Summer rains keep Colorado mostly drought-free

El Niño projected to bring above average autumn precipitation

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Spring and summer rains helped make up for a winter snowfall deficit in Colorado, where statewide precipitation was 98 percent of average 10 months into the 2015 water year. Graph courtesy NRCS.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Serious drought conditions persisted across the far West in July, but Colorado’s wet spring and summer helped boost the state’s water supplies and stream flow forecasts going into the late summer and fall. Only two small slices of the state have experienced abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Continue reading

Study says some forests may not recover from mega-disturbances in the global warming era

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There have been significant die-backs in Colorado aspen forests during recent hot droughts and the stands may never regenerate in some areas because of global warming. @bberwyn photo.

Giant fires, insect outbreaks could be ‘game-changer’ for some forests

Staff Report

FRISCO —Forest Service researchers say “mega-disturbances” like giant wildfires and insect outbreaks are likely to hasten the slow demise of temperate forest ecosystems in the coming decades.

Even without those large-scale events, some forests appear to be transitioning to shrublands and steppe, and big disturbances could speed that process, according to a new study published this month in Science. Continue reading

Lake Powell April-July inflow was 94 percent of average

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Water storage in Lake Powell has hovered near 50 percent of capacity for the past few years. Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

Wet spring and summer help avert worst of water shortages for now

Staff Report

FRISCO — Water storage in Lake Powell peaked on July 14 this year and has started its annual seasonal decline that will continue until spring runoff starts early in 2016, according to an Aug. 18 update from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Continue reading

U.S. wildfires surge to 10-year high

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Towering flames at the Fork Complex wildfire in California, Photo via Inciweb.

Feds spending $150 million per day and seek firefighting help from Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Staff Report

FRISCO — This year’s wildfire activity in the U.S. has surged to the highest level in 10 years, with the National Interagency Fire Center reporting that about 7.2 million acres have burned so far, and officials said they expect the wildfire season to intensify in the coming weeks.

The drought-stricken far West is hardest hit, with 16 large fires currently burning in Washington, 14 in California and 12 in Oregon. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said federal agencies are currently spending about $150 million per day on fighting fires across the West. Continue reading

Climate: West may be in permanent drought by 2060s

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Is western drought the new climate normal?

New study quantifies global warming effect on California drought

Staff Report

FRISCO — Researchers say there’s new evidence that global warming will push the western U.S. into the driest conditions in at least the past 1,000 years, as higher temperatures exacerbate drought condition in the region.

The new study by scientists with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Cornell University focused on the current California drought, showing that warmer temps drive moisture from plants and soil into the air. Warmer temps likely worsened the California drought by 25 percent, the scientists concluded in their paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Continue reading

Upper Colorado River Basin states buy ag and municipal water to shore up Lake Powell storage

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A pilot water purchasing program could help preserve storage in Lake Powell, Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

‘Forbearance’ of water use eyed as new tool in race to avoid water crisis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Water allocation in the Colorado River Basin may be entering a new era, officials said last week as they announced finalization of 10 pilot projects that will allow farmers, municipalities and other water users to voluntarily and temporarily forego use of their water in exchange for compensation.

The pilot projects, including one in the Yampa River Basin, are the result of a cooperative effort by Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico to shore up declining reservoir levels if the 15-year drought that has plagued the Colorado River continues into the future. Continue reading

New study details global warming impact to forests

‘We expect to see widespread declines in forest productivity’

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Red beetle-killed lodgepole pines in the White River National Forest near Frisco, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The vulnerability of the world’s forests to global warming has been widely underestimated, a group of scientists concluded after taking a hard look at all the scientific data on forest mortality.

“We expect to see widespread declines in forest productivity, changes in the species composition and dominance patterns of forest trees, a shift to smaller-sized trees, and reductions in forest extent in some regions,” said U.S. Geological Survey researcher Craig Allen, adding that, even forests in wetter parts of the world are going to be affected by rapidly warming global temperatures. Continue reading

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