Colorado Water Congress

The Colorado Water Congress conducted their Annual Convention in January with more than 300 in attendance. Among others, topics included agricultural water conservation, the Colorado Water Plan, Division engineers reports, federal and interstate legal issues in the Colorado River Basin,instream flows program, water archives and history, water education, water markets and flex pricing, and water policy and law. Many speakers provided a host of useful information, including: Bob Berman (astronomer), Bob Johnson (National Water Resources Association), Mike King (Colorado Department of Natural Resources), Patricia Rettig (CSU Water Resources Archives), andDavid Schorr (professor and author). For a full listing of the 2014 convention topics and speakers, including some of their presentations, visit the CWC website at Excerpts from Bob Berman’s presentation are provided below, with a little background on Berman provided first.   

Bob Berman is one of the best-known and widely-read astronomers in the world. He is uniquely able to translate complex scientific concepts into language that is understandable to the casual observer, yet meaningful to the most advanced. His dry, edgy wit engages readers of such diverse publications as Discover Magazine and The Old Farmers Almanac. His newest book, The Sun’s Hearbeat, explores the mysteries of that which is the pulse of life on earth. Berman discussed the sun’s erratic behavior and its potential effect on the weather, as well as other topics, to include the importance of sun and health.
The sun is behaving now in a way that has not been witnessed in the past century. Usually a solar minimum (as the one that just concluded a couple of years ago) means that the number of sunspots decline, not that they virtually stop cold which is what happened. Moreover, its normal 11-year cycle stretched to 14-years and then the long-awaited solar maximum barely materialized this past year. It seems increasingly likely that the sun has entered a prolonged period of reduced activity which definitely affects us on Earth. The last time there was an extreme event was during the reign of Louis XIV of France. That was a period of great hardship. Colonies in Greenland and Iceland couldn’t survive and thriving landscapes became frozen and white. Nobody knows if this is heading toward a similar occurrence, or what exactly causes it, but we know that the sun’s “heartbeat” can indeed stop for prolonged periods.
Sunspots change the amount of cosmic rays that enter the solar system from the rest of the universe. These rays are mostly protons--broken bits of atoms that can penetrate our bodies. During the strong part of a solar cycle the sun creates a shield that blocks many of these particles from reaching our planet. But at times like this, when the sun cycle is weak, these high-speed deep-space particles arrive at increased numbers and intensity. This has a cumulative effect on our atmosphere and on things like the production of carbon 14. What humans are doing by throwing carbon into the air creates one effect on the climate, but another major player is the sun. The sun can add to our troubles or partially ameliorate them. What the sun has been doing recently is giving us a break; it is counteracting global warming to a degree.
We now know that light affects us more than we imagined. How the sun protects us is through the production of Vitamin D, a powerful anti-cancer agent. In recent years and decades, children play lass outdoors and spend more time indoors. Many medical researchers are worried about this reduced skin exposure to sunlight, exacerbated by the over-use of sunblock thanks to the skin cancer scares of late. But light is important to health. As one example, two separate studies show that breast cancer is strongly linked with women who because of working night shifts or sleeping in a room exposed to bright city streetlight streaming in, fail to experience a normal daily darkness and light cycle.