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The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization on September 22 released three sets of parallel analyses showing how climate change is projected to drive large increases in extreme heat in Colorado.
The analyses show what could be an astonishing transformation of Colorado's climate. With a continuation of current trends in heat-trapping emissions, by the middle of the century Denver could average more than a month of days a year that are 95 degrees or hotter. Near the end of the century, it could be more than a month of days 100 degrees or hotter. Boulder and Fort Collins would see similar increases.
Two finished reports cover projections in Boulder County and Larimer County, located in Colorado’s northern Front Range. These reports were funded through a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, to help local governments in those counties, most affected by the state’s recent flooding and wildfire disasters, to prepare for increased risks driven by climate change.
For the Denver metro area, results are presented from the first phase of a parallel analysis, which in its second phase will go beyond the Boulder County and Larimer County reports by also considering multi-day events like heat waves. The Denver analysis is being funded by the City and County of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health.
These are the most detailed analyses yet done on how climate change may lead to more extreme conditions in Colorado. For all three sets of analyses, RMCO analyzed 88 million individual projections of projected daily temperature and precipitation values throughout the century, under four different scenarios for possible future levels of heat-trapping emissions. The projections are from the latest generation of downscaled global climate models available from the online archive created by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other institutions, known as the CMIP5 models.
Graphs and tables in the reports and on our website look at future temperature extremes from various standpoints such as days above 95° and 100°, the average daily temperature of the 30 hottest days of the year, seasonal averages, and the year’s hottest nights.
For precipitation, there is greater uncertainty in the projections from the models, for a variety of reasons. Still, the projections provide useful information—an especially strong suggestion from the projections is that there could be an increase in frequency of heavy storms, those with a half inch or an inch of precipitation in a day.
Besides being useful in preparedness planning, these analyses also powerfully illustrate that how much our climate changes depends mostly on whether and to what extent we reduce future heat-trapping emissions. As the projections make clear, if we bring future emissions down to a very low level, our temperatures still would increase over the next couple decades, but not any more beyond that.
See media coverage at Colorado’s Front Range likely to see more 100-degree days and severe storms as climate changes, Denver Post, September 22, 2016, and Changing climate means hotter days for CO Front Range, Public News Service, September 28, 2016.
News About Climate Disruption
US Southwest faces threat of megadroughts with rising temps, Phys.Org, October 6, 2016. In a study a team of scientists finds that temperature increases in this century could make a megadrought likely in the American Southwest in this century. If heat-trapping emissions continue increasing at a high rate as in recent years, a drought lasting 35 years with conditions as dry as in the driest years of the 20 th century could be a 70 percent likelihood even if average precipitation increases somewhat. If instead precipitation levels are unchanged, the odds of a megadrought could be 90 percent, and if precipitation decreases – as most climate models project for this region – a near-certain 99 percent. But if instead global heat-trapping emissions are sharply reduced, the megadrought risks could be cut nearly in half.
Study finds fossil fuel methane emissions greater than previously estimated, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) media release, October 5, 2016. The study (abstract only) by a team of researchers led by NOAA and the University of Colorado compiles the largest isotopic methane source signature database so far. They conclude that the fossil fuel industry contributes about 20 to 25 percent of total global methane emissions, and 20 to 60 percent more than previous studies estimated. But they also find that recent advances in methane capture by the industry offset the emissions from increased production, and that upticks in global methane emissions since 2007 come from “ . . methane produced by microbial sources – cows, agriculture, landfills, wetlands, and fresh waters.”
Greenhouse gases from reservoirs fuel climate change, Climate Central, September 29, 2016. Researchers from Washington State University-Vancouver and the Environmental Protection Agency estimate about 1.3 percent of global heat-trapping gas emissions comes from the wohrld’s reservoirs in the form of methane from decomposing plants and algae.
The world passes 400 PPM threshold. Permanently, Climate Central, September 27, 2016. As measured at the Mauna Loa observatory, 2016 is on track to be the year when every month will exceed the symbolic threshold. Some climate scientists say a return below the threshold is unlikely in the indefinite future.
The blaze that won't die: How Monterey County wildfire became one of costliest to fight, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2016. While not the largest or most destructive fire on record, California’s Soberanes fire is regarded as one of the most expensive fires to fight in U.S. history. Costing at least $229 million already, the two-month old fire continues to burn in drought-stricken, rugged terrain.
Biologists begin planning how to measure the effects of Yellowstone River fish kill, Bozeman Chronicle, September 25, 2016. A 183 mile stretch of the river reopens to recreational uses after a month-long closure due to a parasite proliferating in low flows and high water temperatures and killing tens of thousands of native mountain whitefish.
Beached boats, pink water as drought saps Great Salt Lake, Associated Press, September 23, 2016. Commercial and recreational uses are down, prompting repeated dredging for access, and even brine shrimp are approaching salinity limits.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for August 2016 was the highest for August in the 137-year period of record, marking the 16th consecutive month of record heat for the globe.
News About Climate Action
Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies
Vowing to protect the lungs of Californians, Gov. Brown signs law cracking down on soot and methane, Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2016 and California governor backs rules on cow, landfill emissions, Associated Press, September 19, 2016. Senate Bill 1383 calls for a reduction in the statewide emissions of methane by 40 percent, hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40 percent, and anthropogenic black carbon by 50 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.
Poll finds deep split on climate change. Party allegiance is a big factor. New York Times, October 4, 2016. A new poll by the Pew Research Center reaffirms that the deep partisan divide continues to dominate the American public’s views on the causes of climate disruption and urgency for action; that there is lack of recognition among voters of both parties on the degree of consensus among climate scientists; and that nonetheless there remains strong agreement that both the solar and wind industries should be expanded, regardless of party affiliation.
Huge Rush Creek Wind project gets Colorado PUC OK, Denver Post, December 30, 2016. The Public Utilities Commission approves a settlement agreement among Xcel Energy and multiple parties to build a 600 megawatt wind farm stretching over five eastern Colorado counties, along with a 125-mile transmission line. While Xcel is already substantially invested in wind power, this will be the first windfarm that it owns to serve Colorado. See also Why an Xcel-owned wind farm could help unlock a clean power future, a September 29, 2016 blog post from Western Resource Advocates.
Wyoming rejects tax on wind energy that will likely be sold in California, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2016. An interim joint revenue committee backs off on a proposal to raise the state wind energy production tax – the only such tax in the nation – to help cover budget shortfalls stemming from declining fossil fuels production.
BLM approves Malta geothermal project, first Idaho permit in 30 years, Magic Valley Times News, September 14, 2016. The plant in southern Idaho is expected to generate 25 megawatts of power once fully developed.
Study says Montana wind energy potential tops Columbia River Gorge, Montana Public Radio, September 22, 2016. A representative from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council shows the Montana Wind and Transmission Working group created by Gov. Bullock a study showing that Montana’s wind power potential exceeds that of the famously windy gorge, largely due to the dependability of winter winds.
Chart of the year: ‘Incredible’ price drops jumpstart clean energy revolution, Think Progress, September 29, 2016. A Department of Energy update to its 2015 Revolution Now report finds that that the costs of land-based wind power, utility and distributed photovoltaic solar power, LEDs, and electric vehicles has fallen by 41% to as high as 94% since 2008.
How much cleaner really is a Tesla? Depends on where you are, Bloomberg.com, September 16, 2016. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in 2015 driving a mile in an electric vehicle emitted 40 percent less pollution on average than traveling the same distance in a regular car. But the source of the energy to charge the cars makes a huge difference; the pollution reductions from fossil fuel sources are about one-half those of clean energy sources.
How small forests can help save the planet, New York Times, September 27, 2016. Conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy and the Pinchot Institute are working with owners of small, privately-held forestlands to develop forest conservation and carbon sequestration plans that enable them to participate in carbon markets. New smartphone-based inventory technology is helping to substantially reduce landowners’ conservation planning costs.
Court orders feds to reconsider Colorado as lynx habitat, Telluride Daily Planet, September 22, 2016. T he U.S. District Court of Montana agrees with environmental groups that sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that the agency needs to reconsider its decision to exclude the Canada lynx’s southern Rocky Mountain range from critical habitat designation under the ESA.
Protections rejected for American pika, other species, Associated Press, September 13, 2016. The USFWS for the second time denies ESA protection for the pika. That decision was made prior to the August 2016 release of a U.S. Geological Survey study that found evidence of widespread, climate-change-driven reduction in pika range in three mountainous regions including the Great Basin, southern Utah, and northeastern California. Wildlife advocates say they will file a new petition.
Resource of the Month
The Truth about Climate Change
In The Truth About Climate Change, seven highly credentialed climate scientists from around the world, in association with the Universal Ecological Fund, address what they see as misunderstandings about climate change and present clear information about the 2015 Paris Agreement, commitments by nations, and the adequacy of their pledges to stay below a 2°C temperature increase above pre-industrial levels threshold.
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Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: email@example.com