Lake Mead “bathtub ring”

One of the members of my brain trust was speculating idly the other day about how different the Colorado River dialogue might be if the hydro-geo-chemistry of the bathtub ring was different – if the dropping water didn’t leave a white mark, letting you see how much Lake Mead has dropped, letting people like me …

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West’s snowpack improves, still not great

It is testimony to a lousy January and most of February that the spectacular snowstorm I drove home into over the weekend left the key watersheds that provide water to the Rio Grande and Colorado River still behind average for the year. The 9 inches of snow at my house was the most since December …

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In the mountains of southern Oregon, what used to be snow turns to rain

Precipitation this winter at Crater Lake, in northern California southern Oregon, is a tad above normal. Snowpack is at record lows: On Friday morning, the snow level was at 32 inches, tying the Feb. 27 record for low snow. However, snow was falling Friday from a new storm system bringing rain to the Rogue Valley …

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Arizona Republic tackling the Colorado River

Brandon Loomis at the Arizona Republic, with an O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism through the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University, is trying to help us with this: Will Arizona and the Southwest continue to lead the nation in growth as the Colorado River dries? The first round of stories, with Republic photographer …

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A word of caution about what “Upper Colorado” means

People monitoring snowpack and planning for the coming water year use two quite different definitions for the “Upper Colorado” basin/headwaters/watershed. One definition involves the watershed above Glenwood Springs, within the state of Colorado, where the branch of the big river once known as the “Grand” and then renamed the “Colorado” begins. (Bob in the comments …

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Megadrought paper: message received, now what do we do?

The new paper by Ben Cook and colleagues clarifying our understanding the risk of megadrought in the southwestern United States has rightly gotten a lot of attention. Combining paleo records and modeling of a changing climate under rising greenhouse gas scenarios, Cook and his colleagues have created some scary reading: [F]uture drought risk will likely …

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Bad January, worse February in Colorado, Rio Grande basins

January was bad for snowpack and therefore spring runoff in the Colorado and Rio Grande basins. February has been worse. But we don’t use water at the basin scale, we use it one irrigation district and city at the time. Here I will attempt to sum up the current snowpack and water supply situation and …

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Stationarity and snowmelt in the Pacific Northwest

We have a mismatch between 20th century plumbing and a 21st century climate. USGS hydrologist Paul Milly and colleagues in 2008 threw down a marker in a Science paper arguing that human interventions (intentional and not) have rendered a basic premise of human water operations invalid. The premise is “stationarity”, the idea that with data …

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A lousy January in the Colorado River Basin

January was dry in the water-producing parts of the Colorado River Basin. The official Feb. 1 forecast for the Colorado River above Lake Powell (the part of the Basin where all the water comes from) calls for just 80 percent of median April-July inflow. That’s a big drop from the Jan. 1 forecast, which called …

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