Chas Jones, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Colorado River river trip to assess hydropower potential

1923 Colorado River river trip to assess hydropower potential of Grand Canyon

This is an old film produced by the USGS (and linked from their website) that shows footage of 1923 Colorado River river trip to assess hydropower potential of Grand Canyon (1923).  This is a silent video produced in black and white that shows the excitement of the river trip and some of the trials and tribulations of these early adventurous public servants of the U.S. federal government.

Additional information can be found at this link to the USGS’s archival material.

Floods as a restoration tool in the Grand Canyon

Downstream flood propagation in the Colorado River

Flood as a restoration tool in the Grand Canyon

The U.S. Department of the Interior has periodically been releasing large volumes of water into the Grand Canyon in an attempt to mobilize sediment and rebuild beaches in a river system that has been sediment deprived since the installation of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. In November 2013, they planned for a high flow release (>34,000 cubic feet per second) into the Colorado River, which normally flows at 8-9,000 cfs. They maintained high flows for 4 days during a period that the Paria River was releasing large amounts of sediment into the Colorado River.  River managers hoped to entrain the high sediment load of the Paria using high flows in the Colorado River so that they would be carried downstream and deposited further down than they normally would be.  Flooding, flood routing, river restoration and Colorado River water resources are all subjects that I am very interested in being more involved with in my future research endeavors.

Read more at this link.

Rising temperatures threaten Salt Lake City’s water supply


Salt Lake City relies on water from several watersheds including four creeks on the western side of the Wasatch Mountains and water that’s pulled in from the more distant eastern side of the mountains. A new study shows how climate change is likely to affect the various creeks and streams that help slake Salt Lake City’s thirst. (Map credit: CIRES)

Rising temperatures threaten Salt Lake City’s water supply

This article from researchers at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences)  appears to be an interesting report linking Salt Lake City’s water supply to changing temperatures and precipitation.  I will spend some time reviewing the report in the next week or so, but until I do, check out a summary of the report here.

Quantifying Colorado River water deliveries

20131110 Coroado River Water profile

Quantifying Colorado River water deliveries

I really enjoy innovative graphics that convey quantitative data in simple understandable ways. Here’s a great example of a graphic that shows how much Colorado River Water has flowed into and out of various parts of the Colorado River basin and the States and communities that rely upon it for their water. This map shows how no Colorado River water makes it into Mexico anymore.  It also shows how much water into California and Arizona.  Very interesting.  More info can be found at this link.

Potential research: Floods and climate change-Boulder, CO

How do changes in climate and associated weather patterns affect flooding?

Potential research: Floods and climate change-Boulder, CO

In mid-September 2013, the region around Boulder, Colorado experienced severe flooding when 15 inches (38 cm) of rain fell across the area in less than 48 hours. It was a magnificent event that some have estimated to be a 1000 year flood event.  What caused this particular flood event to be so incredibly large?  Was it climate change?  Did we (humans) interfere with other aspects of the landscape to amplify the event? Or was it some natural phenomenon like El Nino or La Nina that was expressing its influence?

It would be a very tenuous argument to declare this particular rain event was caused by climate change. Even though, climatologists frequently state that we should expect extreme events (i.e. flooding or drought) to occur more frequently in the future, they can’t really pin down a particular cause for specific weather related events.

The nexus of flooding and climate change is one of my primary research interest areas, however, as we can model how different climate scenarios might influence the flood characteristics of particular watersheds.  We can also model how changes to the jet stream and related weather patterns may affect precipitation, runoff and flooding. In the southwestern U.S., what would happen if winter precipitation events were received from the south rather than the pacific northwest? How might that influence runoff and or flooding in spring? How might reservoirs in the southwest be affected by altered precipitation patterns? What would those changes mean for water policy in the southwest?

The questions are endless, but I find them fascinating.  Hopefully, one day I will find myself in a position to get at some of the big questions revolving around floods and climate change.…

River gauging techniques – Helicopter

River gauging techniques – Helicopter

I am always interested in the different techniques that are being used to measure stream discharge.  Sometimes, it can be quite difficult to access rivers in areas with good access, non-mobile beds, stable cross-sections, and a host of other site conditions that make for good channel cross sections.  Well, here is a New Zealander’s approach that uses a helicopter, a modified whitewater kayak, and an ADCP unit to measure stream discharge.  The group is out of the Otago Regional Counil (

I came across the link at Stu Hamilton’s blog (

What do you think about its potential for measuring peak discharge in some of the remote rivers in Alaska or other places?



Flash flood video: Zion N.P. climbers lucky to be alive

Flash flood video: Zion N.P. climbers lucky to be alive

This G0-Pro video shows a crazy video taken by four climbers just before and during a flash flood event at Zion National  Park in Utah.  Flash floods are serious business and are very dangerous extreme events that are relatively common in the southwestern United States.  Check out the link to the story and the flash flood video.



Who am I?

Who am I?

I have been trying to update this website over the last week or two and am making some progress.  I am also trying to get my business cards updated and printed before going to the Colorado Plateau Research Symposium in Flagstaff, Arizona next week.  I think that I am going to place a word cloud on the back of the business card.  Here is one version that is being considered.

Chas WordCloud

A word cloud that attempts to summarize my research and professional background.


Sinkhole research – Potential opportunities

Sinkhole research opportunities

Guatemala sinkhole: a missed sinkhole research opportunity for me.

By Ker Than for National Geographic News
Published June 1, 2010
A huge sinkhole in Guatemala City (map), Guatemala, crashed into being on Sunday, reportedly swallowing a three-story building—and echoing a similar, 2007 sinkhole in Guatemala. Click on the photo for the actual article.

Sinkhole research could help many communities that have already experienced problems with them, but may also help communities avoid sinkhole hazards in the future. Sinkholes and other hydrology-related disasters fascinate me. I would like to explore the specific causes of sinkhole formation and opportunities for detecting sinkholes, such as the use of electromagnetic imaging or ground penetrating radar. Both of these techniques can be used to measure changes in density beneath the ground from a helicopter. Researchers use them to monitor permafrost degradation and subsurface geologic features.

Earlier this week, there was a video of a sinkhole that was swallowing a number of trees in a Louisiana swamp. The sinkhole had been swallowing a lot of land around a former salt mine and has been releasing a lot of methane during the least a year.  Check it out here: Raw: Louisiana Sinkhole Swallows Giant Trees – YouTube.

There is a growing source of images and videos related to sinkholes on the internet.  I do not know if the frequency of occurrence of sinkholes is increasing, however, as it is very likely and possible that we are simply much better at sharing information very quickly these days.  Regardless, families that have been affected by sinkholes would be very grateful for additional information about how to minimize risk from future calamity. Even more importantly, if a sinkhole was identified and a family saved before a disaster, the rewards would certainly be many times greater. Anyhow, this is one subject that I’ll keep my eyes on in the future, because we just never know when or where the next disaster may strike.