Climate: Drought ‘donut’ circles Colorado

Forecast for wet spring helps ease concerns

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A drought donut around Colorado?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Above-average reservoir storage and forecasts for a wet spring season could help keep Colorado out of drought trouble — even though statewide precipitation has been below average for the entire water year to-date, starting last October. As of mid-March, 40 percent of Colorado was classified as being in severe drought conditions, with only 25 percent of the state drought-free. Continue reading

Colorado River managers downgrade flow projections

Lake Powell expected to see about half of average inflow

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A NASA Earth Observatory image of Lake Powell snaking through the Colorado Plateau. Visit this NASA link for more.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal water managers downgraded their expectations for Upper Colorado River flows by several notches in the past few weeks, as warm and dry early spring conditions across most of the basin nibbled away at the mountain snowpack that sustains the river’s flows through the summer.

The Bureau of Reclamation today said they expect inflows into Lake Powell to be just 3.75 million acre feet during the key April to July runoff season. That’s just 52 percent of the 1980-2010 average and down 1.35 million acre feet from the projections of just a month ago, when the agency was hoping for 5.1 million acre feet of runoff. Continue reading

Study says global warming will bring drought to western U.S. sooner rather than later

Historical water data not a good basis for planning; strategic planning and prompt action needed

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Many parts of the world could experience serious drought by mid-century.

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The western U.S. may already be in a new drought regime driven by global warming.

Staff Report

FRISCO —The western U.S. will likely be one of the first places to experience unprecedented drought driven by climate change, according to new research by scientists with the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Continue reading

Study eyes Pacific warm water ‘blob’ as drought driver

‘This is a taste of what the ocean will be like in future decades’

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Exceedingly high water temperatures in the eastern Pacific have persisted for several years, influencing weather across western North America and beyond.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate scientists have long known that the West has experienced significant long-term droughts during past millennia, but they don’t know exactly why. Understanding the cause may be more important now, given the huge impacts of the current drought in California, so researchers have been focusing on a huge mass of warm water hugging the West Coast.

Those conditions may be linked with a relatively unknown decadal weather pattern called the North Pacific Mode, which may be a significant weather driver, along with the El Niño-La Niño oscillation, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, according to the University of Washington’s Dennis Hartmann. Continue reading

Spring warmth ups fire danger in Rockies

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A dwindling snowpack means increased fire danger. This low spring snowpack in 2012 was followed by a severe wildfire season in Colorado.

‘The next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Early snowmelt and above-average temperatures have upped the fire danger across parts of the Rocky Mountain and high plains region, federal officials said this week, forecasting a more active wildfire season than last year.

“This year we are expecting an average to above-average fire season,” said Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center fire meteorologist Tim Mathewson. “A repeat of a 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2012 historic fire season is unlikely at this time; however, the next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation.” Continue reading

Major water woes looming in the West

Record low streamflows expected in many areas this summer

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Precipitation for the 2015 water year- to-date is now below normal over most of the West except for some northwestern areas. The dry March has significantly affected this picture since a month ago, when far more of the West was near normal.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Federal water watchers say their April 1 readings show that precipitation thus far in the 2015 water year (beginning October 1, 2014) is now below normal over most of the West except for some northwestern areas and coastal Alaska.

Snowpack has declined significantly since last month throughout the West due to the warm and dry March. Only high- elevation areas in the Rocky Mountains and Interior Alaska retain somewhat near normal snowpack.

Streamflow forecasts have dropped since last month due to a lack of snow accumulation during March and an early snowmelt, with most regions now expecting below normal streamflow. Reservoir storage is currently below normal in the Southwest and Nevada, with near to above normal storage elsewhere. Continue reading

March ends up as 12th-warmest on record for U.S.

Near-record heat across the West

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March 2015 temperatures were near record warm from the upper Midwest to the Pacific Coast. Map courtesy NOAA.NCDC.

Staff Report

FRISCO — March 2015 will go down in the books as the 12th-warmest on record across the contiguous U.S. The average temperature for the month was 45.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.9 degrees above the 20th century average and the warmest since 2012. Continue reading

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