Author: Outreach Office
Climate Instruction 101: Essential Knowledge and Teaching Strategies
Cost: You may take the course for free for no credit or take the course for recertification credit or potentially for graduate Environmental Studies credit. Colorado teachers can receive a subsidy for credit costs.
The ICEE Climate Instruction 101 online course focuses on the Essential Principles of Climate Science and provides experience with teaching strategies such as identifying and addressing misconceptions, minimizing controversy, and teaching so that students can engage positively.
The online course will run August 25-November 18 and will meet one hour per week in a webinar format. Commitments include participation in the weekly webinar, a small group project, and discussions online as well as completion of assignments. Small groups will be formed along similar teaching goals.
The target audience is secondary science teachers. However, if sufficient interest exists from informal educators, upper elementary educators, or interdisciplinary teams we will form a small group with that interest.
Please feel free to browse our sample syllabus.
Application deadline is July 15th.
This course is a partnership between the CIRES ICEE project and the University of Colorado Learn More About Climate Initiative. Instructors for this course will be Susan Buhr with CIRES and Deb Morrison with Learn More About Climate.
If you would like to download a copy of the course application please click here or apply online at http://cires.colorado.edu/education/outreach/ICEE/OnlineCourse/
Please join the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in an exciting teacher opportunity. The Energy Institute blends renewable energy and energy efficiency components into existing courses that the teachers are already instructing in subjects ranging from chemistry and physics to biology and environmental science classes. During the week long workshop, teachers participate in a variety of activities tied to NREL research including:
• Building and testing wind turbine blades utilizing multimeters and water pumps
• Testing solar panels creating current voltage curves using rheostats and multimeters
• Determining the optimum form of lighting based on the bulb’s brightness, its cost and its power requirements
• Chemically producing biodiesel fuel and performing quality control viscosity tests
• Meeting staff scientists and touring the world class National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Who Should Apply: Middle and High School STEM teachers and Informal Educators
When: July 30 - August 3 from 8:00 am-4:30pm
Where: Arrupe Jesuit High School, 4343 Utica Denver, CO 80212
• Participate in the 1 week summer program
• Implement one lesson in the fall 2012
• Stipend: $500 for the 1 week program
• $300 follow up fall implementation
• Resources: books and materials
• Credit: Credit through Colorado School of Mines
Application due July 9, 2012. Space is limited to the first 25 teachers.
Apply through this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NREL_Energy_Institute
Questions? Please contact Linda Lung: email@example.com
UCAR Spark (formerly UCAR Education & Outreach) will be presenting a webinar (online web-based seminar) in collaboration with NSTA on Monday, June 11th. The webinar runs from 4:30-6 PM Mountain Time (6:30-8 PM Eastern). It is free, but you must register to attend. Registration and more info are available at NSTA's site at:
The webinar is titled "Teaching Climate with Models: Breathing of the Earth". It is the first in a series of 4 webinars; the other three will be scheduled throughout the 2012-13 academic year.
Randy Russell of UCAR Spark and Professor Scott Denning of Colorado State University will be presenting the webinar. Scott is a very dynamic and articulate speaker; if you haven't had a chance to hear him present, we recommend you take advantage of this opportunity. The webinar covers aspects of the carbon cycle and modeling, with a special emphasis on changes to the carbon cycle caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and other human activities. The webinar includes several new animations created by Randy depicting the "carbon bathtub model", a conceptual model that helps students understand how carbon flows into and out of the atmosphere and how carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere.
The webinar will be archived; you can view it later if you are unable to attend the live presentation. However, we recommend the "live" showing if you can make it; there will be opportunities for you to ask questions of the presenters which are not afforded in the archived version.
More information is also available on Spark's web site at:
The Exploring the Environment-Global Climate Change (ETE-GCC) project (ete.cet.edu/gcc) announces that five modules are ready for pilot testing: Global Temperatures, Ice Caps and Sea Levels, Human Health, Volcanoes, and Drought. We welcome the insights and recommendations from middle and high school teachers who agree to help us pilot test these problem-based learning activities. We hope pre-service teachers will also consider being part of this collaborative process as well.
The new ETE-GCC problem-based learning (PBL) modules present an updated theoretical approach to problem-based learning that builds on the legacy Exploring the Environment (Legacy ETE) problem-based learning modules (www.cotf.edu/ete). Accompanying the modules are teacher pages that discuss improved pedagogical strategies for problem-based learning to address climate science topics and concepts. The ETE-GCC modules updates and expands existing ETE PBL modules with new material that focuses climate change indicators and data resources. Each module includes featured data that incorporate current NASA satellite images and data tools for studying global climate topics.
If you'd like to join the pilot testing process for the new modules, educators can sign up by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by requesting access to the site by selecting LOG IN on the ETE-GCC homepage: ete.cet.edu/gcc .
May 29, 2012
Clara Boland didn’t fully appreciate coal’s role in her life until she did some digging. That meant going to Paonia, a small town in Western Colorado, which has mined coal for more than a century.
Boland’s aim was to create a short documentary film for a course on conveying climate science through film. Her journey began in Boulder, where young people called coal “yesterday’s fuel,” dirty and toxic.
Longtime Paonia residents like Alan Austin said it’s easy to “sit in our ivory towers and look down at coal miners.” Actual life in a coal town is not, he said, so black and white.
As Boyd Boland, Clara’s father, said on screen, coal fuels the American dream, providing good-paying jobs. “Without coal, I don’t think this community could survive.”
Boland acknowledges that burning coal produces greenhouse gases and harmful airborne particulates. “But when you’re here, those problems are somebody else’s problems.”
In the film’s final scene, Clara Boland strides across a small mountain of coal. She says that the North Fork Valley— a tightknit area that feels more distinctly western than the resort towns on the other side of McClure Pass—needs a “shift in thinking,” and that Paonians can create safe, new jobs in clean energy.
It is early February. Boland and her professor, Rebecca Safran of ecology and evolutionary biology, are guest speakers in a new course at the University of Colorado Boulder that aims to explore innovative, creative and effective ways to convey climate-change science and its implications.
That course, called “Inside the Greenhouse,” takes Safran’s concept and runs with it. It is team-taught by two faculty members: Beth Osnes and Maxwell Boykoff from theatre and dance and environmental studies, respectively.
These disciplines seldom rub elbows. But in this course, cross-disciplinary teaching—collaboratively analyzing issues from the disparate lenses of social science, natural science and the arts and humanities—is intentional.
The course is an experiment, one of several interdisciplinary courses supported by the Gordon Gamm Fund, named after local philanthropist Gordon Gamm.The goal, Boykoff notes, is to “reach people where they are.”
Boland is addressing the class that hopes to learn from her, as she herself has learned. In retrospect, she says, her film’s conclusion might be a stretch. “I don’t think a community like Paonia can easily make such a huge shift.”
As Professor Safran noted, it is a challenge to convey scientific information on climate change in a way that “doesn’t just spell depression.” Osnes and Boykoff see that challenge and, have, from their respective disciplines, addressed it.
Todd Gleeson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explains that cross-disciplinary interaction of two faculty members “creates opportunities for new scholarship, research, and creative works that may not happen in the absence of these courses.”
That description fits here: Osnes and Boykoff each has a distinguished academic record. Together, they make a synergistic powerhouse.
Besides teaching and researching in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Osnes, a former Fulbright Scholar, has a lead role in an award-winning 2011 documentary called Mother: Caring For 7 Billion, which features the contrasting lives of Osnes and an Ethiopian woman and which effectively frames the population explosion with these individual narratives.
Boykoff is the author of a 2011 book— Who Speaks for the Climate? —which has been called a “path-breaking” analysis of mass-media representations of climate science. He is a fellow in CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and a senior visiting research associate in the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. His research has been cited in Science, Nature, The New York Times, CNN and Columbia Journalism Review.
Coached by these two experts, small groups of students enrolled in “Inside the Greenhouse” will create two “compositions”—original expressions ranging from “choreopoems” to a video montage.
After creating both compositions, each group will choose one to revise and polish, drawing from feedback from the class, the professors and an outside expert panel.
Then collectively, the whole class will create a 30- to 40-minute program—also called “Inside the Greenhouse”—which will include work generated by students and will feature excerpts from an on-stage interview with a “high-profile public figure who has been wrestling with questions regarding climate science, policy and the public.”
That’s all yet to come. But on this day in class, the students observe Clara Boland’s work before describing their concepts for their own compositions.
One group, for instance, assembles at the front of the room and describes its concept: following a person who wastes energy all day. Then, the students say, the scenes will rewind, and the protagonist will make different choices—to conserve energy. At the end, there might be a message that each person can make easy, meaningful choices.
Perhaps the pivotal scene would involve a “drop-dead gorgeous guy” who’s conducting survey about energy usage. A dreamy dude, Osnes suggest, could motivate behavioral change. Osnes observes that in a short video, only one artistic device should be employed. That will help drive the point home, she suggests. Further, she notes, it’s not clear why the protagonist would change her behavior.
Another group of students proposes a variation on a series of commercials from Liberty Mutual, an insurance company. The original commercials depict a series of selfless acts that appear contagious. The tagline is “Responsibility. What’s your policy?”
Boykoff, an expert in climate communication, says being overly earnest could be a “pitfall” that could keep the message from being effectively heard.
Osnes, whose expertise is communication from the stage, concurs: “If using clean energy doesn’t look like fun, that won’t work. Showing somebody freezing in a yurt won’t work.”
Before the class departs, Osnes challenges the students to commit fully to the project. “Let’s do this for real,” she says, emphasizing the point with a quotation from the poet Mary Oliver:
“What is it you’re going to do with your one wild and precious life?”
For more information about supporting academic programs, contact Carroll Christman, senior director of development at the CU Foundation, at 303-541-1450. This piece was written by Clint Talbott and originally appeared in the Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine.
Colorado educators were recently featured on a PBS Newshour segment on climate change on May 2nd, including Cheryl Manning, an author of Learn More About Climate's model lesson on mountain pine beetles.
The segment discusses how teachers are incorporating new national science standards for teaching climate change in their K-12 classrooms. Click here to learn more and watch a video of the full nine-minute segment.
April 19, 2012
A University of Colorado Boulder-led team has developed a new monitoring system to analyze and compare emissions from man-made fossil fuels and trace gases in the atmosphere, a technique that likely could be used to monitor the effectiveness of measures regulating greenhouse gases.
The research team looked at atmospheric gas measurements taken every two weeks from aircraft over a six-year period over the northeast United States to collect samples of CO2 and other environmentally important gases. Their method allowed them to separate CO2 derived from fossil fuels from CO2 being emitted by biological sources like plant respiration, said CU-Boulder Senior Research Associate Scott Lehman, who led the study with CU-Boulder Research Associate John Miller.
The separation was made possible by the fact that CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas has no carbon-14, since the half-life of that carbon radio isotope is about 5,700 years -- far less than the age of fossil fuels, which are millions of years old. In contrast, CO2 emitted from biological sources on Earth like plants is relatively rich in carbon-14 and the difference can be pinpointed by atmospheric scientists, said Lehman of CU’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.
The team also measured concentrations of 22 other atmospheric gases tied to human activities as part of the study, said Miller of the CU-headquartered Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. The diverse set of gases impact climate change, air quality and the recovery of the ozone layer, but their emissions are poorly understood. The authors used the ratio between the concentration level of each gas in the atmosphere and that of fossil fuel-derived CO2 to estimate the emission rates of the individual gases, said Miller.
In the long run, measuring carbon-14 in the atmosphere offers the possibility to directly measure country and state emissions of fossil fuel CO2, said Miller. The technique would be an improvement over traditional, “accounting-based” methods of estimating emission rates of CO2 and other gases, which generally rely on reports from particular countries or regions regarding the use of coal, oil and natural gas, he said.
“While the accounting-based approach is probably accurate at global scales, the uncertainties rise for smaller-scale regions,” said Miller, also a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder. “And as CO2 emissions targets become more widespread, there may be a greater temptation to underreport. But we’ll be able to see through that.”
A paper on the subject was published in the April 19 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, published by the American Geophysical Union. Co-authors include Stephen Montzka and Ed Dlugokencky of NOAA, Colm Sweeney, Benjamin Miller, Anna Karion, Jocelyn Turnbull and Pieter Tans of NOAA and CIRES, Chad Wolak of CU’s INSTAAR and John Southton of the University of California, Irvine.
One surprise in the study was that the researchers detected continued emissions of methyl chloroform and several other gases banned from production in the United States. Such observations emphasize the importance of independent monitoring, since the detection of such emissions could be overlooked by the widely used accounting-based estimation techniques, said Montzka.
The atmospheric air samples were taken every two weeks for six years by aircraft off the coastlines of Cape May, N.J., and Portsmouth, N.H.
Fossil fuel emissions have driven Earth’s atmospheric CO2 from concentrations of about 280 parts per million in the early 1800s to about 390 parts per million today, said Miller. The vast majority of climate scientists believe higher concentrations of the greenhouse gas CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere are directly leading to rising temperatures on the planet.
“We think the approach offered by this study can increase the accuracy of emissions detection and verification for fossil fuel combustion and a host of other man-made gases,” said Lehman. He said the approach of using carbon-14 has been supported by the National Academy of Sciences and could be an invaluable tool for monitoring greenhouse gases by federal agencies like NOAA.
Unfortunately, NOAA’s greenhouse gas monitoring program has been cut back by Congress in recent years, said Lehman. “Even if we lack the will to regulate emissions, the public has a right to know what is happening to our atmosphere. Sticking our heads in the sand is not a sound strategy,” he said.
Scott Lehman, 303-492-8980
John Miller, 303-497-7739
April 16, 2012
Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
Such lake drainages may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, according to the researchers. “This is the first evidence that Greenland’s ‘supraglacial’ lakes have responded to recent increases in surface meltwater production by draining more frequently, as opposed to growing in size,” says CIRES research associate William Colgan, who co-led the new study with CU-Boulder computer science doctoral student Yu-Li Liang.
During summer, meltwater pools into lakes on the ice sheet’s surface. When the water pressure gets high enough, the ice fractures beneath the lake, forming a vertical drainpipe, and “a huge burst of water quickly pulses through to the bed of the ice sheet,” Colgan said.
The study is being published online today by the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. The study was funded by the Arctic Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation.
The researchers used satellite images along with innovative feature-recognition software to monitor nearly 1,000 lakes on a Connecticut-sized portion of the ice sheet over a 10-year period. They discovered that as the climate warms, such catastrophic lake drainages are increasing in frequency. Catastrophic lake drainages were 3.5 times more likely to occur during the warmest years than the coldest years.
During a typical catastrophic lake drainage, about 10 million cubic meters of meltwater -- which is equivalent to the volume of about 4,000 Olympic swimming pools -- funnels to the ice sheet’s underside within a day or two. Once the water reaches the ice sheet’s belly that abuts underlying rock, it may turn the ice-bed surface into a Slip ’N Slide, lubricating the ice sheet’s glide into the ocean. This would accelerate the sea-level rise associated with climate change.
Alternatively, however, the lake drainages may carve out sub-glacial “sewers” to efficiently route water to the ocean. “This would drain the ice sheet’s water, making less water available for ice-sheet sliding,” Colgan said. That would slow the ice sheet’s migration into the ocean and decelerate sea-level rise.
“Lake drainages are a wild card in terms of whether they enhance or decrease the ice sheet’s slide,” Colgan said. Finding out which scenario is correct is a pressing question for climate models and for communities preparing for sea-level change, he said.
For the study, the researchers developed new feature-recognition software capable of identifying supraglacial lakes in satellite images and determining their size and when they appear and disappear. “Previously, much of this had to be double-checked manually,” Colgan said. “Now we feed the images into the code, and the program can recognize whether a feature is a lake or not, with high confidence and no manual intervention.”
Automating the process was vital since the study looked at more than 9,000 images. The researchers verified the program’s accuracy by manually looking at about 30 percent of the images over 30 percent of the study area. They found that the algorithm -- a step-by-step procedure for calculations -- correctly detected and tracked 99 percent of supraglacial lakes.
The program could be useful in future studies to determine how lake drainages affect sea-level rise, according to the researchers. CIRES co-authors on the team include Konrad Steffen, Waleed Abdalati, Julienne Stroeve, Qin Lv, David Gallaher and Nicolas Bayou.
William Colgan, 303-735-3681
Kristin Bjornsen, CIRES science writer, 303-492-1790
April 18, 2012
A series of papers published this month on ecological changes at 26 global research sites -- including one administered by the University of Colorado Boulder in the high mountains west of the city -- indicates that ecosystems dependent on seasonal snow and ice are the most sensitive to changes in climate.
The six papers appeared in the April issue of the journal BioScience. The papers were tied to data gathered at sites in North America, Puerto Rico, the island of Moorea near Tahiti, and Antarctica, which are known as Long-Term Ecological Research, or LTER, sites and are funded by the National Science Foundation. CU-Boulder’s Niwot Ridge site, one of the five original LTER sites designated by NSF in 1980, encompasses several thousand acres of subalpine forest, tundra, talus slopes, glacial lakes and wetlands stretching up to more than 13,000 feet on top of the Continental Divide.
As part of the new reports, LTER scientists in association with NSF have come up with a new evaluation system of the research sites that brings in the “human dimension,” said CU-Boulder Professor Mark Williams, the principal investigator on CU’s Niwot Ridge LTER site. “In the past we tried to look at pristine ecosystems, but those are essentially gone,” said Williams. “So we’ve come up with an approach that integrates human activities with our ecological research.”
One of the six papers, “Long-Term Studies Detect Effects of Disappearing Ice and Snow,” was led by Portland State University Professor Andrew Fountain and co-authored by several others, including Williams, a geography professor and a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. According to the authors, there are big changes occurring in temperate areas beyond the poles, where warming temperatures have triggered declines in polar bear and penguin populations.
Key measurements at the Niwot Ridge site -- which has climate records going back more than 60 years thanks to pioneering work by CU biology Professor John Marr in the 1950s -- are temperature and precipitation logs from two stations, one at 12,700 feet in elevation and a second at 10,000 feet. Although the climate at the higher meteorological station -- by far the highest long-term climate station in the United States -- has been getting slightly wetter and cooler in recent decades, the station at 10,000 feet in a subalpine forest is getting significantly warmer and drier.
Williams said warming at 10,000 feet and lower may be causing enhanced surface water evaporation and transport that moves westward and higher in the mountains, with the water vapor being converted to snow that falls atop the Continental Divide. Snow cover increases reflectivity of incoming sunlight, further cooling the alpine area and overriding the overall warming signal in the West, which is believed to be a 2 or 3 degree Fahrenheit rise over the past decade due to rising greenhouse gases.
“These two Niwot Ridge stations are less than five miles away from each other -- you can see one from the other -- but there are totally different trends occurring,” he said. In many places in the mountainous West, only a small increase in temperature can cause the climate to cross a “threshold” that triggers earlier and more intense snow melting, said Williams, principal investigator on a 2011 grant of $5.9 million from NSF to CU to continue long-term ecological studies at Niwot Ridge.
With snowpack roughly half of normal in 2012 and snow melting in the high country that began more than three months earlier than last year, the outlook is not good for montane and subalpine forests in Colorado and other parts of the West, he said.
Low snowpack and early melt invariably have a huge impact on the Colorado economy, said Williams. Despite near record snowfall in 2010-11, warming temperatures have caused less snow and shorter winters in recent years and affected the ski industry -- one of Colorado’s largest economic drivers, said Williams.
As for the future of flora and fauna in subalpine and alpine regions like Niwot Ridge, there will be “winners and losers” as the climate warms, said Williams. Animals like American pikas, potato-sized denizens of alpine talus slopes in the West, need heavy snowpack to insulate them from cold winters as they huddle in hay piles beneath the rocks. In lower, more isolated mountain ranges in Nevada, researchers are already seeing a marked decline in American pika populations.
The predictions of the study authors are that microbes, plants and animals that depend on snow and ice will decrease if they are unable to move higher into areas of snow and ice. But shallower snow could cause big game like deer and elk to move higher in altitude to browse, according to the authors.
A big concern in temperate mountains like Colorado is the heath and welfare of coniferous trees as the climate changes, said Williams. “Trees in Colorado’s mountains are under a tremendous amount of stress due to drought and pine beetle outbreaks. And the fire danger, at least now, is through the roof,” he said.
“If some of these forested areas disappear, I think the chances of them coming back are pretty low,” Williams said. “The climate they grew up in doesn’t exist anymore. As we lose trees to drought, beetles and wildfires, we are likely to see an invasion of grasses and shrubs in areas where we have never seen them, causing a complete restructuring of our forest community.”
As snowline moves up due to warming temperatures, so will parts of alpine tundra in the West, Williams said. “The tundra may be able to function reasonably well for several decades -- it will be awhile before warming climate change pushes the tundra off the tops of mountains. But that is the direction we are heading.”
Williams co-authored three of the six BioScience studies, including the main LTER overview paper and a paper on ecosystem and human influences on stream flow in response to climate change at LTER sites. CU-Boulder Professor Tim Seastedt was a co-author on another of the papers, a study on the past, present and future roles of long-term experiments in the LTER network.
The 2011 NSF renewal grant to CU-Boulder for the Niwot Ridge LTER site, which is adjacent to CU-Boulder’s Mountain Research Station, will allow faculty and students, including undergraduates, to continue key environmental studies there. Both sites are located about 25 miles west of Boulder.
Mark Williams, 303-492-8830
New for Fall 2012: Special Topics in Geography - "World Water Today and Tomorrow"
University of Colorado-Boulder
3.0 semester hours
Paul Lander, PhD, ASLA, LEED A.P.
Mon, September 10 - December 17, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
For more information, and to register, visit:
Looks at human-environment relations through the element of water. Key areas for investigation:
- scope of water issues across the world: quantity, quality, access, governance
- in depth look at key regions of the world
- elements driving future change - population and climate change
Click here to download a flyer for the course.