Warm Temps Mean More Drought—and More Beetle Damage

November 22 2010, 3:00 PM

Big snowstorms might be hitting the high country, but when it comes to water reserves, the state isn't exactly doing well. As Fred Heckman, a farmer in McClave, about 17 miles west of Lamar, says, "We've had no rain to speak of since July." The U.S. Drought Monitor, which tracks weather reports from state and federal agencies, has concluded that the eastern third of Colorado is in a moderate drought, notes The Pueblo Chieftain. One problem for eastern Colorado, where farming is strong, is a La Niña weather pattern that Wendy Ryan, a research associate at the Colorado Climate Center, calls a "hit and miss [situation]" for Colorado's water basins.

Meanwhile, one reason for the bark beetles causing the massive die-offs of forests throughout the Rocky Mountains, including in Colorado, may be warmer winter temperatures, say Glacier National Park officials in Montana, who see the advance of the beetles as a sign of climate change, reports the Fort Collins Coloradoan. "Warmer winter temperatures mean less beetle mortality. Temperature is really an important factor in what we're seeing," says Fort Collins-based U.S. Forest Service ecologist Thomas R. Crow. And Jose Negron, an entomologist at the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, points out that temperatures no longer drop to minus 30 or minus 40 degrees in the middle of winter—which would be cold enough to kill the beetles.

Meanwhile, Colorado State University is receiving a strong flow of research funds to both investigate and find ways to mitigate environmental challenges around the globe, writes the Northern Colorado Business Report.