John Wesley Powell and climate assessment, then and now

An interesting paper compares the 19th century work of John Wesley Powell in measuring the climate of the West, and suggesting policy responses, with 21st century efforts to assess and advise with respect to climate change. Powell argued for constraints on development while the science needed to better understand the region was carried out. It …

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For the parched southwestern U.S., a good forecast

Today’s long lead forecast from the Climate Prediction Center is pretty sweet: That’s May-July, and here’s a reminder about what the color blobs mean, because that swatch of green across New Mexico, where I live, can be a bit misleading. The CPC divides climatological history into three bins – 1/3 dry, 1/3 the middle, and …

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Drought: the waiting

Faith Kearns has a smart look at an under-covered piece of the problem of drought – the psychology of waiting: [W]hile waiting for uncertain news, people often focus on preparing—emotionally and logistically—for any possible outcome. People tend to shift between optimism and pessimism, and both states can help increase readiness. Optimism engenders people to take …

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Tree rings in the Rolling Stone

Would I be right to guess that this is the first time tree rings have been in the Rolling Stone? “It was like looking through a telescope into the future to see how forests would respond, and it felt awful,” Williams says. “The result was totally unimaginable: wildfires, bark beetles, a huge reduction in forest …

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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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