Posted on July 25, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Satellite data suggests more than 75 percent of water loss in drought-stricken basin is from groundwater pumping
A new study quantifies groundwater depletion in the Colorado River Basin. Map courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Groundwater pumping is a huge factor in the Colorado River Basin water equation, California-based researchers said this week, announcing the results of satellite study that for the first time quantifies how groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states.
Along with surface diversions and pipelines, water users in the basin are also unsustainably depleting underground aquifers. For example, mountain resort towns in Colorado tap underground water from headwaters streams like Tenmile Creek and the Blue River for municipal use.
The new study found that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought, the researchers concluded. Continue reading
Filed under: agriculture, Colorado, Colorado River, Environment, rivers, water | Tagged: Colorado River Basin, drought, groundwater depletion | 1 Comment »
Posted on May 4, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Old Douglas firs can help reveal historic climate cycles.
Recent dry spells not so bad compared to past centuries
FRISCO — A tree-ring reconstruction of Utah’s climate going back to 1429 shows that the state has experienced several mega-droughts in past centuries that would be life-changing if they happen again, according to Brigham Young University professor Matthew Bekker.
The worst drought of the modern era, the 1930s Dust Bowl, barely ranks on the top 10 list of droughts in that 500-year span,” Bekker said. The findings reinforce similar studies for the Colorado River Basin. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Drought | Tagged: climate, drought, megadroughts, tree rings, Utah | 2 Comments »
Posted on April 15, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A NASA photo taken from the International Space Station shows sunlight glinting off the Amazon River.
Drought the main driver of destructive fires
By Staff Report
FRISCO — Longer droughts, land-use changes and wildfires may be pushing parts of the Amazon rainforest toward an ecological tipping point, a team of scientists said after analyzing the effects of fire in a series of study plots.
The changes may abruptly increase tree mortality and change vegetation over large areas, the researchers said, pointing out that current Amazon forest models don’t include the impacts of wildfires. As a result, projections of future forest health tend to underestimate the amount of tree death and overestimate overall forest health, said Dr. Michael Coe, of the Woods Hole Research Center. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Drought, Environment, global warming | Tagged: Amazon Rainforest, drought, Environment, Wildfires | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 3, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Drought is expected to expand the southwestern U.S. and other regions.
Evaporation seen as huge factor in climate calculations
FRISCO — Increasing global temperatures will drive drought expansion regardless of precipitation in some cases, as more moisture evaporates from soils.
An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought. The study excludes Antarctica.
The new study models the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought, estimating that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere is considered.
Filed under: climate and weather, Drought, global warming | Tagged: climate change, drought, global warming | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 19, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Long-term Pacific Ocean cycles could be driving SW drought
What’s the role of natural climate variability in Southwestern droughts?
FRISCO — If you’re ready to blame drought in the southwestern U.S. on global warming, it might be time to rethink that conclusion.
According to scientists with the University of California, Riverside, dry conditions in the region may be linked with an expansion of the Earth’s tropical belt during the past few decades. And that expansion is likely driven by multi-decadal sea surface temperature variability in the Pacific Ocean, according to the new study. Other explanations for this widening have been proposed, including radiative forcing due to greenhouse gas increase and stratospheric ozone depletion. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, extreme weather, global warming | Tagged: climate change, drought, extreme weather, PDO | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 17, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Severe drought continues in Southwest
California, Arizona and New Mexico reporting very dry conditions.
By Summit VoiceFRISCO — Snowpack across the West is still somewhat of mixed bag in this no-Niño winter, but February storms did help bolster water supplies across the northern tier of states, according to the monthly update from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
East of the Continental Divide as well as parts of Washington, northern Oregon, northern Idaho and western Montana are now forecast to have near-normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast from the NRCS National Water and Climate Center. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, extreme weather, global warming, Snow and weather | Tagged: climate, drought, stream flow forecasts, The West | 1 Comment »
Posted on March 14, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Dry conditions persist in far West
February 2014 emperatures varied widely across the country.
FRISCO — The average February temperature across contiguous United States was well below the 20th century average. With an average reading of 32.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degrees below average), last month will go down in the books at the 37th-coldest February on record, the National Climatic Data Center reported in its regular monthly update.
The winter season overall (December to February) was 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit below average, making it the coldest winter since 2009-2010. This winter stood in sharp contrast to the last two winters, and most winters of the past two decades, when temperatures were predominately warmer than the 20th century average, the climate data center said. Read the full report here. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, global warming | Tagged: climate, drought, extreme weather, global warming | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Widespread western drought continues
Much of the West has been very dry during the first four months of the 2014 water year.
By Summit Voice
As California experiences its worst drought in more than a century, it’s probably not surprising that some stream gages in the northern part of the state are showing all-time record low readings, with 2013 in the record books as the driest calendar year in the state’s 119-year recorded history.
Low streamflow affects water availability for agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses, water quality, water temperature, recreational opportunities, and the maintenance of fish populations.
Recent precipitation has resulted in some increases in streamflow, snowpack, and reservoir levels, but severe drought conditions remain. Without significant additional precipitation, prior conditions will quickly return leaving most streams in the state at less than 10 percent of normal for this time of year. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Drought, Environment, rivers, water | Tagged: California drought, climate, Colorado River, drought, Lake Powell, rivers | 2 Comments »
Posted on January 30, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
‘What we are seeing now is fundamentally different from previous mega-droughts, which were driven largely by precipitation’
Global warming is likely to exacerbate droughts worldwide.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — While drought conditions have eased across parts of the U.S. in recent months, conditions have worsened in the far West, and particularly in California, where water shortages will have consequences spreading far beyond the state’s borders.
And the western drought has global warming fingerprints all over, according to four researchers who discussed the links between climate change and drought at a teleconference organized by Climate Nexus, a communications group focused on highlighting the wide-ranging impacts of climate change. Continue reading
Filed under: agriculture, climate and weather, Drought, Environment, extreme weather, global warming | Tagged: California drought, drought, Environment, extreme weather, global warming | 2 Comments »
Posted on December 14, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
NRCS snow surveys help water managers plan ahead.
Temporary budget fix ensures program through August 2014
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — For decades, hydrologists have been tromping through the high country of Colorado and around the West to make detailed snowpack measurements. Together with data from automated SNOTEL sites and other tools, the monthly snow-course readings help water managers develop accurate projections of spring stream flows, and how much water will be available for irrigation and storage.
The information is critical in arid regions, which rely on the winter snowpack as the ultimate reservoir. Federal budget cuts have threatened the program, raising concern among western resource managers, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that it has found a way to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program — at least through the end of Aug. 2014. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: climate, Colorado, drought, Natural Resources Conservation Service, rivers, SNOTEL, snow surveys, weather | 2 Comments »