Weather Whiplash Roundup — @Land_Desk

Click the link to read the article on The Land Desk website (Jonathan P. Thompson):

I suppose it goes without saying, but just in case you haven’t noticed: We live in interesting times climate- and water-wise. And by interesting I mean whiplash-inducing and uncertain; downpour mingled with drought; massive flash-floods in the same region as dried out river beds. 

Tropical storm Hillary wreaked havoc in southern and central California even as massive wildfires burned through tens of thousands of acres in the north. Flash flooding caused so much damage in Death Valley that the entire national park remains closed, weeks later.

Flood damage in Death Valley National Park, which remains closed weeks after Hurricane Hilary brought widespread flooding and damage to the park. Source: NPS

A successive wave of storms brought more rain to Nevada, turning Burning Man into a mud-and-poop fest from which celebrants couldn’t escape (God’s punishment, according to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed). Las Vegas Wash, which carries treated wastewater from Las Vegas back into Lake Mead (credited against Nevada’s Colorado River allocation), swelled up to 14,100 cubic feet per second on Sept. 2, the second highest flow since 1957. 

A woman and her dog were caught in a flash flood in Mary Jane Canyon near Moab and was swept about 200 feet downstream before escaping the rushing, muddy waters. She lost her shoes, was covered with mud, but otherwise escaped mostly unharmed, according to reports. 

The southern San Juan Mountains and headwaters of the Rio Grande have received about 40% more precipitation than normal this water year. And yet the Rio is nearly dry through Albuquerque. In early July, about 44% of New Mexico was in moderate drought; today the entire state is gripped by drought, with 20% at extreme levels.

It’s a similar story on the Animas River in southwestern Colorado, which had its healthiest spring runoff in years, only to see flows drop below median levels in August and September as the monsoon failed to deliver its usual deluges. Inflows into Lake Powell were far above average this spring, but in August they were back down to the median levels and on a par with last year. The surface level is now sitting at about 3,573 feet above sea level. That’s a lot better than last year at this time (3,530), but still 43 feet below what it was on Sept. 12, 2019.

Phoenix’s high temperature has reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter on 55 days so far this year, breaking the 2020 record. And at least 194 people have died from heat-related causes in the metro area this year, with 351 fatalities still being investigated. Pikes Peak experienced its first snow of the year, with a few inches accumulating on top.

Things might get even crazier. Forecasters say there is a greater than 95% chance that the El Niño climate pattern will continue through the winter. Typically that means more moisture than normal for the Southwest, less for the Northwest, and about average in between. But what does “typical” even mean in these climate-crazy days, anyway? 

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