Record Cold Denver; Historic Snowpack Leads To Full Utah Reservoirs; + B.C. Glaciers 28-49% Thicker Than Models Estimated

Record Cold Denver

Overall, it has been a cooler-than-average summer for the United States.

Although the southern heat is proving fierce at times, the likes of Denver, CO –for example– have been holding unusually cool.

The Mile High City went and saw a glimpse of autumn on Monday morning, August 14 when the low dipped to a crisp 49F (9.4C) at Denver International Airport (DIA). This tied the record low for the date last set in 1976 (solar minimum of cycle 20). 

Record lows were also felled in the neighboring states of Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas on Monday.

Historic Snowpack Leads To Full Utah Reservoirs

The impact of this year;s record-setting snowpack is still on show many months later, as Utah’s reservoirs remain well-above normal levels with just two months left in the typical irrigation season.

The Utah Division of Water Resources provided an update on the state’s water situation Monday, pointing to reservoir system holding at about 81% capacity, which is well-above the median capacity level of 64% for mid-August.

Utah finished winter/spring with a record SWE of 30 inches. This dragged the majority of the state out of drought conditions (just 9.7% remains in ‘moderate drought’). In fact, Utah ended July on pace for its 19th wettest water year since 1895 — a stark turn around from last summer when 80% of the state was listed as being in ‘extreme drought’.

“Our water managers executed an exceptional balancing act to start the irrigation season with reservoirs at full capacity. Water was released from reservoirs before the irrigation season, which enabled them to capture the water from this year’s record-breaking snowpack,” said Candice Hasenyager, director of the Division of Water Resources, in a statement.

Hasenyager reiterated the need for water conservation.

“Taking care of our water resources is vital, and this year’s remarkable achievements highlight the importance of effective water management practices after this year’s record-breaking winter,” she said. “By embracing sustainable measures and remaining vigilant, we can continue to secure a resilient water supply.”

Looking ahead, the Farmers’ Almanac is calling for an “unreasonably cold” and “snowy” conditions across the United States. Utah appears to boarder of a myriad of possibilities, although “cold” and “snowy” look to be the unifying theme:

B.C. Glaciers 28-49% Thicker Than Models Estimated

Extensive radar surveys on seven glaciers in the Columbia River Basin and Rocky Mountains found the ice 28-49% thicker than originally believed, according to a study from the University of Northern British Columbia.

Lead author Ben Pelto and his colleagues traversed more than 182 km over the glaciers in late-2020 pulling a sled-mounted ice-penetrating radar system to collect tens of thousands of measurements.

Ben Pelto, Kindy Gosal, Alexandre Bevington and Jesse Milner take radar measurements while towing the radar high on the Nordic Glacier in the southern B.C. Interior. [JILL PELTO]

The team discovered that the mean observed ice thickness across their seven study glaciers (five in the Canadian portion of the Columbia River Basin, two in the Rocky Mountains) stands at 92.5 m (303.5 ft), and that based on these observations previous computer modelling underestimated the ice thickness by a whopping 28–49%.

“I was surprised that the models were off by that much,” said Pelto.

Previous computer estimates used a variety of surface measurements to guess the thickness and volume of glacier ice over very large areas, such as all of Western Canada, or even the entire planet.

“Those models work pretty well in the absence of data, but you don’t really know how thick the ice is until you measure it,” said Pelto, which of course opens serious questions to the accuracy of all computer-based glacial modelling.

The study, entitled “Bias-corrected estimates of glacier thickness in the Columbia River Basin, Canada, published in the Journal of Glaciology, considers 34,672 data points in the Columbia Basin and two glaciers in the Rocky Mountains. And while its findings are considered “a bit of good news story”, they apparently don’t change the dire prognosis for B.C.’s glaciers.

“I’m glad they are thicker than we thought,” said Pelto, “but it won’t have much impact on the survival of these glaciers. Some of them might last a few years or even a decade longer, but it won’t save them from climate change,” he said.

“Glaciers will disappear from the basin in about 65 to 80 years.”

But as the saying goes, ‘It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future’–and all-but impossible when it comes to the future of the climate. In essence, climate forecasting is the art of saying what will happen, and then explaining why it didn’t.

Case in point is Montana’s National Park Service (NPS), specifically the removing of all ‘Glaciers Gone by 2020’ signs.

For almost two decades the NPS warned that glaciers at Glacier National Park (GNP) would be gone by the year 2020. They even went to the trouble of erecting signs across all of its visitor centers prophesying the 2020 doomsday date.

Embarrassingly for these bandwagon-boarding know-nothings, that deadline of doom uneventfully passed by. The ‘super computers’ the NPS relied upon at the turn of the new millennium, which foretold of unending glacial retreat, turned out to be dead wrong, and the Service had no choice but to pull all of those ‘2020 signs’ from its displays, which it did sheepishly.

The data actually suggest the opposite of that melting prophesy is playing out…

As with the majority of Western U.S. peaks, Montana went and posted an all-time record-breaking snowpack last season. Yet still today (Aug 2023), the opening sell on the website labels Glacier National Park as being “a showcase of melting glaciers”.

This, if nothing else, is false advertising.

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