Measuring and Managing Seasonal Variability: CW3E Explores the Yampa River Basin

July 7, 2020

The Yampa River is one of the wildest remaining major tributaries of the Colorado River and supports a rich ecosystem, local agriculture and ranching, and a robust recreation industry. It also provides crucial water supplies to local stakeholders and locations as far removed as Arizona and Southern California. A multitude of environmental and societal factors are expected to be affected by climate change in the Yampa River Basin, and are pertinent to other watersheds around the American West.

This year, due to the pandemic, CW3E was unable to travel in person to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for the third Yampa Basin Rendezvous (YBR). Instead, we restructured and are offering these important events virtually! YBR is a community-oriented event organized by CW3E and partners from Colorado Mountain College, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Friends of the Yampa, Steamboat Resorts, and Vacasa. During the event, which built off the inaugural Rendezvous held in 2018 and the second Rendezvous held in 2019, participants are examining the Yampa River Basin through the lens of climate change and seasonal variability. Panels began in June and will continue through the fall in an interactive webinar format. The webinars include talks by regional experts and lively discussions. During the first webinar, held on June 4, 2020, we introduced the series and provided an overview of the past year in the Yampa Basin with an eye to this year’s theme of Seasonal Variability. Our panelists included Marty Ralph, Director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E), Kent Vertrees, with Friends of the Yampa and Steamboat Powdercats, and Nathan Stewart, Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies at Colorado Mountain College. Carrie Hauser, President, and CEO of CMC, kicked off the online event. There were 102 registered participants for the webinar, which can be viewed here.

The second webinar is coming up this week! It will be a panel discussion on Changes in Measurement with a Changing Climate, held on July 9, 2020 from 11-12:30 Mountain Time. This webinar will address what our measurement data is showing us and ways we can adapt our strategies to be more effective. Sometimes, the tools we use to measure seasonal change aren’t giving us the same predictive information as they have in the past, so adapting our techniques and developing new technologies is key. Our panelists will include Mike Dettinger, Visiting Researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Jeff Deems, Research Scientist with National Snow and Ice Data Center; and Gannet Hallar, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science at University of Utah. Register here!

This dialogue with the local community allowed pairing of research interests of graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, researchers, staff and faculty from CW3E and other universities with the community’s experts and decision makers. This effort is meant to help understand the risks posed by warming temperatures and rising snowlines, and how we are currently measuring the existing seasonal variability and adapting to manage the impacts of current and expected seasonal changes in the Colorado River Basin and California. These events also strengthen connections between those who live in the Yampa basin and some of those who depend on its water.

The first webinar of Yampa Basin Rendezvous 2020 was held on 4 June, 2020.