Learn More About Climate Change
UCAR/NCAR and UNC Greeley are entering the 2nd year of a NASA funded program called Research Experience for Teachers Institute. In the first year, twelve Colorado teachers took a series of three online courses on climate science and came to NCAR for 4 weeks to learn from climate scientists and develop classroom modules. Teachers are able to be paid for their time. They are currently recruiting the year 2 cohort of teachers and are looking for qualified middle and high school teachers. If you know any teachers who could benefit from this experience, they may contact Becca Hatheway at email@example.com or 303-497-2597 for more information.
We are creating a new professional learning community for Colorado educators to share tips and resources and ideas on teaching about climate-related topics. Participants get a $200 stipend to boot! Want to know more? Visit our website at https://sites.google.com/site/coloradoclimateplc/ and sign up! Stay tuned for our first meeting, September 7th.
July 25, 2011
CU-Boulder National Snow and Ice Data Center news release
An international team of researchers has combined data from multiple sources to provide the clearest account yet of how much glacial ice surges into the sea following the collapse of Antarctic ice shelves.
The work by researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), the Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at the University of Toulouse, France, and the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) details recent ice losses while promising to sharpen future predictions of further ice loss and sea level rise likely to result from ongoing changes along the Antarctic Peninsula.
"Not only do you get an initial loss of glacial ice when adjacent ice shelves collapse, but you get continued ice losses for many years—even decades—to come," says Christopher Shuman, a researcher at UMBC's Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. "This further demonstrates how important ice shelves are to Antarctic glaciers."
Shuman is lead author of the study "2001-2009 elevation and mass losses in the Larsen A and B embayments, Antarctic Peninsula" published online today in the Journal of Glaciology.
An ice shelf is a thick floating tongue of ice, fed by a tributary glacier, extending into the sea off a land mass. Previous research showed that the recent collapse of several ice shelves in Antarctica led to acceleration of the glaciers that feed into them. Combining satellite data from NASA and the French space agency CNES, along with measurements collected during aircraft missions similar to ongoing NASA IceBridge flights, Shuman, Etienne Berthier of the University of Toulouse and Ted Scambos of the NSIDC produced detailed ice loss maps from 2001 to 2009 for the main tributary glaciers of the Larsen A and B ice shelves, which collapsed in 1995 and 2002, respectively.
"The approach we took drew on the strengths of each data source to produce the most complete picture yet of how these glaciers are changing," Berthier said, noting that the study relied on easy access to remote sensing information provided by NASA and CNES. The team used data from NASA sources including the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments and the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat).
The analysis reveals rapid elevation decreases of more than 500 feet for some glaciers, and it puts the total ice loss from 2001 to 2006 squarely between the widely varying and less certain estimates produced using an approach that relies on assumptions about a glacier's mass budget.
The authors' analysis shows ice loss in the study area of at least 11.2 gigatons per year from 2001 to 2006. Their ongoing work shows ice loss from 2006 to 2010 was almost as large, averaging 10.2 gigatons per year.
"This study shows where the tracking of sea level rise is heading in terms of the level of detail possible and the instrumentation that can be brought to bear," Scambos said. "We're showing that glacier changes can start fast, with a single climate or ocean ‘bang', but they have a long persistence."
The article is available at www.igsoc.org/. An animation showing ice edge changes for the Larsen B ice shelf and its adjacent tributary glaciers is available at svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?3803. A map showing elevation changes of tributary glaciers is available at http://etienne.berthier.free.fr/images/ElevationChange_2001to2006_LarsenB.jpg.
A companion paper, "The triggering of sub glacial lake drainage during rapid glacier drawdown: Crane Glacier, Antarctic Peninsula," by the same three authors, led by Scambos, also is available online at www.igsoc.org/annals/ in the issue "Earth's Disappearing Ice: Drivers, Responses and Impacts."
Snowpack in the northern Rocky Mountains has shrunk at an unusually rapid pace during the past 30 years, according to a new study.
The decline is "almost unprecedented" over the past 800 years, say researchers who used tree rings to reconstruct a centuries-long record of snowpack throughout the entire Rocky Mountain range.
Their work, published yesterday in the journal Science, suggests that the plummeting snowpack could have serious consequences for more than 70 million people who depend on water from the runoff-fed Columbia, Colorado and Missouri rivers.
"The Northern Rockies have shown the greatest response to warming in terms of snowpack decline," said lead author Greg Pederson, a research scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Rocky Mountain Research Center. "Temperature, especially now, seems to be undercutting snowpack."
That's a marked shift from the pattern that predominated from A.D. 1200 to the 1980s: When snowpack was low in the Northern Rockies, it was high in the Southern Rockies -- and vice versa.
But for the past 30 years or so, snowpack in both regions has shrunk. Pederson and his colleagues pin the blame on warmer springs driven by a combination of rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere and natural climate variation.
"In the last 30 years, there's been this growing synchrony where the whole West is getting warmer," said Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University. "That part is not new, but they point out a few other occasions in the last millennium where there has been low snowpack in the West were also periods that were unusually warm. That's a pretty strong message: that historically, low snowpack and warm spring go hand in hand."
This time, no return to cooler period
Tim Barnett, a climatologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the new results appear to agree with his earlier work that used climate models to show humans' greenhouse gas emissions have contributed to declining snowpack in the western United States.
"I think we get some idea of what natural variability is in the snowpack," said Barnett, though he noted his expertise lies in climate models, not tree-ring studies. "The fact that things have sort of gone south here in the last 30 to 40 years [in the new study] pretty much jibes with what we've done."
Meanwhile, Pederson said he sees an important difference between modern conditions and the brief 14th- and 15th-century periods of warm temperatures and low snowpack along the Columbia and Missouri river headwaters.
"They were eventually followed by cooling," he said. "Now, alas, we don't expect to return to a cooler period."
That glimpse into the past was provided by 66 tree-ring data sets scientists used to stitch together an annual record of snowpack far older than modern observations, which began in the early 20th century.
They used some records from ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees, which thrive at lower elevations and in years with heavy snowfall. But to track snowfall in higher elevations, the scientists examined rings from subalpine larch, mountain hemlock and subalpine fir trees -- species whose growth is retarded by snowfall.
Peering into the past
In those cases, "you're often looking at a tree you could easily put your arms around -- and it could be 500 to 800 years old," Pederson said.
The combined tree-ring record is valuable because it overcomes a vexing problem with many modern climate observations: They don't go far enough into the past to show scientists what conditions were like before human activities began transforming the environment.
"We built a system to observe our changing environment during the period it's been changing rapidly," said Mote.
Pederson says he's confident his tree-ring results are accurate in part because during a brief period of overlap during the 20th century, the snowpack depth derived from the tree rings and modern observations look like "photocopies" of one another.
Although the new study describes ongoing decline in snowpack throughout the Rockies, this year has bucked that long-term trend. Record snowpacks have been recorded in the northern West, according to the Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service, which monitors snowpack.
Experts characterized it as a brief blip in a longer-term trend of decline. They attributed last year's unusually wet winter to the La Niña weather pattern that was in place from August to May.
"We're seeing 200 to 400 percent of normal for this time of year," said Michael Strobel, director of the service's National Water and Climate Center.
Source: New York Times
Making the Global Local is an innovative teacher workshop in which CU scientists, teacher educators and science teachers will share their expertise and collaborate in the development and piloting of reform-oriented lessons that frame issues of climate in Colorado. As a participant in this course, you are partnering with the School of Education and the Office for University Outreach at CU-Boulder to form the Making the Global Local (MGL) community. The goal of the course is not only to support teachers in deepening their own climate literacy, but also to develop and pilot new climate change lessons for their classrooms that can be shared with other teachers through the CU’s LearnMoreAboutClimate web site.
This year the course will be held from Aug. 8-12 at UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) in Boulder. There will be two field experiences as part of the course as well as opportunities to learn from and talk to well known climate scientists and climate educators. A small amount of advance preparation will be needed to familiarize yourself with the wiki technology used during the course and explore some background information. The course consists of the five-day summer classes, a fall enactment of the lesson you co-construct during the summer classes, and a final follow-up evening meeting to submit completed lessons. There is no fee for this course due to support from CU Outreach and UCAR. You will earn recertification credit through your participation in this course.
If you are interested in participating in this course please email Deborah.firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on the course list. The course will be capped at 20 participants.
June 8, 2011
A new University of Colorado Boulder study indicates the infestation of trees by mountain pine beetles in the high country across the West could potentially trigger earlier snowmelt and increase water yields from snowpack that accumulates beneath affected trees.
Led by CU-Boulder geological sciences department doctoral student Evan Pugh, the study was undertaken near Grand Lake, Colo., adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, an area that has been devastated by mountain pine beetle attacks in recent years. Mountain pine beetles have killed more than 4 million acres of lodgepole pine trees in Colorado and southern Wyoming since 1996, the most severe outbreak on record.
Pugh and his team monitored eight pairs of tree stands, each pair consisting of one live stand and one dead stand roughly an acre each in size and located adjacent to each other, sharing the same topography, elevation and slope. The team monitored the two distinct phases of pine beetle tree death during the three-year study -- the "red phase" in which dead trees still retained red needles, and the "gray phase" in which all of the tree needles and some small branches had been shed, said Pugh.
The study showed that there was roughly 15 percent more snow accumulation under the gray phase stands than under living stands or red phase stands, likely due in large part to a lack of "snow interception" by needled tree branches that can cause snowflakes to "sublimate" into gas and return to the atmosphere, he said. Gray phase trees also allow more solar radiation through their canopies than live trees and red phase trees, increasing the potential for earlier melt, said Pugh, lead study author.
Snowmelt rates were highest under red phase trees, with snow disappearing up to a week earlier than snow in adjacent, healthy stands even though both received the same amount of snowfall at their bases. Pugh showed the earlier snowmelt in red phase tree stands is due in large part to the amount of litter -- needles and branches -- that drops or is blown from the trees onto on the snow surface, decreasing its solar reflecting power, or albedo, and causing it to absorb more of the sun's radiation and heat up slightly.
"This is the first study to look at the potential effects that different stages of mountain pine beetle tree death may have on snowmelt," Pugh said. "What we are seeing is earlier snowmelt and more snow accumulation in dead forests."
A paper on the subject was published online today in the peer-reviewed journal, Ecohydrology. The paper was co-authored by CU-Boulder geological sciences Professor Eric Small and funded in part by a CU-Boulder Innovative Seed Grant. Four undergraduates -- Leslie Baehr, Tevis Blom, Bryant Kealey and Jon Hammond -- received internship credit for helping to conduct the research.
The study took place at the headwaters of the Colorado River in north-central Colorado. Six of the eight healthy tree stands in the study were made up primarily of lodgepole pines, while two were made up of mixed conifer trees. "One of the hardest parts of this study was to find stands of healthy trees in this area," said Pugh.
The red phase that occurs following tree death usually lasts about 18 months, and the onset of the gray phase occurs about three or four years after tree death, said Pugh.
"One of the big surprises to me was that changes in snowpack depth and snowmelt timing as a result of the pine beetle outbreak were not larger," said Small. But the continuing effects could become more significant in the coming decades, he said.
The CU-Boulder team used a wide variety of instruments during the study. In addition to avalanche poles used to periodically measure the snow depth at the 16 study stands, the team also inserted tiny thermometers at various snow depths to help them predict when the snow would likely melt. They also dug snow pits in each of the tree stands and weighed known volumes of snow to calculate density and water content.
Pugh's team also used devices known as pyranometers to measure the snow surface albedo and the transmission of sunlight through forest canopies. Fisheye camera images taken from the snow surface helped the researchers to calculate the size and structure of the various tree stand canopies, he said.
"The students really got something out of working on this project," said Small. "Not only did they get internship credit, they had a chance to conduct meaningful research."
A massive fire in the study area in the late 1800s resulted in most of the succeeding lodgepole pines to be about the same size and age, making them easier targets for pine beetles. While mountain pine beetle infestations are natural events, climate change probably has played a role in the most recent outbreak. Drought conditions in the West in recent years have caused living pines to absorb less water, decreasing their ability to produce enough sap to "pitch out" beetles that are attacking them, Pugh said.
Water managers in Salt Lake City have reported extra water in river basins that hydrologic models had not predicted, Pugh said, an indication beetle-killed trees are having an impact on meltwater.
With the exception of two studies in British Columbia looking at the effects of beetle- killed lodgepole pine trees on snow accumulation and melt on flat terrain at a single site, research regarding the hydrologic impacts of mountain pine beetles has largely been speculative, said Pugh.
"Our study is the first to analyze the multiple stages of tree death from mountain pine beetles and their different impacts on snow accumulation and snowmelt," said Pugh. "There is no on/off switch here -- only gradual changes.
"The effects of the beetle-killed tree stands in terms of snow accumulation are not going to affect ski resort seasons by any means," he said. "What we can say is there likely will be additional water resources for water managers. Additional snowpack coupled with dead trees that are no longer sucking up water will likely lead to more runoff."
For more information visit geode.colorado.edu/~small/foresthydro.html
Forests to Faucets
A Project Learning Tree & Project WET Workshop for Educators
In this interactive workshop you will explore the relationship between the health of our mountain forests and the quantity and quality of our drinking water. Do you know your connection to the Gulf of Mexico? To the western slope of Colorado? To your own watershed?
Learn how to use interdisciplinary, inquiry and content-rich activities to teach “how to think, not what to think” about complex environmental issues that incorporate technology and literacy as well as how to present material to a culturally diverse audience and include multicultural perspectives. Get wet in the Plum Creek watershed, and help with a forest restoration project.
Dress for the out-of-doors, be prepared for hiking, and splashing!
Date: Sat, 07/16/2011 - 9:00am - Sun, 07/17/2011 - 5:00pm
Who: 4th—12th grade formal and non-formal educators
Materials: Take home both PLT and Project WET activity guides, plus other materials and resources.
Cost: $75.00 For registration information click here or call 303-380-7984. Optional 1 semester credit is an additional $50.00.
Meals: Lunch Saturday through lunch Sunday.
Lodging: Optional camping Saturday night. Bring your own camping equipment. Limited space is available in our dormitory style cabins (you will need to bring your own sheets or sleeping bag, blanket, pillow, and towel).
Instructors: Shawna Crocker, Pavlos Stavropoulos, and guests.
Sponsored by the Colorado State Forest Service, Mile High Million (GreenPrint Denver), and Woodbine Ecology Center.
For students in the San Juan Basin, the water cycle no longer starts with a passing cloud dropping rain on a distant mountaintop. Thanks to a new curriculum resource, students can learn how water flows through the San Juan Mountains – from Engineer Mountain to the Animas River – and about the wildlife it encounters and the local reservoirs where it is stored.
The program, designed for third- through fifth-graders, is called “My Water Comes From the San Juan Mountains” and includes a storybook, lesson plans and activity kit. The project was a collaboration between the Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Public Lands, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Fort Lewis College.
To read more about the program, click here.
"Navigating Climate Complexities in the Classroom"
June 7-8 and 14-15
The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness (CLEAN) Pathway project (http://www.cleanet.org/) is pleased to announce the continuation of our professional development opportunities to support teachers and faculty who teach
about climate and energy.
For undergraduate faculty, join our online workshop to be held June 7-8 and 14-15: "Navigating Climate Complexities in the Classroom.” Workshop activities will include presentations about the climate system, examples of successful activities that illustrate the interactions between components of the climate system, work time to develop new classroom activities for teaching these concepts, and opportunities to collaborate and network with other faculty.
The workshop is free of charge and will be held online so no travel is necessary. Space is limited and pre-registration is required by Friday, May 20. You must attend both sessions.
For details about this event and to register, go to: http://cleanet.org/clean/community/climateworkshop/index.html
COLORADO BASIN TOUR for teachers: Forests to Faucets Workshops
brought to you by Project Learning Tree/Project WET
An educational tour of the Colorado River Basin organized by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education will take place on June 13-15, 2011. Together with 100 local experts, educators, elected officials and water professionals, we will visit the Colorado River headwaters and hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, key tributaries such as the Blue River, tour energy facilities, a working vineyard in Palisade and water supplies on Grand Mesa.
Teachers can get 1.5 credits for participating in the "Forests to Faucets" Project WET/ Project Learning Tree workshop activities along the way. Cost to teachers (who register in time): only $100, because the $400 total registration fee is being subsidized by donors, including the City of Grand Junction Water Department, the Mesa County Water Association and the Forests to Faucets program Colorado State Forest Service). Cost includes bus, lodging, meals and materials; to get the 1.5 credits is an additional $80. The tour is sold out, but we are holding a few places for teachers.
There are a limited number of scholarships available, so register as soon as possible by contacting Kristin Marharg at (303) 377-4433 or email@example.com
Click here for complete tour information, including itinerary.