The Washington Post published an article on Aug. 20 identifying a hot area — stretching from Craig to Moab to Paonia — where temperatures have risen 2°C (3.6°F) over 120 years. According to the article, Henry Kohler, an early pioneer in the Grand Valley, started recording the monthly mean temperature and the total precipitation in 1898. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used these early measurements as the baseline to determine the dramatic temperature rise in what is the largest hot spot in the U.S. Here, temperatures have risen twice the global average. Delta County sits at the southeast corner of this spot — at the forefront of climate change.
3.6°F may not sound like a big rise, but consider the trend: we’ve had two droughts in three years, and if humans don’t address the underlying causes, the temperature will rise an additional 7°F by 2100. This scenario is apocalyptic. The last ice age was only 12°F cooler than the present, so imagine a world almost 12°F warmer than when Kohler settled here.
There’s a principle among climate scientists — manage the unavoidable, and avoid the unmanageable. It means we must adapt to the climate change that is here, and avoid future changes that will overwhelm us. To adapt, we must conserve water and keep the soil moist. To survive, we must curb greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the additional 7°F that will overwhelm us.
Recently, KVNF reported that the forests destroyed in the Grizzley Creek and Pine Gulch fires may never come back, due to hotter drier conditions. Over the last 20 years, the average snowpack on Lamborn, which provides fresh water to Paonia, has dramatically decreased. If humans fail to act, including West Slope residents, we in this climate hot spot could become a pioneering group of climate refugees.