(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
High in the San Juan Mountains and rising from the porous geology of the Grand Mesa, the headwaters to the Gunnison River – the second largest tributary in the Colorado River system – are among the areas in our nation most threatened from climate change.
The Gunnison River Basin is among the most threatened in the nation from climate change, with major portions of its watershed among the nation’s most-impacted from warming.
The Gunnison Basin, the land drained by the river and its tributaries, stretches from the northern slopes of the San Juan Mountains, from the Sawatch and Elk mountains just west of the Continental Divide, from the West Elks and Grand Mesa, to the eastern flanks of the Uncompahgre Plateau.
The Gunnison and its tributaries start at some of the highest elevations in the U.S. and it joins the muddy Colorado River in the desert at the edge of canyon country in Grand Junction – the confluence being that city’s namesake.
It’s a storied river, full of promise and misery, luck and misfortune, chance connections and betrayals. It’s history, and prehistory, is rich, including the Ute Tribes that lived and farmed there for centuries, with Spanish priests and explorers searching for wealth and a route to connect New Spain with missions on the coast. The region is full of stories, French-Canadian fur trappers, mountain men, guides, and miners. Finally, it is the story of the settlers who turned the valley lands to agriculture. Some of Colorado’s most productive farm and ranches are watered by the Gunnison, square in climate change’s cross-hairs.
Crawford, Colo sits in Delta County on the Montrose County line, and near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Delta and Montrose counties are both among seventy-one U.S. counties being most impacted by warming.
Now a new county-by-county look from the Washington Post shows just how threatened the Gunnison Basin is from the climate crisis.
The August 13 report, “2°C: Beyond the Limit: Extreme climate change has arrived in America,” identifies seventy-one U.S. counties that have already hit the “two degree” threshold of warming.
But global warming does not heat the world evenly.
A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark.
…Seventy-one [U.S.] counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.
This 2°C threshold is broadly identified as the too-far-gone global benchmark to avoid even more catastrophic climate disruption. Eight of the seventy-one counties on the Washington Post list are in Colorado.
And seven of those eight are on the Western Slope—which is to say that 10% of U.S. counties that have already crossed the threshold—are in the headwaters to much of the United States. And five counties on that list comprise major portions of the Gunnison River Basin, together representing seven percent of all the nation’s seventy-one identified climate critical counties. The climate crisis is real – and it is already here in Colorado.