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.

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

Climate: Early meltdown for Colorado snowpack

April 1 snowpack the 3d-lowest in 30 years; state preps for low runoff and summer streamflows

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Colorado snowpack started to decline in March, a month ahead of schedule.

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Colorado experienced widespread warmth in March.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado water users need to prepare for below-average spring and summer runoff and streamflow based on the all-important April 1 snow survey, which showed a startling drop in the state’s snowpack since early March.

After tallying readings from automated SNOTEL sites and manual snow surveys, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service said the water content of the snowpack is just 64 percent of average, down from 89 percent at the beginning of March.

“This is showtime when it comes to hydrological cycle in Colorado,” said state climatologist Nolan Doesken, referring to the fact that the state’s snowpack usually increases significantly in March and April. Continue reading

Loss of northern hemisphere spring snow cover likely to amplifiy overall global warming signal

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More midwinter snow, but faster spring meltout seems to be the new climate norm in the northern hemisphere.

‘As shifts in the timing of meltout occur, we lose an important and relatively stable snowpack reservoir …’

FRISCO —Dwindling spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere could accelerate the pace of global warming, as darker-colored ground emerges earlier in the year, absorbing more of the sun’s heat and intensifying atmospheric warming.

The spring decline is evident despite a trend toward more snow in mid-winter — but June snowcover in the northern hemisphere has been below average 10 years in a row. The downward trend is mainly due to warmer temperatures, not to any big changes in overall precipitation totals, according to the most recent IPCC climate assessment. Continue reading

Colorado: Statewide snowpack way above average

South Platte Basin snowpack at 315 percent of average

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Big snowpack lingers in Colorado Rockies. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Rivers in northern Colorado will continue to flow at high levels for several more weeks, water watchers said last week, releasing the results of the June 1 snowpack survey. While runoff season is well under way, the remaining snowpack in the Colorado River Basin is still 223 percent of median and 80 percent higher than last year’s snowpack on June 1.

The most snow lingers in the South Platte Basin, where the snowpack is at 311 percet of median. All basins north of the Gunnison are well above average, but the state’s southern basins have nearly melted out, continuing a run of drought conditions and heightening concerns about this summer’s fire season. The Rio Grande Basin and the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins are at 59 and 39 percent of median, respectively. Continue reading

Colorado: A tale of two snowpacks

This is an unfiltered iPhone shot, showing that, if the light is good to begin with, you don't need a lot of technical tricks.

A deep snowpack in late March along Tenmile Creek, in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Snowpack bountiful north, a little sparse in the San Juans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A persistent weather pattern across the U.S. in March once again benefited Colorado’s northern and central mountains, as a steady stream of storms brushed down the northern Rockies before roaring into the Midwest.

In the northwestern part of the state, the snowpack increased in the Colorado and Yampa river basins. The South Platte River Basin is at a near-record level. similar to 2011, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which released results of the all-important April 1 snowpack survey.

By contrast, southwestern Colorado is on the eastern edge of a large area that’s very dry, including near-record drought in California. The snow survey showed  snowpack conditions across the southern mountains tracking below normal for the third consecutive month.

Continue reading

Climate: How hot will it get in Colorado?

State releases draft climate change report, comments wanted

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How warm will it get in Colorado?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate experts say it’s about to get warmer —probably much warmer — in Colorado. A draft state climate report released this week for public comment shows that Colorado has warmed by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years. By the middle of this century, summer temperatures will be higher than in all but the hottest years, with another 2.5 to 5.5 degrees of warming expected. Continue reading

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