The Census Bureau just released its latest population-change figures tracking in- and out-migration and natural population growth or decline from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. The numbers don’t reveal any surprising new trends or shifts. As you can see from the pictured map, most Western counties continued to grow.
But some of the details stand out and are worth noting, such as:
The fastest growing metro areas in the U.S. are St. George, Utah, (+5.1%) and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, (+4.1%). Boise, Provo, and Logan (Idaho and Utah) also make the top 10.
Maricopa County, Arizona, had the largest numeric growth in the nation, mostly due to in-migration (as opposed to births) adding nearly 60,000 people to the 4.44 million already there in 2020. Megadrought? Aridification? What me worry?
Los Angeles County had the nation’s biggest numeric decline, losing 184,465 people; three other California counties also made the top 10.
San Francisco County had the second largest percent decline (-6.7%) after New York County, New York. Also making the top ten for population loss were Williams County, North Dakota — the heart of the Bakken oil and gas field — and San Mateo County, California.
While California lost the most people in the West due to out-migration, it offset some of that by having one of the highest birth to death ratios in the nation, for a “natural gain” of about 92,000 people. Arizona’s Pima, Mohave, and Yavapai Counties, meanwhile, had some of the largest natural losses in the nation, with deaths significantly outpacing births. But thanks to a large influx of population, those same counties all experienced net population growth.
New Mexico’s Lea and Eddy Counties, both in the heart of the booming Permian Basin oil patch, lost significant population due to out-migration. Other fossil fuel-rich counties that lost population, include: Campbell County, Wyoming; San Juan County, New Mexico; and Carbon County, Utah.
Grand County, Utah, home of Moab, lost population (slightly) to death and out-migration.
La Plata County, Colorado, gained about 620 people, a 1.1% increase.
Something that I find striking is that real estate values are shooting up everywhere, not just in growing counties, and they are increasing at a far faster rate than the population. Los Angeles County, for example, is one of the nation’s biggest population losers, yet the median residential sale price exploded from the already ridiculous $700,000 in July 2020 to a totally absurd $821,000 a year later. It shows that the housing crisis is not really a matter of simple supply and demand or caused by the housing stock not keeping pace with population growth. It’s something far more complicated.
Every season is fire season, it seems. Just one week into spring, a blaze broke out near the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Boulder, Colorado’s fringe, forcing the evacuation of a good swath of the city’s southwest side and sending plumes of smoke towering over the Flatirons. The potential for catastrophe was high, but firefighters managed to keep the flames out of neighborhoods and by Sunday afternoon most evacuees — many still reeling from the late December Marshall Fire that destroyed 1,000 homes east of the city — were allowed to return home. No structures were damaged in the 200 acre blaze.
Although the mountains along Colorado’s Front Range have received average snowfall so far this year, relatively warm temperatures have dried things out. The first week of March was downright hot (daytime highs near 70 degrees F), followed by a frigid phase (daytime high of 22 F, with lows reaching 2 F and even plummeting to -7 F in Denver), before returning to May-like highs. The mercury was at about 78 F when the fire broke out near the Bear Canyon Trail, which was swarming at the time with folks looking to get some sunshine and training miles in (because, you known, Boulder). The cause of the fire is still undetermined.
The unseasonably warm temperatures haven’t been confined to Colorado’s Front Range. The mercury’s climbing everywhere, especially in Southern California.
This is some bad news for the Golden State. While winter started out unusually wet, the dryness soon set in and scant snow and rain have fallen on the state since January. What snowpack remains is now melting rapidly.
Winter’s been a little more generous to the Upper Colorado River Basin, making it seem as if maybe Lake Powell’s shrinkage would slow or even be reversed this spring. But the high temperatures caused a fairly dramatic decline in snowpack levels, bringing them down below 2021’s level for the date. The good news is some more snow and rain is on the way to the region, keeping hope alive.
At least twice as much methane is oozing from the Permian Basin’s oil and gas fields than previously thought, according to a new study by Stanford University researchers. Airborne surveys found that methane leaks and other emissions account for 9.4% of total natural gas production in the area, which is six times higher than EPA estimates. The slightly better news: It appears that about half of the fugitive methane—an especially potent greenhouse gas—is coming from a handful of super-emitters, theoretically making them easier to fix.
Read more about methane: