Category: Colorado

Study tracks Colorado ‘frack-quakes’

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A recent earthquake map from the Colorado Geological Survey shows a cluster of tremors along the northern Front Range.

Findings can help oil and gas operators minimize seismic risks

Staff Report

For nine months, oil and gas companies pumped 250,000 barrels of industrial wastewater deep underground in the fossil fuel sacrifice zone around Greeley, Colorado — and then, the Earth burped.

On the last day of May, 2014, the wastewater triggered a magnitude 3.2 earthquake that for some area residents felt like a truck hitting their house. The quake was the first in the area in about 40 years, fitting a regional pattern of earthquakes linked with fracking.

Now, a new study by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Colorado shows it may be possible to lessen the risk of frack-quakes by controlling the amount of wastewater being pumped into the ground, and by carefully monitoring seismic activity in fossil fuel development areas. Continue reading “Study tracks Colorado ‘frack-quakes’”

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper eyes executive order on climate change

Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?
Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?

Draft document highlights global warming threats to state

Staff Report

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says a “shifting climate” threatens many of the state’s vital industries, including skiing and agriculture, and he wants the state’s power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent in the next 15 years from 2012 levels. The goals are outlined in a draft version of an executive order on mitigating and adapting to climate change, which spells out some specific threats of global warming that are already well-known, including:

  • Greater air pollution will lead to a more hospital admissions and increased cases of respiratory illness;
  • Changes in precipitation can adversely impact the amount and quality of Colorado’s water resources;
  • Changes in runoff patterns, intense precipitation, and rising temperatures can negatively affect food production and result in greater risk of food contamination and waterborne illness.

Continue reading “Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper eyes executive order on climate change”

Will global warming boost groundwater supplies in the Upper Colorado River Basin?

Some climate models project more rainfall in the West

A bend in the Yampa River near Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado.
Will global warming boost flows in Colorado River tributaries? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

While most recent research suggests that the Colorado River will be depleted well beyond current demands as global temperatures increase, there may be one small bright spot on the horizon. Even if runoff from snow declines, groundwater replenishment in the basin may hold stead under projected increases in  precipitation, the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found in a new study.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Fred Tillman, lead author and USGS scientist. “These results are the first step in understanding the quantity of groundwater we can expect in the Upper Colorado River Basin; however, further studies are needed to help more accurately forecast future groundwater availability.”

The Colorado River is a critically important source of water for more than 35 million people in the United States and 3 million people in Mexico. As much as half the water flowing in the rivers and streams in the Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater. Understanding how much groundwater is available and how it’s replenished is important to sustainably manage both groundwater and surface water supplies in the Colorado River basin now and in the future.

In the new study, USGS and Reclamation scientists estimated projected changes in groundwater recharge for the Upper Colorado River Basin from recent historical (1950–2015) through future (2016–2099) time periods using climate projections and a groundwater-recharge model.

Simulated future groundwater recharge through 2099 is generally expected to be somewhat greater than the historical average in most decades due to an anticipated wetter future climate in the basin under the most advanced climate modeling projections. Groundwater resources are replenished through increases in precipitation, which may offset reductions from increased temperatures. The full report is available online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

But researchers urged caution interpreting the results because a few of the models suggested  decreased future recharge relative to the historical climate period.

Continue reading “Will global warming boost groundwater supplies in the Upper Colorado River Basin?”

Study quantifies role of oil and gas emissions in ozone formation along Colorado Front Range

Research to help shape efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution
ozone map

By Bob Berwyn
Emissions from oil and gas production along the Colorado Front Range are a significant, measurable part of the region’s chronic summer ozone problem, scientists concluded after taking a close look at air pollution during an extensive research project in the summer of 2014.

Ozone levels in the area often spike above 70 parts per billion, a level deemed by the EPA to be dangerous to human health and to the environment, causing respiratory problems and damage to plants. About 17 ppb of that ozone are produced locally; about 3 ppb come from oil and gas industry emissions, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The researchers said their findings could help shape efforts to improve air quality in the region. Along with the volatile organic compounds released from oil and gas operations, nitrogen oxides from cars, buses and trucks are also a big factor. Any meaningful effort to improve air quality will have to address both sources. Continue reading “Study quantifies role of oil and gas emissions in ozone formation along Colorado Front Range”

Colorado will kill bears and lions to boost deer herds

Colorado mule deer.
Colorado mule deer. @bberwyn photo.

State plans predator control research on Roan Plateau

Staff Report

Colorado wildlife managers say they are set to start a three-year study on whether killing bears and mountain lions can help boost deer populations in the northwestern part of the state, where hunting is a big part of the local economy.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, mule deer populations remain below objective in the state’s largest mule deer herds in the Piceance Basin. Part of a 2015 strategy to boost those numbers is predator control, which is not a popular concept with some wildlife advocates, who believe that habitat fragmentation from oil and gas development is probably a bigger factor in the long-term decline of deer herds. Continue reading “Colorado will kill bears and lions to boost deer herds”

Colorado River pulse flow released surge of greenhouse gases

New growth in delta could offset CO2 released from riverbed

Colorado River delta
The Colorado River Delta captured in a 2004 image from the International Space Station. Via NASA Earth Observatory.
Our special series on the Upper Colorado River is made possible with support from the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Contact Summit Voice for other sponsorship opportunities and click on the banner to visit the river district online.
Supported by the Colorado River District.

Staff Report

Human management of natural ecosystems always has unintended consequences, and the Colorado River is no exception. After decades of intense dam building and diversions, the mighty river is a mere shadow of it former self, reduced to a trickle in some places and polluted by return flows in others. Along its entire length, ecosystems, including riparian zones and native fish, have suffered, with some of the biggest impacts in the Colorado River delta.

In an effort to restore at least some key reaches of the river, scientists and water managers have teamed up to try mimic some of the Colorado’s natural functions, with controlled releases of water to build up beaches. Those efforts culminated in early 2014 during an eight-week experiment that unleashed a mighty torrent of water from Morelos dam (on the border with Mexico and the USA).

The huge surge (130 million cubic metres) of water raised river levels down to the delta, which has been starved of water for decades. Scientists closely monitored how the release — and potential future releases — affect agricultural crops and natural plant and animal life of the lower delta.

But the pulse flow had another side effect. As the water washed over earth and rocks that had been dried out for many years, it dissolved carbon and sent a surge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Continue reading “Colorado River pulse flow released surge of greenhouse gases”

Morning photo: Subway doodles

iPhone edits


Since everybody on the subway in Vienna stares into their “Handy” pretty much the entire time they’re on board a train, I thought I would do the same during a recent jaunt to Heiligenstadt. But rather than texting or checking email, I played with a couple of photo apps to put together this short plant-oriented set. The three edited shots are from Vienna, including the great, green chestnut leaves; the other two pics are from a slot canyon in southern Austria, the Heiligengeistklamm, so I could’ve called this set from the holy gorge to the holy city. What can I say — it’s a Catholic country.