Category Archives: weather

3 Picks: SD Cattle Catastrophy, Japan’s Groundwater, Sustainable Barn

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Catastrophic Early Snowstorm Kills Thousands of Cattle in South Dakota: By Chet Brokaw. “‘It’s the worst early season snowstorm I’ve seen in my lifetime.’ Early estimates suggest western South Dakota lost at least 5 percent of its cattle. Some individual ranchers reported losses of 20 percent to 50 percent of their livestock.’ …”

2) Japanese Municipalities’ are Creating Initiatives to Conserve Groundwater: By Junji Hashimoto. In Japan, where they have been using more groundwater since the 2011 earthquake, farmers and municipalities are working together and creating ordinances to use groundwater in conjunction with monitoring recharge rates. Through methods of cooperation, and a recharge calculation formula which reduces water fees when greater amounts of groundwater are recharged, they are smartly planning for the future.

3) UK’s Award-winning eco-build slashes thousands from farm’s running costs: “…by combining modern technology with traditional materials like sheep fleece and straw, it is possible to create a sustainable rural building that not only has a very low carbon footprint it is also saving many thousands of pounds in running costs. … Materials used in the construction and for running the building were sourced from the fields of the Allerton Project farm, including straw for the walls and sheep fleece for insulation. Wood chip harvested from the estate’s own woodland provide fuel for the biomass boiler to heat the hot water and the thermostatically zoned under-floor heating. Rainwater is collected for the toilets and showers, while sixteen roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels provide electrical power to the building…”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Photo credit: Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

CIRES and NOAA on the Boulder Flood Event

I’ve been waiting for this. Today, CIRES at the University of Colorado, NOAA, and the CSU Colorado Climate Center have released their preliminary assessment of the September 2013 Colorado Front Range flood event.

Key Points:
● An unusually persistent and moist weather pattern led to rainfall totals from September 9th – 15th that have been observed in only a handful of events on the Front Range in the past century.

● In the context of the entire Front Range this was a rare precipitation event, especially for September, and in some respects unprecedented.

● The very heavy rains caused severe to extreme flooding across the northern Front Range and downstream areas in northeastern Colorado; the peak flows at many gages and the overall extent of flooding were probably unmatched in at least 35 years.

● Research is underway at CIRES and NOAA to determine how human-caused climate change may have influenced this event and whether the risk of similar events occurring in the future will increase. The most plausible influence of climate change: Slightly more water vapor being made available for precipitation.

● The natural hazard of flooding for the Front Range includes not just smaller-scale convective events with very high rainfall intensity (e.g., Big Thompson, July 1976), but also rain-on-deep-snowpack events (May 1894), and broader-scale, long-duration rain events with mainly lower intensities (September 2013).

● Total societal exposure to flooding on the Front Range has increased in the past several decades due to population growth and development; recurrence of a previously experienced natural hazard will tend to cause comparatively more damage.

Martin Hoerling of NOAA in Boulder says that conditions for both Hurricane Sandy and this Colorado Flood had a blocking pattern that kept the weather from moving west to east as normal. How quickly a storm leaves an area is a big factor in the severity of any weather event.

UPDATE: Also recommended: The flood next time, by Roger Pielke Jr. who says, “Unfortunately, Time magazine set in motion an urban legend when it called our disaster a 1000-year flood, suggesting that it was an incredibly rare event, on with only 0.1 percent chance of occurring in any year. The claim subsequently has been repeated often across social and mainstream media. We cannot afford to get caught up in such hyperbole. What we know so far is that the flood event experienced by the city of Boulder, despite the record extent and magnitude of rainfall, is actually probably more accurately described under standard methods of flood frequency analysis as a 25-year flood, or one with a 4 percent chance of occurring in any year.”

Tremendous future growth is predicted for the Front Range of Colorado. Each weather event here, and elsewhere, is complicated by the expensive fact that more homes, roads, bridges, and supply chain infrastructure are damaged as growth trends upward.


Boulder’s Flood September 2013

It rained all day Tuesday, then it rained again all day yesterday, but last evening it rained torrentialy for the first few hours after dark. By this morning, we’d received 6.5 inches of rain in 24 hours, and by now perhaps 10 inches. That’s about half of our average annual rainfall. The rain has continued throughout today, and is to go into tomorrow.

At our house we had to bail water out of a basement window well for an hour, and eventually got some plastic rigged up to protect that weak point. Up and down our street this morning neighbors were dealing with issues, plastic was being put over chimneys, over roofs, and pumps were being used to pump water out of some of the houses. This fifty year old neighborhood isn’t accustomed to this kind of rain here in Boulder.

The rain is widespread — covering an area from Estes Park all the way to East Denver. East Boulder County is currently cut off from West Boulder County because roads are impassible. Some neighborhoods, communities, and towns have become islands due to closed roads either direction, such as Lyons, which has also lost its water supply.

I ventured out on my cruiser bike around 1 PM today to take some photos, all within a half mile, or so, of our house.

This first photo (above) is of the bicycle trail underpass of Bear Creek and U.S. 36, also referred to as the Denver-Boulder turnpike. During the half hour that I was out, I saw Bear Creek coming up rapidly, as the water level in this photo is much higher than in the first one that I took a half hour earlier.

In the above photo, Bear Creek is coming over the road which is normally the entrance to St. Andrews Church on Baseline Road.

This is the Baseline Road bicycle trail underpass which follows Bear Creek, which is overflowing onto the trail. I visited with a neighborhood lady who was also taking photos in this spot and she told me that all of their neighbors who live along Bear Creek have six to twelve inches of water in their basements.

This is normally a footpath or bicycle trail near Williams Village, part of the University of Colorado’s student housing. Note the two “bumps” in the center are the railings on the footpath, now covered by Bear Creek’s overflowing water.

The University of Colorado’s classes were called off for today and tomorrow. The students that I ran into were totally gobsmacked, asking me how long I’d lived here, and if this sort of thing happens very often. Poor, poor, frosh. One said he felt like he was back in Wisconsin. You can see how wet the conditions still were as I was out and taking these photos, and as I write this. This moisture in the sky is stuck.

The Coast Guard has been called in to our land locked town, and one student told me he saw amphibious vehicles (similar to the ones above) coming in on the turnpike.

That’s my little world view of this flood and you are hearing plenty about it on the national news, so my coverage of it ends here.

UPDATE: The USGS says this now qualifies as a hundred year flood based on flow rates, but doesn’t care for that terminology.

Friday UPDATE: h/t Dennis Dimick for this article – Colorado Deluge: “Could Be Classified as a 1,000-Year Event” By Tom Yulsman. Is this one of those “rivers in the sky” situations? It feels like we are experiencing a tropical moisture event. And the rain started after an unbearable unseasonable heat wave that lasted 3 weeks. Now back to dealing with the 8 inches of water in the basement. Dear old McGuckins Hardware just got a new shipment of sump pumps in.

SEE follow-up post here.