Learn More About Climate Change
Looking for something to do on an upcoming BVSD day off? On Nov 11, Science Discovery is offering a free program to interested 5th-8th grade students! "Earth System Explorers" is a 3-hour workshop sponsored by the NSF-funded Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory (CZO).
We will be piloting a new series of engaging hands-on activities focused on water, snow, geology, climate, glaciers and fire in the Boulder Creek Watershed. Hands-on science activities will include: creating glaciers and using them to wear down mountains; building the Flatirons from the bedrock up; creating streams, rivers and valleys; exploring fire ecology, erosion and stream chemistry; discovering the secrets in snow-tubes; and more. This will be an action-packed morning of experiments, computer mapping, interactive games, hands-on science and fun!
When: Friday, November 11th, 2011, 9:00 AM -12:00 PM
Where: CU Science Discovery @ Science Learning Laboratory, 3400 Marine St (EAST CAMPUS), Boulder, CO.
This opportunity is limited to 10 students on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, please visit:
For more information, please contact Anjali Maus at 303-735-2230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
INSTAAR and the Colorado Water and Energy Research Center present a two-part series on
Monday October 10th
A Geo-Engineering Perspective
Dr. Will Fleckenstein, PE
BP Adjunct Professor
Colorado School of Mines
Shale Drilling and Completions
RL-1 Room 269
Monday October 17th
An Environmental Perspective
Dr. Stephen G. Osborn
California Polytechnic University (formerly at Duke)
Methane, Water and Hydraulic Fracturing
ARC Room 269
Click here to download the flyer.
September 15, 2011
The blanket of sea ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean appears to have reached its lowest extent for 2011, the second lowest recorded since satellites began measuring it in 1979, according to the University of Colorado Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The Arctic sea ice extent fell to 1.67 million square miles, or 4.33 million square kilometers on Sept. 9, 2011. This year's minimum of 1.67 million square miles is more than 1 million square miles below the 1979-2000 monthly average extent for September -- an area larger than Texas and California combined.
While this year's September minimum extent was greater than the all-time low in 2007, it remains significantly below the long-term average and well outside the range of natural climate variability, according to scientists involved in the analysis. Most scientists believe the shrinking Arctic sea ice is tied to warming temperatures caused by an increase in human-produced greenhouse gases pumped into Earth's atmosphere.
"Every summer that we see a very low ice extent in September sets us up for a similar situation the following year," said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze, also a professor in CU-Boulder's geography department. "The Arctic sea ice cover is so thin now compared to 30 years ago that it just can't take a hit anymore. This overall pattern of thinning ice in the Arctic in recent decades is really starting to catch up with us."
Serreze said that in 2007, the year of record low Arctic sea ice, there was a "nearly perfect" set-up of specific weather conditions. Winds pushed in more warm air over the Arctic than usual, helping to melt sea ice, and winds also pushed the floating ice chunks together into a smaller area. "It is interesting that this year, the second lowest sea ice extent ever recorded, that we didn't see that kind of weather pattern at all," he said.
The last five years have been the five lowest Arctic sea ice extents recorded since satellite measurements began in 1979, said CU-Boulder's Walt Meier, an NSIDC scientist. "The primary driver of these low sea ice conditions is rising temperatures in the Arctic, and we definitely are heading in the direction of ice-free summers," he said. "Our best estimates now indicate that may occur by about 2030 or 2040."
There still is a chance the sea ice extent could fall slightly due to changing winds or late season melt, said Meier. During the first week of October, CU-Boulder's NSIDC will issue a full analysis of the 2011 results and a comparison to previous years.
NSIDC is part of CU-Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences -- a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquartered on the CU campus -- and is funded primarily by NASA.
NSIDC's sea ice data come from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder sensor on the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F17 satellite using methods developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
For more information and graphics visit CU-Boulder's NSIDC website at nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2011/091511.html.
Walt Meier, 303-492-6508
Mark Serreze, 303-492-2963
Katherine, Leitzell, 303-492-1497
from Daily Camera. View the article here.
Researchers from the University of Colorado and Kansas State University have been awarded a grant for more than $850,000 to study the impacts of climate change on prairie dogs in the Boulder area.
The massive grant -- from the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation -- is designed to give the researchers three years in the field to try and figure out how climate change is altering prairie dog habitat and how the rodents are responding to those changes.
The study will be focused on open space lands in Boulder and Boulder County and will include testing soils, plants and prairie dog behavior. Researchers and city officials say the results will have implications for how cities manage prairie dogs in the future.
Tim Seastedt, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at CU and the principal investigator in the study, said global climate change has already caused changes in the growing season and the types of plant species that are found on urban open space.
One of the primary questions is whether those changes are causing prairie dogs to change their habits, including being more active during the winter -- which can lead to soil erosion after the rodents eat plants to the bare ground.
"The classical studies on prairie dogs for foraging behavior were sort of null and void" under the new climate reality, Seastedt said.
For example, prairie dogs don't hibernate, but they do tend to stay underground during the winter. Seastedt said warmer temperatures and less snow cover may change that behavior.
"This makes the argument that they're going to be up there grazing for a longer period of time," Seastedt said.
He said changes in climate and plant species could present a "variety of challenges that this keystone species has never faced."
"If these guys (prairie dogs) change their behavior, then they virtually reconstruct the system," he said.
The study also will examine the interactions between native and non-native plants, including whether new species are taking up water used by the native variety.
Seastedt said Boulder is the perfect place for a case study. After all, the city offers more protected prairie dog habitat than the massive Pawnee National Grassland on the northeastern plains.
And Boulder has a variety of non-native plant species that officials already have noticed seem to be changing the landscape.
Heather Swanson, Boulder's wildlife ecologist, said some of the changes reported in recent years include loss of topsoil and changes in plant species where prairie dogs can be found.
"Hopefully this study will actually document those changes, because right now it's just sort of anecdotal changes over time," she said.
Laurel Hartley is an assistant professor of biology at CU-Denver. She is an expert on prairie dogs and is teaming up with Seastedt on the study.
"We think we're going to find that in some places that the prairie dogs push the plant community in ways that we haven't seen before," she said.
She described the project as being "cutting edge" in terms of examining how global climate change will affect a species down the road.
Experiments will include creating cages to keep prairie dogs from grazing in certain areas and mimicking the various ways that climate change might eventually affect plants -- such as supplementing water to simulate changes in rain patterns.
"We'll know how grasslands will respond under certain scenarios," Hartley said.
She added that the results of the study likely would change the way cities such as Boulder address prairie dogs and grasslands.
"It definitely will have management implications," Hartley said.
Jesse Nippert, from Kansas State University, is a specialist in isotopic water analysis and also will be involved in the study.
Boulder Councilman Ken Wilson, who studied under Seastedt at CU, said he's eager to see the group's findings.
"I'm concerned that our management plan has not been informed by science that would look at what's happening on these fragmented parcels" of open space, Wilson said. "We've seen some impacts that are disturbing, where (prairie dogs) totally defoliate these areas. We need to understand why that's happening so that we can manage our grasslands better."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or email@example.com.
From msnbc.com: View the story here.
New photographs taken of a vast glacier in northern Greenland have revealed the astonishing rate of its breakup, with one scientist saying he was rendered "speechless."
In August 2010, part of the Petermann Glacier about four times the size of Manhattan island broke off , prompting a hearing in Congress.
Researcher Alun Hubbard, of the Centre for Glaciology at Aberystwyth University, U.K., told msnbc.com by phone that another section, about twice the size of Manhattan, appeared close to breaking off.
In 2009, scientists installed GPS masts on the glacier to track its movement.
But when they returned in July this year, they found the ice had been melting so quickly — at an unexpected 16-and-a-half feet in two years — that some of the masts stuck into the glacier were no longer in position.
Hubbard, who has been working with Jason Box, of Ohio State University, and others, said in a statement issued by the Byrd Polar Research Center that scientists were still trying to work out how fast the glacier was moving and the effect on the ice sheet feeding the glacier.
But he said he was taken aback by the difference between 2009 and 2011 when he visited the glacier in late July.
"Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless," he said in the statement.
"I'm very familiar with the glacier. It's very hard to sort of envisage something so big not being there ... to come back and basically see an ice shelf has disappeared, which is 20 kilometers across (about 12 miles) ... I was speechless and started laughing because I couldn't sort of believe it," Hubbard added, speaking to msnbc.com.
"It was really weird when the helicopter first came over," he added.
Hubbard told msnbc.com that he had gone to the glacier to recover instruments used to monitor the glacier and time-lapse photographs.
"What I saw there is this ice shelf is riddled with rifts and cracks. You can see another big rift another 10 to 15 kilometers (6 to 9 miles) back into" the glacier, he said.
Hubbard said the large rift, which the researchers have dubbed "The Big Kahuna," was getting bigger. He was cautious about predicting when it would create a new vast ice island, but said it could happen "maybe next year, something like that."
He said while sea glacier's "calving" of ice bergs was a natural process, they were witnessing something out of the ordinary.
"The break-off last year is bigger than anything seen for at least 150 years," Hubbard said.
"This region (northern Greenland) is experiencing temperatures which are abnormally warm ... I think the far northwest of Greenland is seeing a kind of new regime of climate," he added.
The Humbolt Glacier, the widest in the northern hemisphere, is also retreating, Hubbard said. He said he was not a climate scientist, but said the pattern of ice melting in the area was "a definite consequence of climate change and global warming."
Writing in the Annals of Glaciology journal, published on Aug. 22, the researchers said Greenland's glaciers had collectively lost 592.6 square miles of ice between 2000 and 2010.
The August 2010 "calving" event saw the creation of an ice island of 112 square miles, causing the Petermann Glacier to retreat by about 8 miles.
The island contained enough water to keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for two years or to provide the entire U.S. with tap water for 120 days, Andreas Muenchow, professor of ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware, said at the time.
The Byrd center statement, which summarized the journal report, said while this loss of ice was "extreme compared with others ... it is part of a larger pattern of ice area loss concentrated in north Greenland."
Twice as many glaciers are retreating as the number that are advancing, and the area of ice lost was nine times the amount gained, the researchers found.
'Harbinger of many changes'
At the Congressional hearing in August 2010, the then chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Rep. Edward Markey, said the melting of the Greenland ice sheet was "but one harbinger of the many changes to come."
"Scientists, skeptical by both nature and training, always urge a dose of caution when looking at any one event as evidence of climate change," he said in his opening statement. "This level of professional skepticism is what makes the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by man all the more powerful."
Markey listed extreme weather events, such as a record-breaking heatwave and drought in Russia, extreme floods in Asia, record-breaking temperatures on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and "mega storms and floods" in many parts of the country.
"Take a step back from these individual pieces and we see a mosaic that could not be clearer. Our world is becoming less hospitable with every passing year," he added.
September 1, 2011
American pikas, the chirpy, potato-sized denizens of rocky debris in mountain ranges and high plateaus in western North America, are holding their own in the Southern Rocky Mountains, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.
Led by CU-Boulder doctoral student Liesl Erb, the study team assessed 69 historical sites known to host pikas in a swath of the Southern Rockies ranging from southern Wyoming through Colorado and into northern New Mexico. The results showed that 65 of the 69 historical sites that had hosted pikas -- some dating back more than a century -- were still occupied by the round-eared, hamster-like mammals, Erb said.
The new study stands in contrast to a 2011 study in Nevada's Great Basin that showed local extinction rates of pika populations there have increased nearly five-fold in the past decade. That study, by a separate research group, also showed that local Great Basin pika populations had moved up in elevation nearly 500 feet in the past 10 years, a migration believed to be triggered by warming temperatures.
Despite the low number of extirpations, or local population extinctions, in the Southern Rockies, the CU-Boulder team found that the pattern of pika disappearance at particular sites was not random, said Erb of the ecology and evolutionary biology department and lead study author. "The sites that had been abandoned by pikas in our study area all were drier on average than the occupied sites," she said.
A paper on the new CU-Boulder study by Erb is being published in the September issue of the journal Ecology. Co-authors include CU-Boulder Research Associate Chris Ray and Associate Professor Robert Guralnick, both affiliated with the ecology and evolutionary biology department.
The study was funded primarily by the National Geographic Society.
One likely reason for the relative success of pikas in the Southern Rocky Mountains study is that available habitats are higher in elevation and are more contiguous than habitats in Nevada's Great Basin, said Erb. But some climate models are predicting drier conditions in parts of the Southern Rockies in the coming decades as the climate warms, she said.
Alpine species are among the plants and animals most threatened by climatic shifts because of their physiological and geographic constraints, said Erb. In 2010, the U.S. government denied endangered species listing for the American pika in part because there was insufficient data on its distribution and abundance across western North America. The American pika lives in mountainous regions including British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, California and New Mexico.
Surprisingly, most of the pikas that have disappeared from Great Basin sites under study in recent years were from sites that experienced extremely cold temperatures and may be related to a lack of winter snowpack insulation, said Ray, who has participated in several Great Basin pika studies including the 2011 study. Ray suspects pikas may reduce summer foraging activities to avoid heat stress caused by rising temperatures, leading to smaller winter food caches that can't sustain them during extreme cold snaps.
Guralnick, also curator of invertebrate zoology for the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, said pikas are becoming a "bellwether" species for mountain ecosystems, primarily due to their recent Great Basin declines. Prior to the new CU survey, population trends of pikas in the Rockies were relatively unknown, he said.
"Many have assumed that warming temperatures would be the primary signal affecting North American pikas," said Guralnick. "This study shows it is more complicated than that, and that drier conditions could affect the persistence of pikas across the West."
The CU-Boulder study team initially looked at about 800 historical records of pika sightings in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, but most locations were not specific enough for scientific use. The team eventually narrowed down the historical sites of pikas to 69 specific places known to have been occupied at some point before 1980, using tools like GPS to help pinpoint the geographical accuracy of each individual site.
Members of the rabbit family, the conspicuous pikas can be seen scurrying about rocky debris known as talus in alpine and subalpine regions of the Rockies, emitting their signature, high-pitched squeaks. Instead of hibernating, pikas cache huge amounts of plants and flowers known as hay piles under large rocks that sustain them through the long winters.
The CU team used data from Oregon State University's PRISM Climate Group to compile local climate information from 1908 to 2007 for the 69 historical pika sites in the Southern Rockies. The information produced estimates of monthly precipitation and minimum and maximum temperatures. The team confirmed the presence of pikas at each site either visually, by their distinctive squeaks, or by evidence of fresh pika hay piles cached under rocks in the study areas.
Sites visited early in the 2008 field season that lacked fresh pika signs were revisited in late October and early November for re-evaluation, Erb said. In places where pikas were still absent, researchers searched rock slopes up to two miles in all directions in an attempt to locate pika populations.
Volunteers have helped gather similar data on pikas through the PikaNET program, the Front Range Pika Project and the New Mexico Pika Monitoring Project. Such volunteer projects are organized through collaborations between CU-Boulder, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Denver Zoo, Rocky Mountain Wild, Colorado State University, the Mountain Studies Institute in Silverton, Colo., the San Juan Public Lands Center headquartered in Durango, Colo., and the Seventh Generation Institute in Santa Fe, N.M.
"It is good news that pikas are doing better in the Southern Rocky Mountains than some other places," said Erb. "It is likely that the geographic traits of the Rockies are a big reason why we are not seeing significant declines, at least not yet."
Liesl Erb, 303-859-7803
On Sept. 6, 2010 the Fourmile Canyon Fire marked history as Colorado’s most destructive fire. One year later, the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History commemorates the fire with an exhibit focusing on fire science in Colorado’s Front Range. Learn about the important ecological role of fire and what happened during the Fourmile Canyon Fire. Discover the role that climate, landscape, and human factors play in affecting fire activity. See for yourself how scientists reconstruct the region’s fire history with trees scarred from past burns and repeat photography from the 1900s and present. Explore how the landscape changes following fire, and watch video interviews of firefighters, scientists, and local homeowners.
The exhibit will open Sept. 6, and it is free and open to the public. Visit University of Colorado Museum of Natural History website for museum hours and location information.
Meet the Scientist: Tom Veblen, PhD, professor of geography, will host a formal opening on Thursday, Sept.15 at 7 p.m. in the Paleontology Hall of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. A reception prior to the talk will begin at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Veblen and his students have been studying the data and research findings on long-term fire history in the region to create this public education program.
The Colorado Global Climate Conference is an exciting, hands-on conference to engage high school students in exploring climate science, regional and global effects of changing climate, and sustainable technologies and lifestyles.
When: Monday, October 17, 2011
Who: Students in grades 9-12 and their teachers and chaperones
Where: Lory Student Center at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Participation is free! Lunch is provided. This year, the Colorado Global Climate Conference is offering full substitute teacher reimbursement for all teachers bringing students to the conference.
Online registration will be available closer to the conference date. For more information, please visit: http://www.cmmap.org/scienceEd/cgcc11/
Supported by CMMAP - The Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes - A National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.