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Climate and Drought

Untangling the Climate Change Knot

Click the Fluent Water Facts below to learn more about Colorado's climate.

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Untangling the Climate Change Knot

It is easy to monitor changes in the weather – we see them day to day, month to month, and year to year. But climate is not weather – climate is the big picture over the long haul. If weather is like a surfer, rising and sinking on every wave, climate is like an ocean going ship, which responds only to much larger and slower swells. Predicting climate means predicting long-term averages, extremes, and patterns.

DSC01943Scientists use many different techniques to study climate change. They look at the data preserved in tree rings and ice cores to reveal historic trends. They also study Colorado’s historic weather records, dating back to the nineteenth century. When investigating temperatures, scientists look at the readings with the least natural variability – summer nighttime temperatures – which make changes easier to detect. Since many variables affect climate, the causes of change are difficult to isolate and identify. Scientists must take into account weather phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina, ocean temperatures, and atmospheric composition, among others.

Scientists use records and observations to create models to predict climate change. These models allow scientists to investigate how changes in sunlight, concentrations of greenhouse gases, tiny atmospheric particle called aerosols, and even volcanoes, might affect the Earth’s climate. Models are critical since scientists have no way to experiment on the Earth. Scientists believe that averaging the results of all models provides a better answer than using the results from any one model.

Want to learn more about the effect of climate change on water in the West? Flip through the Citizen's Guide to Colorado Climate Change, attend our spring Climate and Colorado's Water Future Workshop or browse through the following links to get started!

Interactive Tools

Impacts on Water Management 

 Organizations and Climate Change

U.S. Climate Policy Maps

US DOI Report Highlighting Impacts of Climate Change to Western Water Resources, April 2011

Colorado Climate Center

What's Your Carbon Footprint

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report Colorado Water Conservation Board

How Clean is the Electricity You Use?

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Resources Governor's Energy Office
  National Water Program Strategy - Climate Change and Water Resources Rocky Mountain Climate Organization


Western Governor's Association Report Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  Western Water Assessment, University of Colorado Western Governor's Association
  Colorado Water Conservation Board Climate Change Reports PEW Center on Global Climate Change
  Colorado Climate Project Report Alliance for Climate Education

Past Peak Water in the Southwest

US Environmental Protection Agency

Colorado Basin River Forecast Center





WEco Climate Resources

Guide to Colorado Climate Change presents a range of contemporary climate change information written by experts. Take a look.

Water 101 Sheets are one-page references available for download and distribution. Explore the basics of drought, and wildfire or read various water conservation tips through a series of fact sheets. Interested in additional resources? Find them herefact_sheetsClimate Workshop
Participants tour the National Ice Core Lab, hear how researchers study climate and what that means locally. Learn more.

Connecting the Drops Radio

Listen to a radio feature on climate change's effects on Colorado farmers, spring runoff, and irrigation.

1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218