Dirty little secret: West’s ozone problem is growing

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards.

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards. Map courtesy Jeremy Nichols/ClimateWest blog.

Proposed EPA standards would help bring relief to residents of fossil fuel development zones

Staff Report

FRISCO — The mythology of the American West includes standard notions of pristine vistas and clean air, but the reality is far different. Some parts of the region have a dirty little secret — air quality that, at times, is worse than places like L.A.

And for now, the problem is getting worse. Expanded drilling on public lands is resulting in emissions of more volatile organic compounds that form the chemical basis for ozone. Global warming won’t help either. By mid-century, ozone pollution will become much more widespread as temperatures rise, potentially leading to widespread plant damage, according to one recent study.

Proposed new EPA ozone standards could help, but only if there’s an active year-round monitoring regime in the region, a coalition of environmental groups said in their formal public comments on the proposed new standards. Continue reading

Study: Small trees key to long-term forest survival

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Forest treatments that focus on removing smaller trees may not be the best tool for western dry forests, according to new research by University of Wyoming scientists.

Study shows many treatments in western dry forests are misguided

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Mid-elevation forests in the western U.S. have survived centuries of drought, wildfires and insect onslaughts by hedging their bets with a diversity of tree sizes, Wyoming researchers said after studying forest plots from the Pacific Northwest down to Arizona and New Mexico.

The research showed that the biggest threat to those forests is from insects and not wildfires. Historically abundant small trees enable those forests to rebound after tree-killing bugs move through. Continue reading

Will there be a ‘hostile takeover’ of western public lands?

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Federal lands in the U.S. Courtesy Univ. of Montana.

New website offers glimpse of ongoing efforts to ‘de-federalize’ the West

Staff Report

FRISCO — On and off efforts to force the transfer of federally managed public western lands to individual states have grown beyond campaign rhetoric.

These days, there’s a semi-organized effort on the part of lawmakers in several western states to try and take over millions of acres of forests and rangelands. The history of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, with roots in the Reagan era, is outlined in detail on this University of Colorado website. Continue reading

Climate: Wet West in July

Energetic monsoon brings moisture surplus to many areas

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The big wet?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An energetic and widespread monsoon weather pattern brought above normal precipitation to much of the West in August, with a bullseye of moisture in southern Idaho, extending across western Wyoming, Montana, northeastern Utah and into northwestern Colorado. Some locations in the region saw up to 800 percent of average precipitation. Continue reading

Wildfire activity well below average for year to-date

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The far West and northern Great Basin are especially prone to wildfires this summer.

Potential for big fires still a concern in California

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For the first time in 10 years, the acreage burned by wildfires was less than 1 million acres as of the beginning of July. With extreme drought and high fire danger in parts of the far West, that could change quickly, but for now, both the number of fires and the acreage affected is well below average for the season, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

To-date, 26,684 fires have burned across about 909,000 acres, less than half he average 2.5 million acres for this time of year. By comparison, wildfires had already burned across more than 1.7 million acres last year at this time. In 2011 that number was at 4.8 million acres. Continue reading

Morning photo: Fields

Pastoral beauty

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Fallow fields in Grand Junction, Colorado, with the Grand Mesa as a backdrop.

FRISCO — I haven’t joined in the #FriFotos Twitter chat for a few months, but when I saw this week’s topic, I did a quick scan of the Summit Voice archives to find some of my favorite pictures of fields around the world, starting right here at home in Colorado and ranging as far as Iceland and Antarctica. On a recent trip, Leigh and I had a chance to visit Iceland, and amidst the wondrous ice fields and stunning coastline, we were fascinated by the lava fields, some of which are carpeted with a squishy, thick layer of moss. Upload your field photos via Flickr, Twitter or Instagram, tag them with #FriFotos and then enjoy the global slide show! Continue reading

June 2013 temps run 2 degrees above average

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NOAA report says it was the 15-warmest June on record

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Temperatures last month across the U.S. were 2 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average, making it the 15th-warmest June on record for the contiguous 48 states.

It was also the 13th-wettest June on record, precipitation 0.54 inches above the 20th century average, according to the monthly update from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

Most of the above-average heat was focused along the East Coast and in the West, where California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all reported top-10 readings for June. Continue reading

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