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Jeff Lukas at Café Sci2

"California, here we come? Climate, water, and drought in Colorado"

Monday 15 June 2015, 6:30 PM, at Brooklyn's near LoDo Denver


About the topic




Dr EisenbergBio: 

Jeff Lukas is a Research Integration Specialist with the CIRES Western Water Assessment (WWA), a NOAA-supported applied research program based at the University of Colorado Boulder. His work reflects the programís broad mandate to collaborate with water resource managers and other stakeholders to better understand and plan for climate-related vulnerabilities in the Rocky Mountain West. He was lead author for the 2014 Climate Change in Colorado report for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, synthesizing the latest science on observed climate trends and climate projections for Colorado. He also has a long-running research program that uses multi-century tree-ring records to reconstruct past climate and hydrology in Colorado and the surrounding region. Jeff has a BA in Geography from the University of Colorado and an MS in Forestry from the University of Montana.

About the topic

With the green hillsides, bank-full streams, and topped-off reservoirs on the Front Range this year, itís easy to forget how dry it was in the summers of 2012 and 2013óand also that Coloradoís western slope slipped back into drought conditions this spring. Climate in Colorado, and thus water availability, varies a great deal over both time and space. To deal with this variability we have a complex water supply system: reservoirs and other infrastructure, a priority system of water rights, and arrangements to share water deliveries and shortages. Over the years, for the most part, this system has worked well.

But as the extreme drought in California demonstrates, what has worked in the past may not work in the future. Growing populations and a changing climate can create gaps between water supply and demand under average conditions, and then even greater impacts when droughts occur. I will first touch on where and how Colorado receives its water, how water is allocated and used, and how we have managed for drought. Then Iíll share what we have learned from tree rings, stream gages, and climate models, and our expectations of the future of climate, water and drought in the state. Iílll end with some thoughts about what we can learn from Californiaís current water crisis, so as to avoid it.

The New Yorker recently published an excellent article on the disappearing Colorado River and the drought in the western USA: "Where The River Runs Dry", by David Owen.

NEW: Jeff has provided links to the resources he mentioned at his Café:

Western Water Assessment (WWA) - Program homepage - Climate-related research, publications, tools, and resources for the Rocky Mountain region

WWA-CWCB Climate Change in Colorado report - Summarizes the latest science on observed climate trends and future climate projections for Colorado and its water resources

Colorado Water Plan - Overview of the state's water resources, expected water challenges, and options for meeting those challenges (and the opportunity to comment on the revised draft in July)

Colorado Foundation for Water Education - Non-partisan non-profit that promotes better understanding of Colorado's water through outstanding educational resources: Citizen's Guides to Colorado's water, tours and workshops

TreeFlow - Web resource for tree-ring reconstructions of streamflow and drought

Colorado Dust-on-Snow (CODOS) program - Research on the hydrologic impacts of dust-on-snow, real-time snowpack monitoring and guidance for water managers

© 2004 Colorado Café Scientifique