May was a drought-buster for eastern Colorado

Wet summer ahead?

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May precipitation broke the all-time record for Colorado.

Every part of Colorado saw above normal precipitation in Many.

Every part of Colorado saw above normal precipitation in May.

Staff Report

FRISCO — May brought drought-busting precipitation to much of Colorado, state climate experts said last week during their monthly Water Availability Task Force meeting in Denver.

The beneficial moisture erased a long-running drought in southeastern Colorado and also helped boost the streamflow outlook in the Rio Grande Basin, where a meager winter snowpack had lowered expectations for summer runoff.

By contrast, the far western third of the state is still designated as experiencing abnormally dry conditions by the National Drought Monitor, which also shows a pocket of moderate drought across western Gunnison and much of Delta counties. Continue reading

Opinion: Climate, drought and the political Bizarro-land of the House Natural Resources Committee

Right-wingers frame drought as battle between environment and people; Colorado could avoid similar showdown with good planning

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Delta smelt, via USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Apparently, the lack of water in California has hindered the ability of some of the state’s elected officials to think straight.

Completely ignoring the facts that California’s precipitation has been well below average for four years in a row, and that the state’s temperatures have running at or near record highs, some Republican congressmen are calling the Golden State’s current dry spell a “man-made drought.” Continue reading

Heat worsens California drought, by a lot

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Months of record-high temperatures  are amplifying the impacts of California’s dry spell.

Sizzling temps kill snowpack, bake soil

Staff Report

FRISCO — The California drought is all the worse because of warmer temperatures, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said this week in a new study that reinforces previous findings.

The research focused on a one-year span, from Oct. 2013 to Sept. 2014, showing that, if the air temperatures had been cooler — similar to the 1916-2012 average — California’s critical winter snowpack would have been bigger, leading to more runoff and lower soil moisture deficits in the summer. Continue reading

Study: Cultural shift and centralized planning helped Melbourne adapt to Australia’s Millennium Drought

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Australia’s blistering Millennium Drought spurred wholesale changes in water use.

Regional water czar directed coordinated drought response

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Drought-prone cities and regions around the world can look to Melbourne, Australia to get an idea of what it takes to tackle water shortages during extended dry spells — and to prepare for future droughts, which are projected to become more frequent in some regions as global warming intensifies.

As the worst drought in Australia’s history took hold during the late 1990s, the city’s 4.3 million residents were able to cut their daily water use by half, to just 41 gallons per per person, according to a new study. Continue reading

Global warming: Risk of exposure to extreme heat waves is growing dramatically

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Warm enough!

Population growth in warm zones is a big part of the equation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Extreme heat kills more people than any other type of extreme weather, and that mortality could increase significantly in coming decades as the Earth warms under a blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Americans’ exposure to extreme heat could increase  four- to six-fold by 2050, a new study concludes, explaining that it’s not just the heat — the country’s population is  growing especially fast in the hottest regions of the country. Continue reading

Drought disaster declared in northwest Colorado

USDA declaration opens door for emergency aid

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Staff Report

FRISCO — While spring snow and rain have slightly eased Colorado water woes, the situation is more serious in the northwestern part of the state, where three large rural counties have been designated as a contiguous disaster areas due to drought.

Senator Michael Bennet announced the designation today, saying that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declaration makes farm operators in thise counties eligible to be considered for federal assistance, including Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

“Producers on Colorado’s western slope have faced drought conditions that are damaging their goods and hurting local economies,” Bennet said. “These disaster designations will allow farmers and ranchers to access critical assistance to help them deal with any losses to crops or livestock.”

Producers in counties designated as primary or contiguous disaster areas are eligible to be considered for FSA emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for assistance. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers and ranchers with additional information.

The drought declaration came after a winter of well-below normal snowfall and near-record warmth in the region.

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

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