Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver through record-setting cold, a new Associated Press data analysis shows. The AP looked at 424 weather stations throughout the Lower 48 states that had consistent temperature records since 1920 and counted how many times daily hot temperature records were tied or broken and how many daily cold records were set. In a stable climate, the numbers should be roughly equal.
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It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The process was fractious until the very end, with blistering rebukes from the river’s largest water user, and charges that state and federal laws were possibly being violated to cross the finish line.
California’s Central Valley aquifer, the major source of groundwater in the region, suffered permanent loss of capacity during the drought experienced in the area from 2012 to 2015. California has been afflicted by a number of droughts in recent decades, including one between 2007 and 2009, and the millennium drought that plagued the state from 2012 to 2015. Due to lack of water resources, the state drew heavily on its underground aquifer reserves during these periods.
For people who closely follow California water, here are headlines in the paper or tweets in your feed that you never see about water operations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: “Pumping curtailed during next storm due to nearby migrating salmon” Or: “Storm opens water supply window as few fish conflicts detected” Why? Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid. Pumping rules in the Delta on Nov. 30, for example, are very different than those 24 hours later, regardless of the weather.
In California’s Central Valley, 100 miles east of San Francisco, the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers meet. Their waters mingle amid a wide flat plain of shrubs, cottonwood and oak trees. The Dos Rios Ranch Preserve, 1,600 acres of wetlands, river habitat and rolling hills, sits at the site of this juncture. On clear days, the Sierra Nevada rises in the east and the Coast Range to the west.
After an extended break from storms, a new storm from the Pacific will eye California and much of the Southwest during the middle to latter part of this week. While far from some of the blockbuster storms of this past winter, this storm will bring enough rain and snow to slow travel and hinder outdoor activities.
High snowpack in the southern Rocky Mountains this winter will likely stave off a shortage declaration in the Colorado River watershed in 2020, relieving pressure on water managers attempting to navigate future scarcity. New data from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation models show a lessened risk of a key Colorado River reservoir dropping far enough to trigger a first-ever shortage declaration. Snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin is at 138 percent of the long-term median, a level not seen in mid-March since 1997.
On March 6, the California State Water Resources Control Board announced it will soon issue orders to owners and operators of more than a thousand facilities in California requiring environmental investigation and sampling for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known by the acronym PFAS. As “Item 10” in a four-hour meeting providing updates on state and federal programs addressing PFAS, Darrin Polhemus, Deputy Director of the State Board’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW), and Shahla Farahnak, Assistant Deputy Director of the Division of Water Quality (DWQ), unveiled an aggressive “Phased Investigation Plan.”
Spectacular landscapes are part of California’s natural identity. I recently led a group on a tour of the Salton Sea and it prompted me to think that we should consider the sea one of these treasures. There’s nothing in California like it. We visited during a rare rainstorm, so there were waves on the lake and dramatic gray skies. Nonetheless, the landscape was full of life. Waterfowl are making a comeback on the lake, and we saw plenty of Redhead ducks and Canvasbacks in places like Salt Creek.
Midwestern floodwaters have topped or breached multiple levees, damaged bridges and roads, destroyed one dam and damaged another and inundated at least 42 wastewater treatment plants as historic flooding continues to hit Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. At least two people are reported dead. Nine levees in total have been breached on both sides of the Missouri River, and “additional breaches are possible,” says Mike Glasch, deputy director of public affairs for the Army Corps’ Omaha District. “We are continuing to work with state and local agencies to monitor the levees,” he adds.