Early Warning System

Reactive nitrogen emitted from eastern Colorado is contributing to elevated deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), leading to undesirable ecosystem changes. Nitrogen emitted east of the Park often moves into the mountains during large-scale upslope weather events that can be predicted.

The goal of the early warning system is to inform agricultural producers of impending weather conditions that are likely to transport nitrogen from eastern Colorado into RMNP. These warnings will allow producers to strategically implement management practices that reduce nitrogen emissions but are not feasible for year-round implementation.

A common scenario leading to significant nitrogen deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park includes stagnant air over eastern Colorado capturing emissions for several days before upslope winds (resulting from high pressure moving in from the north or low pressure moving in from the south) move the nitrogen-laden air mass westward into the mountains. As air from eastern Colorado is forced up the east slope of the Rockies, heavy precipitation can form; this precipitation scavenges reactive nitrogen pollutants in the air mass and deposits them into Park ecosystems. Meteorological forecasting is conducted by researchers at Colorado State University’s Atmospheric Science department using state-of-the-art models.

How it works:

When an upslope event is predicted, a warning is issued to agricultural producers participating in a pilot program. Warnings are issued to participants by email when conditions that are likely to cause movement of an air mass from eastern Colorado into RMNP are expected. Recipients are asked to implement management strategies that may reduce emissions or abstain from practices known to increase ammonia emissions, and they are asked to respond to warnings by indicating their ability to change practices based on the issued warning.

During the pilot project, the effectiveness of the warning system is being evaluated. Producers from a wide range of agricultural operations, including beef cattle feedlots, dairies, swine operations, crop producers, and biosolids application sites, have volunteered to participate in the pilot project. Data from the pilot warning system project will be used to evaluate and improve the reliability of meteorological predictions and gather data on producer response rates for eventual scale-up to a regional system.

To participate in the pilot project, sign up here.

Participating producers may respond to warnings here.

[History of past warnings to show frequency and reliability] - under development