#Snowpack news: South Platte River Basin still on top in #Colorado = 124% of normal, widespread snowfall on the way for the mountains

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

Here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for December 12, 2019 from the NRCS.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map December 12, 2019 via the NRCS.

From OutThereColorado.com (Spencer McKee):

According to the National Weather Service, the “inland intrusion of an atmospheric river” is making landfall in parts of California and Oregon, expected to impact upcoming weather in Colorado’s mountains and high-altitude areas of the western slope. Starting late Thursday and continuing through Sunday morning, up to two feet of snow could fall in the northern and central mountains. Snowfall is currently forecasted to hit later in the San Juans, likely dropping flakes in the 12 to 18 inch range in this region.

#Drought news: No change in depiction for #Colorado

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

The U.S. Drought Monitor week saw another round of winter storms, bringing snow to the mountainous areas of the West, northern Plains, upper Midwest, and Northeast while lower elevations of the West and parts of the South, Southeast, lower Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic regions saw rain. This week’s precipitation in the Southwest left many areas with accumulations that exceeded 300 percent of normal over the past 14-day period, leading to continued improvements in short-term dryness. Once again, precipitation in the Northwest was below normal. Many locations have received less than 25 percent of normal over the last 14 days, resulting in the expansion of abnormally dry conditions. Meanwhile, another dry week in the Southern Plains and below-normal rainfall in the South and Southeast led to expansions in pockets of abnormal dryness and drought…

High Plains

Last week’s weather brought continued dryness to the abnormally dry and drought areas of south-central Nebraska, Kansas and eastern Colorado. In Kansas, where moisture deficits have been present for more than three months, abnormal dryness (D0), moderate drought (D1), and severe drought (D2) were expanded to reflect the increasing dryness and its impact on winter wheat. The map was unchanged this week for the remainder of the region…

West

Another week of above-normal rainfall and mountain snow led to continued improvements in the Southwest. In California and Nevada, rainfall over the last three weeks has helped to make up for the slow start to the water year, resulting in the removal of the abnormal dryness (D0) depiction across most of the state. Pockets of D0 remain in areas that missed the heaviest precipitation or where station data indicate below-normal snow. In the Four Corners states, the map depiction strives to balance the effect of the recent precipitation with the failure of the monsoon. Changes include a broad 1-category improvement across southern and western Arizona, western Utah, and western New Mexico. The heavy black line separating drought impact designations was expanded to delineate areas that are experiencing both short- (less than 6 months) and long-term (greater than 6 months) deficits. For example, the designation across southern and western Arizona is “L”, indicating that deficits are only present at longer time scales and in indicators such groundwater and root zone soil moisture, whereas the designation in eastern Colorado is “S”, indicating more seasonal deficits and impacts to indicators such as surface soil moisture and streamflow…

South

The South once again saw a mixture of degradations and improvements. Improvements were limited to central Texas, where last week’s rainfall, in excess of 300 percent of normal, resulted in a general one-category improvement. Meanwhile, the eastern and southern parts of the state continued to dry out with expansions to areas of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate (D1) and severe (D2) drought. The heavy black line separating drought impact designations was shifted eastward in south Texas to reflect that this area is also experiencing dryness at longer (more than 6 months) time scales. Eastern Oklahoma also saw degradations with an expansion of D0 as dryness, extending back to September, continued. This dryness comes at a vital time in winter crop cycles, and a continued lack of moisture may cause impacts later. Other degradations include the expansion of D0 and/or D1 in southwest Arkansas, Louisiana, and southwest Mississippi…

Looking Ahead

The National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center forecast for the remainder of the week calls for moderate to heavy mountain snows extending from the Pacific Northwest to the north-central Great Basin and Rockies. Meanwhile, parts of the northern High Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley, and upper Great Lakes are expected to see snow. As this storm moves eastward over the weekend, the Southeast, Tennessee Valley, and Mid-Atlantic will see rain, while mixed precipitation is expected in the Northeast. Dry conditions are expected in the Southwest, Southern Plains, and lower Mississippi River Basin.

Moving into next week, the Climate Prediction Center 6 to 10 day outlook (valid December 16-20) favors above-normal temperatures for the central and northern coast of California; parts of the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Central Plains regions; and the Florida Peninsula. Areas with increased chances for below-normal temperatures include parts of the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys and the Northeast region. Precipitation is likely to be above normal over the Pacific Northwest, parts of northern California, and from the Southern Plains, across the Southeast, and into the Mid-Atlantic region.

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

Click here to read the discussion:

EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO) DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION
issued by
CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS
and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society 12 December 2019
ENSO Alert System Status: Not Active

Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is favored during the Northern Hemisphere winter 2019-20 (70% chance), continuing through spring 2020 (~65% chance).

Above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were observed in the central tropical Pacific Ocean during November, with regions of above and below average SSTs observed farther east. In the most recent week, the SST indices were near average in the east-central and eastern Niño regions (+0.1°C to +0.3°C) and were above average in the westernmost Niño-4 region (+0.9°C). The equatorial subsurface temperature anomalies (averaged across 180°-100°W) returned to near zero during the month, reflecting the progression of Kelvin waves to the east. The low-level winds were near average during November, while easterly upper-level wind anomalies were observed over the western Pacific. Finally, tropical convection was suppressed near and east of the Date Line and also over Indonesia, and somewhat enhanced over the western Pacific northeast of Papua New Guinea. The overall oceanic and atmospheric system was consistent with ENSO-neutral.

The majority of models in the IRI/CPC plume continue to favor ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and +0.5°C) through the Northern Hemisphere summer. Many dynamical model forecasts suggest Niño-3.4 SST index values may remain near +0.5°C into December before decreasing toward zero. Forecasters agree with this consensus and believe the chances for El Niño to be 25-30% during the winter and spring. In summary, ENSO-neutral is favored during the Northern Hemisphere winter 2019-20 (70% chance), continuing through spring 2020 (~65% chance; click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

Time Magazine Person of the Year: @GretaThunberg #ActOnClimate

From Time Magazine (Charlotte Alter, Suyin Haynes and Hustin Worland):

Greta Thunberg sits in silence in the cabin of the boat that will take her across the Atlantic Ocean. Inside, there’s a cow skull hanging on the wall, a faded globe, a child’s yellow raincoat. Outside, it’s a tempest: rain pelts the boat, ice coats the decks, and the sea batters the vessel that will take this slight girl, her father and a few companions from Virginia to Portugal. For a moment, it’s as if Thunberg were the eye of a hurricane, a pool of resolve at the center of swirling chaos. In here, she speaks quietly. Out there, the entire natural world seems to amplify her small voice, screaming along with her.

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” she says, tugging on the sleeve of her blue sweatshirt. “That is all we are saying.”

It’s a simple truth, delivered by a teenage girl in a fateful moment…

Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

The politics of climate action are as entrenched and complex as the phenomenon itself, and Thunberg has no magic solution. But she has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change. She has offered a moral clarion call to those who are willing to act, and hurled shame on those who are not. She has persuaded leaders, from mayors to Presidents, to make commitments where they had previously fumbled: after she spoke to Parliament and demonstrated with the British environmental group Extinction Rebellion, the U.K. passed a law requiring that the country eliminate its carbon footprint. She has focused the world’s attention on environmental injustices that young indigenous activists have been protesting for years. Because of her, hundreds of thousands of teenage “Gretas,” from Lebanon to Liberia, have skipped school to lead their peers in climate strikes around the world…

Thunberg is 16 but looks 12. She usually wears her light brown hair pulled into two braids, parted in the middle. She has Asperger’s syndrome, which means she doesn’t operate on the same emotional register as many of the people she meets. She dislikes crowds; ignores small talk; and speaks in direct, uncomplicated sentences. She cannot be flattered or distracted. She is not impressed by other people’s celebrity, nor does she seem to have interest in her own growing fame. But these very qualities have helped make her a global sensation. Where others smile to cut the tension, Thunberg is withering. Where others speak the language of hope, Thunberg repeats the unassailable science: Oceans will rise. Cities will flood. Millions of people will suffer…

Thunberg is not a leader of any political party or advocacy group. She is neither the first to sound the alarm about the climate crisis nor the most qualified to fix it. She is not a scientist or a politician. She has no access to traditional levers of influence: she’s not a billionaire or a princess, a pop star or even an adult. She is an ordinary teenage girl who, in summoning the courage to speak truth to power, became the icon of a generation. By clarifying an abstract danger with piercing outrage, Thunberg became the most compelling voice on the most important issue facing the planet.

Water cutbacks set to begin under deal designed to ‘buy down risk’ on #ColoradoRiver — The Arizona Republic #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2019

Back Row Left to Right: James Eklund (CO), John D’Antonio (NM), Pat Tyrell (WY), Eric Melis (UT), Tom Buschatzke (AZ), Peter Nelson (CA), John Entsminger (NV), Front Row: Brenda Burman (US), and from DOI – Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tim Petty. Photo credit: Colorado River Water Users Association

From The Arizona Republic (Ian James):

Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will start taking less water from the Colorado River in January as a hard-fought set of agreements kicks in to reduce the risk of reservoirs falling to critically low levels.

The two U.S. states agreed to leave a portion of their water allotments in Lake Mead under a deal with California called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, which the states’ representatives signed at Hoover Dam in May.

California agreed to contribute water at a lower trigger point if reservoir levels continue to fall. And Mexico agreed under a separate accord to take steps to help prop up Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir near Las Vegas, which now sits 40% full after a nearly 20-year run of mostly dry years.

The agreements, including another deal in the river’s Upper Basin, increase the odds of Western states making it through the next seven years without reservoir levels crashing. But researchers examining the latest climate projections have also warned of the possibility that declines in the river’s flow could force water curtailments in the coming years, and they’ve suggested looking at options to reduce risks.

For the first time since signing the drought contingency deals, representatives of seven states will meet this week at a conference in Las Vegas to talk over their next steps in managing the Colorado River…

Arizona will see a cut of 192,000 acre-feet in water deliveries next year, or 6.9% of its total allotment of 2.8 million acre-feet. Nevada’s share will be reduced by 8,000 acre-feet, while Mexico’s will take 41,000 acre-feet less.

That water will remain in Lake Mead, and will only be recovered in future years once the reservoir rises above an elevation of 1,100 feet. Its level now stands about 15 feet below that threshold.

The cuts under the deal represent 12% of the total water supply for the Central Arizona Project, which delivers water by canal to Phoenix, Tucson and other areas. The agency that manages the canal has said the cuts will reduce deliveries for agriculture by about 15% and eliminate water that would have been available for storing underground and replenishing groundwater at facilities along the CAP Canal…

According to Bureau of Reclamation figures, Arizona and California together conserved 316,000 acre-feet in 2018, and are on track to conserve an estimated 685,800 acre-feet in 2019. Burman said voluntary conservation efforts by the states have helped, and the drought contingency plan has incentivized more conservation…

Arizona’s plan for managing the water cutbacks involves deliveries of “mitigation” water to help lessen the blow for some farmers and other entities, as well as compensation payments for those that contribute water. The payments will be covered with more than $100 million from the state and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

Much of the money will go toward paying for water from the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Gila River Indian Community…

In one study, climate scientists Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck used climate models to estimate a business-as-usual scenario of greenhouse gas emissions. They projected that without changes in precipitation, warming will likely cause the Colorado River’s flow to decrease by 35% or more by the end of the century…

In a new report, water researchers Anne Castle and John Fleck warn that the Colorado River’s water supply could decline so much in the next decade that the ability of the four Upper Basin states “to meet their legal obligations to downstream users in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico would be in grave jeopardy.”

Castle and Fleck examined the latest science on projected flows and analyzed the legal framework governing the Colorado River…

Patti Aaron, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation, responded to the researchers’ findings.

“We applaud a continued focus on the Colorado River, particularly regarding the risks we all are facing going forward,” Aaron said in an email. “We have a solid history in this Basin of finding solutions to complex problems by working together in an open and collaborative way. Reports of this nature help us stay on that path.”

[…]

California signed on to the deal, but the state’s Imperial Irrigation District balked at participating.

Salton Sea screen shot credit Greetings from the Salton Sea — Kim Stringfellow.

Imperial holds the single largest share of Colorado River water, which flows to farms producing crops such as alfalfa, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Imperial’s officials have called for the state and federal governments to urgently address a worsening environmental crisis at the Salton Sea, which is shrinking and exposing dry lake bed that sends dust blowing into surrounding communities.

The sea has been shrinking more rapidly under a 2003 deal that is transferring water from the Imperial Valley to growing urban areas in San Diego County and the Coachella Valley.

In October, the Imperial Irrigation District’s board members voted unanimously to declare an emergency at the Salton Sea, pressing for California officials to break through years of wrangling and red tape to get working on dust-control and habitat projects along the retreating shores.

Last month, the IID board adopted a resolution laying out parameters for IID’s involvement in future Colorado River negotiations. They said in the resolution that “the linkage between the Colorado River and the Salton Sea is inextricable.”

[…]

Burman, who is scheduled to speak, said the drought contingency plan has laid a foundation that will help the states and other parties work through their next steps.

“Our history on the Colorado River is making improvements and incremental progress as we go,” Burman said. “It’s important that we’re out there talking about the challenges. It’s important that we’re out there talking about possible solutions.”

Brad Evans’s Mission to Turn #SouthPlatteRiver From a Sewer Into a Gem — Westword

From Westword (Michael Roberts:

Brad Evans loves to stir up shit. The founder of the Denver Cruisers Ride and a 2018 candidate for the RTD board is also the prime mover for Denver FUGLY, which draws attention to the most unsightly new development in the city. And he was among the driving forces behind Ditch the Ditch, a group that unsuccessfully sued to stop the Central 70 project.

Now, Evans has another title to add to his collection: South Platte River Waterkeeper. Under the auspices of Waterkeeper Alliance, an international organization that bills itself “the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water,” he will work toward protecting and restoring a waterway that he sees as in desperate need of attention and care. The South Platte is one of Denver’s primary water sources, but a Waterkeeper Alliance release argues that it’s been tainted by “rampant development, unmonitored dumping from chemical and production plants, and hundreds of stormwater drains.”

“It’s been a sewer rather than a jewel,” Evans says. “So how do you shift from it being a sewer to treating it like a gem? That’s what we’re going to find out. But right now, we’re still in the sewer phase.”

Sounds like the perfect gig for a shit-stirrer — although he’s much more interested in reducing the river’s waste and pollution than simply swirling it around, as evidenced by a new online fundraising endeavor being launched in conjunction with Colorado Gives Day today, December 10.

According to Waterkeeper Alliance U.S. organizing manager Bart Mihailovich, “we’re a global support network of 350 waterkeepers and waterkeeper affiliates around the world. We serve to support autonomous, local grassroots work with services, so they can do the important work they do to fight for drinkable, fishable and swimmable waters around the world.”

“Science be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the #ColoradoRiver” — @R_EricKuhn/@jfleck

I finished Eric Kuhn and John Fleck’s new book in the hotel last night on my way to Las Vegas for the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference.

It’s a page-turner that charts the history of the “Law of the River” and how politics and enthusiastic engineers that loved the big projects mostly trumped science in the debate and decisions since the Colorado River Compact negotiations. That trumping set the stage for we users of the Colorado River going forward. The book has praise for current decision makers and the deliberate effort to listen to the scientists regarding the hydrology of the river and the acidification in the basin due to the climate crisis.

Click here to order your copy of “Science be Dammed”.

Brad Udall: “…latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
@GreatLakesPeck