DENVER — Colorado State University has just released its report on climate change and the impacts it's having here in Colorado. The study looked at several key areas including, temperature changes, future changes in Colorado's water supply, and the future of climate extremes and wildfires in the state.
Dr. Becky Bolinger, Colorado's assistant climatologist and one of the authors of the study, said climate change is happening and is impacting Colorado.
"A lot of this is stuff that we already knew," said Bolinger. " What we were able to find is that we're actually following along with a middle-range scenario from the climate models, and that's actually better than if we were following the worst-case scenario."
Bolinger said the report shows that the statewide annual average temperatures warmed by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit from 1980 to 2022 with the greatest amount of warming happening during the fall season. The report also suggests that warming will continue over the next several decades.
"The warming is going to likely reduce snowpack overall, we'll still have a lot of variability," said Bolinger. "We are going to have big years like the one we had last year, but unfortunately, we're not going to be able to rely on those to really carry us through some of the drier years."
The Colorado River which provides water to seven states and Mexico, is also predicted to be impacted by climate change.
"Here in Colorado, our fate kind of goes from winter to winter, one big snow year can make a lot of difference, or a dry year hurts really bad," said Colorado's State Climatologist Dr. Russ Schumacher. "In the broader system of the Southwestern U.S. — the Colorado River Basin, it's these long-term trends that really drive things and one good year doesn't help all that much."
The CSU report also points to more weather extremes in Colorado, like floods, droughts, and a higher number of wildfires that could burn much bigger.
"As you are warming your fall months, you're extending the wildfire season," said Bolinger. "As you are melting snowpack earlier, you're increasing the risk of wildfires earlier in the season. As our air gets drier, which is another trend we are seeing with climate change, it allows fires to grow more quickly."
Denver7 | Weather
Mike Nelson talks Colorado spring, climate with CPR's Ryan Warner | April 2023
Dr. Bolinger said she hopes the findings help raise awareness and a call to action.
"There are two pieces to climate change, in combating climate change," she said. "The first is mitigation and that's the action that we are working on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It's not all doom and gloom, there are things we can do. The climate is going to feel a lot different, but in some ways, you know, it's still going to be the Colorado that we know and love."