Scientists head to Steamboat to study extreme weather’s impact on Yampa Basin |

Scientists head to Steamboat to study extreme weather’s impact on Yampa Basin

Anglers cast into the Yampa River tailwaters below Stagecoach Dam on May 28. Next week, 80 scientists will travel to Steamboat Springs to study the Yampa as part of the Yampa River Rendezvous.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs area residents will soon get a chance to pick the brains of scientists and conservationists on how to prevent the Yampa River from being ravaged by extreme weather conditions.

A community discussion, “The Yampa Basin: Snow, Weather, Water and Our Future,” will be offered on Wednesday night at the end of a weekend workshop, which is being hosted by Colorado Mountain College and the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

If you go

What: Community discussion: “The Yampa Basin: Snow Weather, Water and our Future”

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 6

Where: Albright Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Ave.

The Yampa River Rendezvous on June 5 and 6 will involve about 80 graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, researchers and water resource experts, who are traveling to Steamboat to study the Yampa River’s unique role in the Colorado River system as one of its wildest tributaries.

“In San Diego, we get about 70 percent of our tap water from the Colorado River,” said Atmospheric Scientist Leah Campbell, a postdoctoral researcher with UC, San Diego and a scholar at the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes. About 20 post-graduate students will be attending the workshop with Campbell.

But the research on the Yampa Basin isn’t about hoarding water for California or anywhere else. It’s about understanding how weather extremes affect the Colorado River system, and specifically the Yampa Basin.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Campbell said. “We’ve done a lot of work in California and have done some work with the Southwestern Monsoon. We want to learn more about the weather of the Rocky Mountain West and issues surrounding snowfall and water.”

Sustainability Studies Professor Nathan Stewart at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs will help host the two-day workshop.

“Their interest is very much on how this basin, this watershed is going to undergo change over time. They are clearly at the end of the line for our snow capture,” Stewart said of Southern California.

The Yampa Basin Rendezvous was organized here because the majority of the Yampa is not dammed up, said Kevin McBride, general manager of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District.

“Not only is it wild, it exports most of its native flow … more than any major river in Colorado,” McBride said.

The Yampa’s future health is of concern to many residents. In fact, well-known local ranchers and local conservationists, along with Routt County water experts, will join visiting scientists as they study how the Yampa River’s future might be predicted and maintained in a healthy way.

Renowned landscape photographer John Fielder, who co-authored a book on the Yampa River, will kick off the community discussion on Wednesday. Other speakers will include Open Snow’s meteorologist Joel Gratz, local water experts Kelly Romero-Heaney and McBride, and Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes.

One of the goals of UC San Diego’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes is to understand the impacts of extreme weather and water events, like severe snowstorms, on the environment and people of Western North America.

“The community in Steamboat has been so amazing and enthusiastic organizing this, so we’re really excited to connect and learn more about the regional weather and water,” Campbell added.

The public is invited to attend the community discussion from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Albright Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

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