thick and cover an area as big as the contiguous United States and Mexico combined, spreading over about 5.4 million square miles with its center more than 1,000 miles from the ocean.

The continent is also encircled by a swift ocean current—the only one that flows all the way around the world–and an accompanying belt of jet stream winds several miles above it. Both helped buffer Antarctica’s sea ice, as well as its land-based glaciers and floating ice shelves, from the rapid increase of climate extremes seen in most other parts of the world the past few decades. 

But the observations from this year’s conditions may bolster several recent studies showing how global warming is eroding that protection. An August 2022 study in Nature Climate Change suggested that “circumpolar deep water” at a depth of 1,000 to 2,000 feet has warmed by up to 2 degrees Celsius, which is in turn related to a poleward shift of the westerly wind belt. 

That’s a critical depth where the water creeps up the continental shelf and beneath the floating ice shelf extensions of Antarctica’s huge land-based ice sheets, which poses a threat not only to ice in West Antarctica, already known to be vulnerable, but also to the thick, remote ice on the eastern half of the continent.

Warming through the world’s oceans is projected to persist in coming decades, so “the oceanic heat supply to East Antarctica may continue to intensify, threatening the ice sheet’s future stability,” the authors of the 2022 paper wrote. 

Another study, published June 2022 in Science Direct, showed that the changes to the winds responsible for pushing the warmer water closer to shore will also persist if greenhouse gas emissions continue, so without immediate action to implement global climate policies, the Antarctic system could loop into a death spiral. 

A 2016 study outlined a worst-case scenario in which warming would contribute to a rapid break-up of towering ice cliffs near the shore in a process that could speed up sea level rise, raising the water up to 7 feet by 2100 and 13 feet by 2150, increases that would be very hard to adapt to.

The water’s rise is already accelerating. In the 1990s, the global average sea level increased at about 3 millimeters per year, but that annual rate increased to 4.5 millimeters in the last five years. Between August 2020 and January 2021, sea level rose 10 millimeters.

Warming Waters Spread South

Researchers feel those buffering winds and ocean currents when they start their research voyages from South America, Africa or Australia because they have to cross the “Roaring Forties,” latitudes where fierce winds and deck-washing waves toss the vessels for a day or two before they end up in the relative calm of the Southern Ocean, where they can cruise smoothly under misty skies past floating sheets of ice.

The Southern Ocean encompasses all the water below 60 degrees South, and while it’s a mix of Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean waters, it was geographically recognized as a distinct geographic entity by NOAA in 1999, precisely because it’s separated by those currents in the ocean and the sky that enclose Antarctica’s climate and ecosystems.

But it’s now clear that warming is dangerously infiltrating West Antarctica, said Rob Larter, a polar marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey who is currently measuring marine sediments in the Southern Ocean from the RV Polarstern to determine how fast and how far ice sheets have moved in the past.

Comparing the marine geology with climate data like temperatures and carbon dioxide levels through the millennia helps show how the ice will respond to human-caused warming, but some of the changes are visible without instruments, Larter said.

“The most striking changes I have witnessed are the retreat of the front of Pine Island Glacier after an abrupt change in its calving style in 2015,” he said, describing one of the glaciers in West Antarctica known to be particularly vulnerable to the warming ocean. Up until that year, the glacier had been thinning, and then all of a sudden, big chunks started breaking off, he said.

“I visited the front on three different research cruises, in 2017, 2019 and 2020,” he said. “And each time we had to go about 10 km further upstream due to the rapid retreat resulting from more frequent calving.”

The RV Polarstern is cruising in the Bellingshausen Sea, farther south than Moffat’s ship, but Larter said the ocean surface in their research area is also unusually warm, “largely a consequence of the fact most of the sea ice that’s usually here had melted or drifted away westward by the end of November,” he said.

Sea ice holds the water temperature to about 2 degrees below zero Celsius, Larter said, but the water during his current expedition has been nearly a degree above zero—almost three degrees Celsius warmer than normal.

He said declining sea ice could potentially affect the global ocean temperatures more rapidly by decreasing the flow of frigid water from the Southern Ocean along sea floors farther north.  

“The dense, cold water formed around Antarctica flows northward and fills the deepest parts of most ocean basins,” he said. “In doing so it provides an important driver for the overturning thermohaline circulation.” Those currents help balance the global climate by redistributing massive amounts of heat energy.

The process of producing that dense water starts with sea ice formation and melting, he said.

“Sea ice is a little fresher than the water it forms from due to brine rejection during ice crystal formation,” he said. “The residual water becomes more saline, which makes it denser, causing it to sink, where it keeps the global refrigerator running as it spreads outward.”

It will be critical to monitor exactly how and where the warming ocean moves toward the ice shelves in West Antarctica, said Ted Scambos, a senior Antarctic researcher with the Earth Science and Observation Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

For now, it’s not clear whether the warmer water will reach the Amundsen Sea, 

which holds the Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier,” he said. “If it does, or if it’s the start of a patch of warm water that will eventually drift in front of all of those glaciers, then, yeah, we would see a jump in the retreat rates for sure.”

Scambos helps coordinate a global effort studying the region’s most vulnerable ice, and he said the scientists are also probing and prodding far beneath the shelves to learn how the formation of grooves and cracks affects melting. Sometimes, as the shelf drags across sections of the rough seafloor, the friction opens up gaps that can trigger more crack as the ice sags from above.

“The processes are real,” he said. “They really do happen, they really do speed things up and they are being incorporated in the models. But it’s not as dire as some of the more high end forecasts.”

While the tipping points that could cause runaway ice melt are difficult to reach, he said, research like Larter’s sediment maps shows that rapid retreats and meltdowns have happened in the geological past, potentially raising seas 2 to 3 meters in a century to submerge coastlines around the world.

“The runaway aspects of the process take hold fairly slowly. In the natural world, this process of marine ice instability takes about a millennium,” he said. But, “if we continue to drive it hard by warming the Pacific, by changing the circulation of air and ocean around Antarctica, we will get the fastest possible version of that marine ice sheet instability.”

Poll: Why more than half of Utahns are less concerned about #drought — The Deseret News #snowpack

Click the link to read the article on The Deseret News website (Amy Joi O’Donoghue). Here’s an excerpt:

Poll probes attitudes on drought, weather in Utah

A new poll shows that while more than 8 in 10 Utah residents remain concerned over the drought impacting the state, the series of storms this winter leaving a bountiful mountain snowpack have more than half of them less concerned than last year…When it came to views people have regarding Utah’s drought in general, 85% of survey participants said they were concerned, 14% said they were not concerned, while another 1% said they did not know…But with winter storms pounding the state, delivering snow levels well above average and in some areas like southern Utah nearly twice what is average, the poll shows some residents’ concern over drought is starting to wane. More than half of those polled, over 52%, said they are less concerned about drought than last year, 14% remain more concerned, 34% have about the same attitude and 1% don’t know…

“When people are seeing the above normal precipitation and snowpack, they’re talking about meteorological drought, which it’s something that we welcome and we are seeing improvements, of course, in that area,” Clayton said. “The one that’s going to take a much longer time to get out of is the hydrological drought, which is essentially our storage systems, our reservoirs — all of our surface water storage.”