Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

News from this year

Satellites reveal widespread decline in global lake water storage

More than 50 percent of the largest lakes in the world are losing water, according to a groundbreaking new assessment published today in Science. The key culprits are not surprising: warming climate and unsustainable human consumption.

Students, Teachers Puzzle Out the Story Behind Megafires

Wildland fires are becoming bigger and more frequent in the United States, impacting more people and communities than ever before. After a devastating 2020 Colorado wildfire season, which included the three largest-recorded fires in state history, educators from CIRES and CU Boulder collaborated with teachers and scientists to develop an innovative lesson that addresses the science behind large, destructive fires. 

Machine learning helps scientists identify the environmental preferences of microbes

Researchers have figured out a way to predict bacteria’s environmental pH preferences from a quick look at their genomes, using machine learning. Led by experts at CU Boulder, the new approach promises to help guide ecological restoration efforts, agriculture, and even the development of health-related probiotics.

What Happens in the Tropics Can Reach the Arctic and Set Up Extreme Precipitation Events

In April 2016, a warm front approached southwest Greenland, causing air temperatures in the capital city of Nuuk and the surrounding area

$68 million NASA contract awarded to CIRES National Snow and Ice Data Center

NASA has selected the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) to continue to provide data management services focused on preserving, documenting, and providing access to cryospheric data and related geophysical data.

Potent Greenhouse Gas Declines in the US, Confirming Success of Control Efforts

A new NOAA analysis shows U.S.

Towering Wildfire Clouds Have Big Impacts on the Stratosphere

Images of vast clouds of wildfire smoke towering into the sky have become all too familiar from recent active fire years across the weste

Western Wildfires Destroying More Homes Per Square Mile Burned

More than three times as many houses and other structures burned in Western wildfires in 2010-2020 than in the previous decade, and that wasn’t only because more acreage burned, a new analysis has found. Human ignitions started 76 percent of the wildfires that destroyed structures, and those fires tended to be in flammable areas where homes, commercial structures, and outbuildings are increasingly common.

One Facility Makes Big Contribution to Salt Lake’s Winter Brown Cloud

The 2.4 million people who live along Utah’s Wasatch Front experience some of the most severe winter particulate matter air pollution in the nation. Now, analysis of measurements taken during NOAA research flights in 2017 indicates that emissions from a single source, a magnesium refinery, may be responsible for a significant fraction of the fine particles that form  the dense winter brown clouds that hang over Salt Lake City. 

Diverse Student Projects Illuminate the Power of Data Analytics

Audience members smiled when a newly minted data scientist admitted she’d wanted to study the piping plover partly because the Nort

Rare Opportunity to Study Short-Lived Volcanic Island Reveals Sulfur-Metabolizing Microbes

In 2015, a submarine volcano in the South Pacific erupted, forming the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai island, destined to a short, seven

Air Quality Improvements Lead to More Sulfur Fertilizer Use

Sulfur, an essential nutrient for plants, was as free as air back in the 1980s, drifting down onto farmer’s fields from the polluted sky. The nutrient also caused acid rain, however, and it triggered chemistry that meant more mercury in fish. Regulations led to less sulfur in the air, but in the Midwest, where sulfur-hungry corn and soybean fields were proliferating, crops still needed the nutrient. “We find a clear increase in sulfur fertilizer use commensurate with a decline in atmospheric deposition,” said Eve-Lyn Hinckley, a CIRES Fellow, CU Boulder ecologist, and lead author of a new assessment of sulfur fertilizer use.

CIRES Science at AGU 2022

Every year, hundreds of CIRES scientists and colleagues present important work during the AGU

Indigenous Fire Management Buffered Climate Impacts for Centuries

Devastating megafires are becoming more common, in part, because the planet is warming.

Destroying Coronavirus vs. Creating Indoor Smog

Put people in poorly ventilated rooms, where coronavirus-containing aerosols are trapped in the air with nowhere to go, and their risk of

CIRES Director to Testify on the Critical Role of Satellite Earth Observation Data

Thursday, December 1, CIRES Director Waleed Abdalati will testify before the

CIRES, NOAA Teams Win Governor’s Research Awards

CO-LABS has announced the winners of the 2022 Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research, and CIRES/University of Colorado Boulder researchers contributed to two of the four projects—one for rapid-response science in service to communities after the Marshall Fire, and another for a breakthrough space weather model that serves several economic sectors with better impact forecasts. 

Minor Geomagnetic Storm, Big Impact: The February 2022 Starlink Satellite Loss

A collaboration among NOAA and CIRES/CU Boulder scientists and Starlink experts confirms the cause for the loss of 38 Starlink satellites in Februrary—high satellite drag conditions and reduced satellite stability due to the “minor” geomagnetic storm.

New Educators' Guide for Climate, Human Rights

When experts from around the globe gather in Boulder next month for the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit, teachers and aspiring teachers will be in the audience, looking for stories to bring back to the classroom. They’ll be crafting meaningful lessons around the themes of the conference—impacts, obligations, and solutions—and working with an educator's guide created at CU Boulder to help their students understand how climate change is impacting people and communities and how they can help.

COVID-19 is Still a ‘Dangerous Global Health Threat’

To end the “persistent and dangerous global health threat” of COVID-19, the world must take a “vaccine-plus” appr

Antarctic Ozone Hole Slightly Smaller in 2022 than in 2021

The hole in the ozone layer—the portion of the stratosphere that protects our planet from the Sun’s ultraviolet rays—is continuing to decrease, scientists from NOAA and NASA reported today.

El Niño Impacts in North America Depend Partly on North Pacific Ocean

When winds relax and water temperatures rise in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean during an El Niño, more rain tends

Researchers Studying Climate Futures Shouldn’t Jump to Extremes

We’ve seen it splashed across news headlines: future sea-level rise that could consume the state of Florida, predicted global tempe

Physicians Become Climate Modelers for a Day, Advocates for the Future

Last Thursday morning, 20 medical doctors from across the country walked up a refreshingly steep hill and into the National Center for At

Open Forest Observatory Creates New Tools for Better Forest Management

Environmental managers have a powerful new resource for helping our forests survive and recover from wildfire, drought and disease.

2021 Update: Global Air Quality Impacts from Wildfires, Heat Increasing and Expected to Keep Rising

In 2021, hot, dry conditions in some parts of the world fueled the spread of wildfires and worsened air quality—and both wildfires and air pollution are expected to increase as the climate continues to warm, according to an annual report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Fast-Onset Droughts are Accelerating

Despite past thinking that drought is a slow process taking multiple seasons or years to fully develop, fast-evolving drying events are b

Air Resistance: COVID

Millions of people died of coronavirus infection because institutions and people took too long to recognize that it was primarily airborn

Path to Ozone Layer Recovery Passes a Significant Milestone

An annual analysis of air samples collected at remote sites around the globe that is tracking a continued decline in the atmospheric concentration of ozone-depleting substances shows the threat to the ozone layer receding below a significant milestone in 2022, NOAA announced today. 

New Center Explores Human Dimensions of Environmental Challenges

In a rapidly changing world, humans are facing a growing number of environmental challenges, including rising temperatures, dwindling wat

From Oceans to the Atmosphere and Beyond: Community College Students Dive into Research at CIRES, CU Boulder

During the first week of a CIRES-based summer research program, community college students spent two days trudging through unexpected Jun

ESIIL Aims to Foster a “Revolution” in Environmental Data Science

The National Science Foundation

NOAA’s Wildfire Smoke Forecasting Model Scored a Win with the Camp Fire

In a new study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, researchers demonstrated that NOAA’s experimental HRRR-Smoke model accurately predicted the general movement and concentration of the Camp Fire’s smoke. 

NOAA and CU Boulder Expand Research Partnership

NOAA has selected CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder to host a cooperative institute focused on Earth system research and data science. The new partnership builds upon the scientific accomplishments of more than half a century of collaborative work between the institutions. 

Waleed Abdalati Reappointed as CIRES Director

CU Boulder has appointed Dr.

Eve Hinckley Joins CIRES Council of Fellows

CIRES welcomes ecosystem biogeochemist Eve-Lyn Hinckley, who joins the CIRES Council of Fellows Friday.

CIRES Fellow Joost de Gouw Earns Full Faculty Position

On July 1, CIRES Fellow and Professor of Chemistry Joost de Gouw will transition to a full faculty position with CIRES and the chemistry

Peter Molnar, 1943-2022

Renowned geophysicist Peter Molnar—a Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at CU Boulder, a Fellow of CIRES, and recipient of some of the most prestigious awards in his field—died yesterday. He was 78 and leaves behind not only family and friends, but academic colleagues throughout the world deeply saddened by their loss.

Projected Increase in Space Travel May Damage Ozone Layer

Projected growth in rocket launches for space tourism, moon landings, and perhaps travel to Mars has many dreaming of a new era of space

Glacier Named For Konrad Steffen, Former CIRES Director

The Greenland Place Name Committee has named a glacier “Ser

Newly Documented Population of Polar Bears in Southeast Greenland Sheds Light on the Species’ Future in a Warming Arctic

Scientists have documented a previously unknown subpopulation of polar bears living in Southeast Greenland.

NOAA: Carbon Dioxide Now More than 50 Percent Higher than Pre-Industrial Levels

Carbon dioxide measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked for 2022 at 421 parts per million in May, pushi

Keeping water on the radar: Machine learning to aid in essential water cycle measurement

Department of Computer Science assistant professor Chris Heckman and CIRES research hydrologist Toby Minear have been awarded a Gran

CIRES Researchers Tell the Stories of Science Now

Voices from CIRES research:

NOAA Index: Greenhouse Gas Pollution Trapped 49 Percent More Heat in 2021 Than in 1990

Greenhouse gas pollution caused by human activities trapped 49 percent more heat in the atmosphere in 2021 than it did in 1990, according

Wildfire Role-Playing Game Inspires Colorado Students to Take Action

UPDATE 12/20/22: The Hazard Education,

Tree “Fitbits” Track Urban Growth, Flowering, More

Low-cost “tree fitbits” can pinpoint the precise timing of tree activities, like spring bloom or autumn leaf change, accordin

NOAA Observations Help EPA Track Emissions of a Family of Greenhouse Gases

For the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using NOAA atmospheric measurements to help support a national inventory of emissions from an important family of greenhouse gases. 

New Polar Science Early Career Community Office Launches at CU Boulder

As Earth’s poles are transforming, with climate change warming the Arctic, sea ice melting and glaciers rapidly retreating, a new c

Increase In Atmospheric Methane Set Another Record During 2021

For the second year in a row, NOAA scientists observed a record annual increase in atmospheric levels of methane, a powerful, heat-trapping greenhouse gas that’s the second biggest contributor to human-caused global warming after carbon dioxide. 

For Climate Change Mitigation, Bipartisan Politics Can Work

In an increasingly polarized nation, cooperation across party lines is key to sustained climate mitigation in the United States, accordin

Journeying to the Central Arctic, in Boulder

When 14-year-old Jasmine Ruiz first dipped her hands into a bucket of frigid ice water sitting on a table at CU Boulder’s Fiske Pla

Study Previews How Climate Change May Alter Rain-Making Atmospheric Rivers

The people, economy and ecosystems of the Pacific coast states of California, Oregon and Washington are highly dependent on cool-season a

Win-Wins in Environmental Management Hard to Find

When a booming marine fishery can increase its shrimp catch while also reducing unintentional bycatch of turtles—that’s an ex

Sea Level Rise Threatens Coastal Housing Markets

As sea level continues to rise, coastal properties across the country will be more prone to flooding in the coming decades—and the risk varies depending on location. A new study examined how rising sea levels could impact four U.S. coastal metro areas.

U.S. Fires Four Times Larger, Three Times More Frequent Since 2000

Fires have gotten larger, more frequent and more widespread across the United States since 2000, according to a new CIRES Earth Lab-led p

Study Shows Banned Ozone-Depleting Chemicals Came from Broad Areas Of Asia

A follow-up investigation by CIRES and NOAA scientists into the sudden increase in emissions of an ozone-destroying chemical between 2010 and 2018 has determined that three regions of Asia—not just one—were responsible for rising emissions of the banned chemical.

Icy Cirrus Clouds Born From Desert Dust

Each year, several billion tonnes of mineral dust are lofted into the atmosphere from the world’s arid regions, making dust one of the most abundant types of aerosol particles in the atmosphere. Now, scientists are learning that tiny bits of dust from the hottest and driest parts of the Earth are a surprisingly large driver in forming the delicate, wispy ice clouds known as cirrus in the cold, high altitudes of the atmosphere.

Forest fires increasingly affecting rivers and streams – for better and worse

Forest fires can have a significant effect on the amount of water flowing in nearby rivers and streams, and the impact can continue even

Hotter, Drier Nights Mean More Runaway Fires

Nighttime fires have become more intense in recent decades, as hot, dry nights are more commonplace, according to a new CIRES Earth

CIRES Director Appointed to the NASA Advisory Council
Non-Local Ozone Sources Create Springtime Air Quality Challenge for Las Vegas

A large proportion of spring- and summertime ozone pollution in Las Vegas may be coming from sources outside of the city, including pollution transported across the Pacific and from wildfires, according to a new study by NOAA and CIRES researchers.

Deep Insights Into the Arctic of Tomorrow

Two years ago, hundreds of international scientists set off on the one-year MOSAiC expedition, collecting unprecedented environmental dat

Novice-to-Expert: Immersive Undergraduate Research Transforms Students

After 9 weeks immersed in a research experience at the University of Colorado Boulder, undergraduate students could analyze scientific pa

Scientists Recommend System of Checkpoints to Help Guide Climate Engineering Research

Research into engineering techniques that might one day be employed to artificially cool the planet poses some of the thorniest questions facing society today. For climate scientists, that tension is compounded by the lack of a broadly accepted oversight framework to guide their research.

How Does Marshall Fire Smoke Affect Indoor, Outdoor Air Quality?

When the Marshall Fire tore through Superior and Louisville December 30, 2021, it destroyed more than 1,000 homes and damaged nearly 150

Air Pollution from Wildfires, Rising Heat Affected Two-Thirds of U.S. West

Large wildfires and severe heat events are happening more often at the same time, worsening air pollution across the western United States, according to a new study led by Washington State University, with CIRES and NOAA’s Global Systems Laboratory.

Smoke from Wildfires Influences Ozone Pollution on a Global Scale

Another record-breaking fire season across the western United States and Canada fouled skies as far downwind as Boston and New York

How to Mitigate Post-Fire Smoke Impacts in Your Home

In the aftermath of the destructive Marshall Fire, CU Boulder, CIRES and CDPHE experts have compiled a resource of post-wildfir

CIRES Fellow Robert Sievers retires after a distinguished career

“Science is power.”   – Dr Robert Sievers

Iodine in Desert Dust Destroys Ozone

When winds loft fine desert dust high into the atmosphere, iodine in that dust can trigger chemical reactions that destroy some air pollu

Meet the Superheroes of SPLASH and their Real-Life Alter Egos
Researchers Working on a New Tool to Quickly Evaluate Causes of Extreme Temperature and Drought Events

In the past decade, scientists have improved their ability to attribute extreme climate and weather events to underlying causes, includin

The Threat from Thwaites: The Retreat of Antarctica’s Riskiest Glacier

Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is retreating rapidly as a warming ocean slowly erases its ice from below, leading to faster flow, mo

New Study Shows How Wildfire Smoke Increases Ozone Pollution

Using data gathered from a specially equipped jet that spent a month flying through and studying wildfire plumes, scientists have a better understanding now of how wildfire smoke impacts air quality. 

CU Boulder Team Granted $2.56M to Transform Earth Surface Science

The National Science Foundation has awarded a highly competitive grant to a team of scientists building OpenEarthScape, a set of models and simulations to help anticipate changes in river flow, beach erosion, landslides and more. The $2.56M grant will support five years of work by earth surface scientists, including modelers, who are determined to better understand the forces that re-shape our landscapes over hours to epochs. 

Why it’s Time to Stop Defining a Nation’s Success Through Economic Growth

A new paper out of the University of Colorado Boulder argues that it may be time to stop being hyper-focused on economic growth as a lead

Pacific Ocean, Not Ice Sheet, Shifted West Coast Storms South

About 20,000 years ago, large ice sheets loomed over North America, and researchers thought the ice, itself, pushed storms south, drenchi

Highlights of CIRES Science at AGU 2021

Every year, more than 200 CIRES scientists and colleagues present important work during the AG

Emission Reductions From Pandemic Had Unexpected Effects on Atmosphere

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting limitations on travel and other economic sectors by countries around the globe drastically decreased

José-Luis Jiménez Earns Distinguished Professor Rank

The University of Colorado Board of Regents has named CIRES Fellow and chemistry professor José-Luis Jiménez a “Distinguished Professor,” the highest honor the University of Colorado bestows on a faculty member. Jiménez, an internationally recognized atmospheric chemist, is one of 11 people across the CU system to earn the honor this year.

Antarctic Ozone Hole is 13th Largest on Record and Expected to Persist into November

The 2021 Antarctic ozone hole reached its maximum area on October 7 and ranks 13th largest since 1979, scientists from NOAA and NASA reported today. This year’s ozone hole developed similarly to last year's: A colder-than-usual Southern Hemisphere winter led to a deep and larger-than-average hole that will likely persist into November or early December. 

CIRES Instrument Developers Lay the Foundations for Our Science

Deep in the basement of CIRES, a team of expert instrument designers, machinists, electronics specialists, and glass blowers in the

CIRES Director Joins Board of Directors for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, today a

Researchers Climb Mountains to Improve Weather and Water Forecasting Tools

As aspen leaves blazed across the Colorado Rockies this fall, NOAA and CIRES scientists were busy installing a state-of-the-art observing

Solar Geoengineering Idea Has a Goldilocks Problem

This summer’s barrage of extreme weather around the globe—including record heat waves, wildfires, and flooding—has&nbsp

New Western Water Assessment Director: Ben Livneh

On October 1, 2021, Ben Livneh adds a new title to his resume: Director of Western Wat

Arctic Sea Ice at Highest Minimum Since 2014

The summer melt season has come to a modest end: Summer 2021 was relatively cool compared to the most recent years, and the September extent was the highest since 2014, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

My Manabe Begonia

Today, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Dr.

Grant Funds Climate Resilience in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming

NOAA has awarded more than $5 million to the CU Boulder-based Western Water Assessment to advance climate resilience in Intermountain Wes

CIRES Director Rafts, Talks Climate Resilience, with Western Senators

CU Boulder climate scientist Waleed Abdalati, a professor of geography and director of CIRES, rafted a stretch of the Colorado River Satu

First Annual Report Highlights Links Between Air Quality and Climate Change

Human-caused emissions of air pollutants fell during last year’s COVID-19 economic slowdowns, improving air quality in some parts of the world, while wildfires and sand and dust storms in 2020 worsened air quality in other places, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

It’s Not Just SARS-CoV-2: Most Respiratory Viruses Spread by Aerosols

SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind today’s global coronavirus pandemic, spreads primarily by inhalation of virus-laden aerosols at both short and long ranges—and a comprehensive new assessment of respiratory viruses finds that many others probably do as well. MERS-CoV, influenza, measles, and the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold can all also spread via aerosols that can build up in indoor air and linger for hours, an international interdisciplinary team of researchers reports in a review published in Science August 27.

State of the Climate Report Confirms 2020 Was Among Three Warmest Years on Record

A new report on the global climate confirmed that 2020 was among the three warmest years in records dating to the mid-1800s, despite a co

Majority of Climate Change News Coverage Now Accurate

Good news: Major print media in five countries have been representing climate change very factually, hitting a 90 percent accuracy rate i

A New Way to Measure How Arctic Plant Communities Respond to Climate Change

Over the past few decades, the Arctic has been warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

How Bad is the Smoke? Current Fires and Air Quality Resources

Every year, tens of thousands of wildfires burn millions of acres in the United States, blanketing one community after another in smoke. CIRES' team of fire experts at CU Boulder have compiled a list of go-to resources that provide up-to-date information on how the wildfires are progressing, the smoke transport in the atmosphere, and impacts to air quality.

Fragrant Consumer Products a Key Source of Ozone-Forming Pollution in New York City

A new CIRES-led study found that personal care products like are now responsible for a significant amount of the ozone pollution known as smog that plagues major urban areas.

Seeing the Sun in a New Light

Using a NOAA telescope in a novel way, CIRES researchers working in NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information captured the first-ever images of dynamics in the Sun’s elusive middle corona.

Particles from Paints, Pesticides Have Deadly Impact

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world die too soon every year because of exposure to air pollution caused by our daily use of

New Space Weather Model Promises Better Forecasts, More Targeted Warnings

NOAA’s National Weather Service is now using a CIRES-developed computer model to better understand and forecast how events that begin 93 million miles away, on the surface of the Sun, can affect technological systems on and around Earth. Incoming “space weather” from the Sun can briefly blot out radio communications here, nudge satellite trajectories, and force the hands of airline and human space flight managers.

Earth Has Two Different Stratospheres, and Aviation May Be To Blame

Scientists have long recognized that, on average, air pollution in the lower atmosphere is worse in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s because nearly 90 percent of the global population, and a majority of urban and industrial pollution sources, are located north of the equator. A new study has found that the northern stratosphere is more polluted as well. Only in this case, the scientists believe emissions from a specific source—aviation exhaust—may be a main culprit.

Risky Development

More than half of the structures in the contiguous United States are exposed to potentially devastating natural hazards—floods, tor

New Analysis: Wetlands, Other Microbial Sources Fueling Rise of Atmospheric Methane

The sudden and sustained rise in atmospheric levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane since 2007 has posed one of the most significant and pressing questions in climate research: Where is it coming from?

NOAA: Carbon Dioxide Peaks Near 420 ppm at Mauna Loa Observatory

Atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked for 2021 in May at a monthly average of 419 parts per million (ppm), the highest level since accurate measurements began 63 years ago, scientists from NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego announced today. 

Warmer Clouds, Cooler Planet

Today’s climate models are showing more warmth than their predecessors, forecasting an even hotter future for the same rise in atmo

Atmospheric Metal Layers Appear with Surprising Regularity

Twice a day, at dusk and just before dawn, a faint layer of sodium and other metals begins sinking down through the atmosphere, about 90

Icebergs Push Back

Shortly before Jakobshavn Isbræ, a tidewater glacier in Greenland, calves massive chunks of ice into the ocean, there’s a sud

NOAA Now Hosts Key Space Weather Data

As modern technology leans more and more on space-based assets and humans draw up plans to return to the moon and beyond, we increasingly

NOAA Index: Greenhouse Gas Pollution Amplified Global Warming in 2020

Extra heat trapped in the atmosphere by human-caused greenhouse gas pollution continued to exacerbate global warming in 2020, driven by historically high emission levels that were largely unaffected by the economic slowdown stemming from the pandemic, NOAA scientists reported.

Coronavirus shutdown? Not for CIRES science

In fact, the pandemic opened the window on all kinds of research that wouldn’t have occurred in “normal” times.

Study of Wildfire Plumes Provides Insights Into Methods That Might Cool the Planet

The dynamics that lift smoke from large wildfires into the upper atmosphere could potentially be employed one day to help temporarily cool the planet, based on the findings of a modeling study led by NOAA scientists. 

Simulated Geoengineering Evaluation: Cooler Planet, With Side Effects

A new modeling study led by CIRES and NOAA researchers highlights the vast challenges and potentially damaging consequences of a solar geoengineering program large enough to ward off extreme warming by the end of the 21st century. 

Giant Australian Bushfire Injected 1 Million Tons of Smoke Into the Atmosphere

New research on the massive Australian bushfires in 2019 and 2020 shows that almost 1 million metric tons of smoke rose into the stratosphere, causing it to warm by about 1 degree Celsius for six months.

Lancet Paper: 10 Reasons Why the Coronavirus is Airborne

There is consistent, strong evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is predominantly transmitted through the air, according to a new assessment published today in the medical journal Lancet. Therefore, public health measures that fail to treat the virus as predominantly airborne leave people unprotected and allow the virus to spread, according to six experts from the UK, USA and Canada, including CIRES and CU Boulder chemist Jose-Luis Jimenez.

Despite Pandemic Shutdowns, Carbon Dioxide and Methane Surged in 2020

Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, NOAA announced today.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Reflect COVID Risk

Tracking carbon dioxide levels indoors is an inexpensive and powerful way to monitor the risk of people getting COVID-19, according to ne

Arctic Sea Ice at Maximum Extent for 2021

Arctic sea ice has likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.77 million square kilometers (5.70 million square miles) on Marc

Solar Geoengineering Research: Proceed With Caution

Given the urgency of the risks posed by climate change, the U.S. should pursue a research program for solar geoengineering—in coordination with other nations, subject to governance, and alongside a robust portfolio of climate mitigation and adaptation policies, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

New Maps of Ozone Air Pollution Support Global Burden of Disease Study

Researchers have mapped global ground-level ozone concentrations by year for the Global Burden of Disease study using a data fusion approach, the first time this method was applied to ozone observations. The research team, led by the University of North Carolina with CIRES co-authors, fused an ozone database with output from nine global atmospheric chemistry models.

Extreme Melt on Antarctica’s George VI Ice Shelf

Antarctica’s northern George VI Ice Shelf experienced record melting during the 2019-2020 summer season compared to 31 previous summers of dramatically lower melt, a CU Boulder-led study found. The extreme melt coincided with record-setting stretches when local surface air temperatures were at or above the freezing point. 

Into the Sewers

Sometimes, the best way to study a community of living things is by looking at their leftovers. And just as wildlife biologists study scat to learn what a pack of predators is eating—a team of student microbiologists at CU Boulder is looking at the dark, slimy sewers beneath the university’s campus to learn more about what the people are doing above.

COVID-19 Lockdowns Reduced Ozone Pollution Over the Northern Hemisphere

During COVID-19 shutdowns last year, ozone levels in the lower atmosphere fell by seven percent across much of the Northern Hemisphere, according to a new study from the German weather service Deutscher Wetterdienst, with CIRES and NOAA co-authors.

Leading Experts Call for Immediate Action to Address Inhalation Exposure to Prevent COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

Leading scientific and medical experts, including CIRES' Jose Jimenez, are calling upon the Biden Administration to take immediate ac

Emissions of a Banned Ozone-Depleting Gas are Back on the Decline

New analyses of global air measurements show that five years after an unexpected spike in emissions of the banned ozone-depleting ch

Cooling Effect of Ship-Track Clouds is Overestimated

To better understand the formation and reflectivity of marine clouds, researchers often study the exhaust plumes of particles from ship smoke stacks which, when they enter clouds, form long, linear cloud tracks across the oceans. Now, a new study in Science by CIRES and NOAA researchers finds that studies analyzing ship-track clouds may have strongly overestimated the effect of particles on natural clouds. 

Marine Heatwaves Becoming More Intense, More Frequent

When thick, the surface layer of the ocean acts as a buffer to extreme marine heating—but a new study from CU Boulder shows this &l

Short Virtual Plays Bring Science to Life

Stages remain quiet these days, seats sit unfilled and curtains gather dust as the COVID-19 pandemic has put theater on pause around the

New a One-Stop NOAA Resource for All Things Drought

NIDIS, NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System, has launched a redesigned U.S. Drought Portal to better serve stakeholders, decisionmakers, the media, and the public. 

The Amazing Research Resume of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Model

From its inception as an experiment to improve forecasts for aviation, to the transition of its final update to NOAA National Weather Service operations on December 2, the Global Systems Laboratory’s pioneering High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) weather model established a remarkable resume of research accomplishments. 

Red and Green Snow Algae Increase Snowmelt in the Antarctic Peninsula

Red and green algae that grow on snow in the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) cause significant extra snowmelt on par with melt from dust on snow

Sweat, Bleach & Gym Air Quality

One sweaty, huffing, exercising person emits as many chemicals from their body as up to five sedentary people, according to a new Univers

Viewpoint Diversity Award for Matthew Burgess

The Heterodox Academy has selected CU Boulder environmental economist Matthew Burgess as the recipient of its 2020 Open Inquiry Award for teaching

No Country Immune from the Health Harms of Climate Change

No country – whether rich or poor – is immune from the health impacts of worsening climate change.

Worst-case emissions projections are already off-track

Under the worst-case scenarios laid out in the United Nations’ climate change projections, global temperatures would increase more

US Methane “Hotspot” is Snapshot of Local Pollution

A giant methane cloud caught by satellite in 2014 looming over the U.S. Southwest wasn’t a persistent hotspot, as first thought when it made national news. Instead, the methane cloud was the nightly build-up of polluted air that trapped emissions of the potent greenhouse gas near the ground, according to a new CIRES- and NOAA-led study.

Highlights of CIRES Science at AGU 2020

Every year, more than 200 CIRES scientists and colleagues present important work during the AG

How Will Climate Change Change El Niño and La Niña?

The future of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is the subject of a new book published by the American Geophysical Union. El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate was published online on November 2.

Large, Deep Antarctic Ozone Hole to Persist into November

Persistent cold temperatures and strong circumpolar winds supported the formation of a large and deep Antarctic ozone hole that should persist into November, NOAA and NASA scientists reported today.

New CIRES Associate Director: Maggie Tolbert

CIRES Fellow and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Maggie Tolbert is joining the CIRES administration as Associate Director.

Reduced Aircraft Observations Impact Regional Weather Model Accuracy

A new CIRES-led study, published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, has quantified the impact of missing aircraft observations on the forecasts produced by NOAA’s most advanced experimental short-term weather model, the Rapid Refresh (RAP) model.

Arctic communities planning for abrupt permafrost thaw

A new INSTAAR-led project with CIRES coauthors will engage Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to better understand abrupt permafros

Snow Projections Developed to Inform Wolverine Conservation

The rapid rise of temperatures across the western United States poses a threat to snow-adapted plants and animals living there, but a key question has not been well resolved by climate models: How long--and where--will mountain snows remain? 

A new, fine-scale modeling approach developed by NOAA and CIRES scientists now projects that there will still be enough high-elevation snow by the middle of the 21st Century to support--according to federal biologists--the denning habits of one iconic North American mountain-dweller, the wolverine. 

Epic Arctic Mission Ends

For nearly 12 months, as the German icebreaker Polarstern drifted with Arctic sea ice, scientists onboard collected petabytes of data des

Unexpected Wildfire Emission Impacts Air Quality Worldwide

In lab studies of wildfire, nitrous acid seems like a minor actor, often underrepresented in atmospheric models.

Singing unmasked, indoors spreads COVID-19 through aerosols, new study confirms

Singing indoors, unmasked can swiftly spread COVID-19 via microscopic airborne particles known as aerosols, confirms a new peer-reviewed study of a March choir rehearsal which became one of the nation’s first superspreading events.

Mercury Concentrations in Yukon River Fish Could Surpass EPA Criterion by 2050

The concentration of mercury in fish in Alaska’s Yukon River may exceed EPA mercury criterion by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions t

In the Line of Fire

People are starting almost all the wildfires that threaten U.S. homes, according to an innovative new analysis combining housing and wildfire data. Through activities like debris burning, equipment use and arson, humans were responsible for igniting 97 percent of home-threatening wildfires, a CU Boulder-led team reported this week in the journal Fire

New Insight Into the Impacts of Earth’s Biosphere on Air Quality

A new study led by a team of University of Minnesota researchers, with CIRES co-authors, provides the first global satellite measurements

The Science-at-Home Webinar Series is Back

The CIRES/NOAA Science-at-Home webinar series is excited to launch again this fall semester after a successful spring series.

CIRES Scientists Awarded $5.3M for Space Weather Research

NASA and the National Science Foundation have awarded two CU Boulder space weather scientists more than $5M to lay the groundwork for faster and more robust space weather forecasts. Both projects are led by CIRES scientists working with the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. 

Team to Innovate New Ways to Predict Drought

Drought has become increasingly difficult to predict in a warming world, as snowpack—which typically provides early warning for dro

How Bad is the Smoke? Current Fires and Air Quality Resources

Every year, tens of thousands of wildfires burn millions of acres in the United States, blanketing one community after another in smoke. Our team of fire experts at CU Boulder have compiled a list of go-to resources that provide up-to-date information on how the wildfires are progressing, the smoke transport in the atmosphere, and impacts to air quality.

Ozone Across Northern Hemisphere Increased Over Past 20 Years

In a first-ever study using ozone data collected by commercial aircraft, CIRES researchers found that levels of the pollutant in most parts of Earth’s atmosphere have increased across the Northern Hemisphere over the past 20 years. 

Into the Polar Night

The Arctic sea ice groans and creaks as a massive icebreaker slowly churns through. Later, scientists on an ice floe call out to each other in the dark. A chainsaw buzzes as someone cuts through the ice, exposing open ocean below. Viewers from Baltimore to Berlin can now step out onto an ice floe in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and watch and listen as scientists race the fading light to set up one of the most ambitious international climate collaborations ever, MOSAiC. 

Equatorial Winds Ripple Down to Antarctica

A CIRES-led team has uncovered a critical connection between winds at Earth’s equator and atmospheric waves 6,000 miles away at the

Bringing Earth Data Science Skills to Underrepresented Communities

Two dozen Earth data science interns from diverse backgrounds wrap up an immersive summer internship this week, guided by experts from CI

Former CIRES Director Konrad Steffen Dies in Greenland Accident

With tremendous sadness today, we remember Korad Steffen, his espressos and cigarettes, dedication to understanding climate change, and the vitality he brought to CIRES in his years as our director (2005-2012).

Climate Change Threatens Polar Bears

A new U of T Scarborough-led study with CIRES coauthors finds that we can

NC CASC Launches Tribal Climate Leaders Program

The North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center (NC CASC) is pleased to announce the launch of the Tribal Climate Leaders Progra

COVID-19 Airborne Transmission Tool Available

Many of us face a constant barrage of decisions during this global pandemic: How dangerous is it to ride the bus? To teach and/or attend class? What’s my risk in a public demonstration? University of Colorado Boulder atmospheric chemist Jose-Luis Jimenez has released a pilot tool that may help us answer some of these questions, or at least provide some informed guidance. 

Rise of Carbon Dioxide Unabated

Atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory reached a seasonal peak of 417.1 parts per million for 2020 in May, the highest monthly reading ever recorded, scientists from NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego announced today. 


A New Look at Old Smoke

Smoke emitted from wildfires and agricultural burning constitutes one of the largest sources of aerosol particles to Earth’s atmosphere. However, little is known about the importance of smoke on the climate system after it dissipates into remote areas of the planet. A new study published in Nature Geoscience takes a new look at this faint, old smoke and finds that it is just as important an influence on the climate as the thick plumes produced by active fires. 

Tracking Fossil Fuel Emissions with Carbon-14

Researchers from NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder have devised a breakthrough method for estimating national emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels using ambient air samples and a well-known isotope of carbon that scientists have relied on for decades to date archaeological sites.

Warming Influence of Greenhouse Gases Continues to Rise

Record high levels of greenhouse gas pollution continued to increase the heat trapped in the atmosphere in 2019, according to an annual analysis released by NOAA scientists.

Solving the Space Junk Problem

Aging satellites and space debris crowd low-Earth orbit, and launching new satellites adds to the collision risk. The most effective way to solve the space junk problem, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is not to capture debris or deorbit old satellites: it’s an international agreement to charge operators “orbital-use fees” for every satellite put into orbit. 

How Climate Killed Corals

A squad of climate-related factors is responsible for the massive Australian coral bleaching event of 2016.

Walk Through Fire and Ice with CIRES Researchers

Families, Kids: Experience World-Class Science From Home

Stuck at home?

Arctic Research Soars to New Heights

Radiance Calmer holds the wide wings of a drone in place on its launcher, scanning the blue Boulder sky for potential obstacles.

Big Problems, Little Solutions

Thousands of microbes, invisible to the naked eye, make life function as we know it. With climate change threatening to tip these processes out of balance, better understanding microbial activity could be key to humans adapting to looming crises such as drought and disease. The Center for Microbial Exploration (CME) at CU Boulder highlights the growing recognition that microbiology is a crucial component of many scientific fields.

Global Warming May Increase Risk of Sudden Glacier Detachments

On the evening of 5 August 2013, a startling event occurred deep in the remote interior of the United States’ largest national park

Continued CO2 Emissions Will Impair Cognition

As the 21st century progresses, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations will cause urban and indoor

How the Blob Came Back

Weakened wind patterns likely spurred the wave of extreme ocean heat that swept the North Pacific last summer, according to new research

Navigating a River of Knowledge

In recent decades, increasing water demand, dry conditions and warming temperatures have impacted the Colorado River, creating greater un

Greenland Ice Sheet Meltwater Can Flow in Winter, Too

Liquid meltwater can sometimes flow deep below the Greenland Ice Sheet in winter, not just in the summer, according to CIRES-led work published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters. That finding means that scientists seeking to understand sea-level rise and the future of the Greenland Ice Sheet need to collect data during the dark Arctic winter with scant hours of daylight and temperatures that dip below -30 degrees.

International Ozone Treaty Stops Changes in Southern Hemisphere Winds

Chemicals that deplete Earth’s protective ozone layer have also been triggering changes in Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation. Now, new research in Nature finds that those changes have paused and might even be reversing because of the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that successfully phased out use of ozone-depleting chemicals. 

Escape to the Central Arctic

Your computer is now a portal to the North Pole.

Fresh Food and Faces in the Distant Arctic Ocean

After weeks of churning slowly through sea ice in the remote Arctic Ocean, a Russian icebreaker carrying scientists, crew and new equipment has reached the German RV Polarstern, which is frozen into drifting sea ice about 100 miles from the geographic North Pole. During the next few days, people will carefully ferry tons of cargo between the two ships and dozens of scientists and crew will switch cabins, some bound for home after months on dark ice, others thrilled to begin a two-month stint serving science on the international Arctic climate mission.

New Chemical to Spur Reexamination of Marine Sulfur Cycle and Climate Models

The discovery of a novel sulfur compound during a 2017 NASA airborne research campaign will likely spur a scientific reassessment of a fundamental marine chemical cycle which drives the formation of oceanic clouds that play a key role in moderating climate, scientists said. 

New Space Weather Advisories Serve Aviation

A new international advisory system is working to keep aircraft crew and passengers safe from space weather impacts, thanks in part to the efforts of a team of CIRES and NOAA developers, forecasters, and scientists in Boulder, Colorado.

Ice station: CU Boulder Students Contribute to Antarctic Research

Seven engineering students walked into a bagel shop.

Human-Sparked Fires Smaller, Less Intense, but More Frequent with Longer Seasons

Fires started by people have steadily increased in recent decades—sparking a major shift in U.S.

An Interview from Antarctica

From October 2018 to August 2019, CIRES research assistant Zimu Li was in the unforgiving, frozen landscape of Antarctica.

Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Production Sites Visible from Space

Oil and gas production has doubled in some parts of the United States in the last two years, and scientists can use satellites to see impacts of that trend: a significant increase in the release of the lung-irritating air pollutant nitrogen dioxide, for example, and a more-than-doubling of the amount of gas flared into the atmosphere. 

Global Warming to Increase Violent Crime in the United States

People in the United States could see tens of thousands of extra violent crimes every year—because of climate change alone.

Iodine May Slow Ozone Layer Recovery

A new paper quantifying small levels of iodine in Earth’s stratosphere could help explain why some of the planet’s protective ozone layer isn’t healing as fast as expected. The paper posits a set of connections that link air pollution near Earth’s surface to ozone destruction much higher in the atmosphere. That higher-level ozone protects the planet’s surface from radiation that can cause skin cancer and damage crops.

Highlights of CIRES Science at AMS 2020

Every year, several dozen CIRES scientists and colleagues present important work during the AMS Annual Meeting.

World Magnetic Model 2020 Released

The latest version of the World Magnetic Model (WMM), one of the key tools developed to model the change in Earth's magnetic field, has been released. Developed by NCEI and the British Geological Survey, with support from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the WMM is a representation of the planet’s magnetic field that gives compasses dependable accuracy.

Detecting Solar Flares, More in Real Time

Computers can learn to find solar flares and other events in vast streams of solar images and help NOAA forecasters issue timely alerts, according to a new study. The machine-learning technique, developed by scientists at CIRES and NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), searches massive amounts of satellite data to pick out features significant for space weather. Changing conditions on the Sun and in space can affect various technologies on Earth, blocking radio communications, damaging power grids and diminishing navigation system accuracy. 

The First Big Storm

A powerful winter storm swept over the German RV Polarstern icebreaker earlier this month, tearing new cracks in the ice floe ne

Highlights of CIRES Science at AGU 2019

Every year, more than 200 CIRES scientists and colleagues present important work during the AGU Fall Meeting.

Scientists Embark on Ambitious Mission to Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier

Nearly 100 scientists and support staff depart this week for the most ambitious mission to date for Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

Climate May Have Helped Crumble One of the Ancient World’s Most Powerful Civilizations

New research suggests it was climate-related drought that built the foundation for the collapse of the Assyrian Empire (whose heartland w

Climate Change Already Damaging Health of World’s Children, Threatens Lifelong Impact

Climate change is already damaging the health of the world’s children and is set to shape the wellbeing of an entire generation unl

Invasive Grasses Promote Wildfire

Invasive cheatgrass, reviled by Western ranchers and conservationists, has long since earned a reputation as a firestarter, making wildfi

CU Researchers Recognized with Three Governor’s Awards for High-Impact Research

CO-LABS has announced the winners of the 2019 Governor’s Awards for High-Impact Research, and University of Colorado Boulder researchers contributed to all three winning projects. CO-LABS is a non-profit organization that supports the state’s federally funded research centers and runs an annual competition to highlight some of Colorado’s most high-impact science.

2019 Ozone Hole Smallest on Record

Abnormal weather patterns in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica dramatically limited ozone depletion in September and October, resulting in the smallest ozone hole observed since 1982, NOAA and NASA scientists reported today.

Tiny Particles Lead to Brighter Clouds in the Tropics

When clouds loft tropical air masses higher in the atmosphere, that air can carry up gases that form into tiny particles, starting a process that may end up brightening lower-level clouds, according to a CIRES-led study published today in Nature. Clouds alter Earth’s radiative balance, and ultimately climate, depending on how bright they are. And the new paper describes a process that may occur over 40 percent of the Earth’s surface, which may mean today's climate models underestimate the cooling impact of some clouds.

Old Weather “Time Machine” Opens a Treasure Trove for Researchers

It’s been the stuff of science fiction for generations: a time machine that would allow researchers to reach back into yesteryear and ask new questions about long-ago events.

This month, a NOAA-funded research team published an update to a weather “time machine” they’ve been developing since 2011. This third version of the 20th Century Reanalysis Project, or 20CRv3 for short, is a dauntingly complex, high-resolution, four-dimensional reconstruction of the global climate that estimates what the weather was for every day back to 1836.

Warm Ocean Water Attacking Edges of Antarctica's Ice Shelves

Upside-down “rivers” of warm ocean water are eroding the fractured edges of thick, floating Antarctic ice shelves from below, helping to create conditions that lead to ice-shelf breakup and sea-level rise, according to a new study.

Students, Teachers: Drift Along with an Epic Arctic Climate Expedition

K-12 students around the world can now be a part of one of the largest Arctic climate research expeditions ever conducted.

How to Park a Ship in Ice

Loaded with research equipment and international scientists, the RV Polarstern icebreaker is steaming towards the central Arctic

Arctic Sea Ice at Minimum Extent for 2019

Arctic sea ice likely reached its minimum extent for the year, at 4.15 million square kilometers (1.60 million square miles) on September

Epic Climate Science Mission Begins
This is a joint new
Greenland’s Growing “Ice Slabs” Intensify Meltwater Runoff into Ocean

Thick, impenetrable ice slabs are expanding rapidly on the interior of Greenland's ice sheet, where the ice is normally porous and ab

NSIDC Director Mark Serreze Named Distinguished Professor

Mark Serreze, CIRES fellow and director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and a professor in the Department of Geography a

Free Online Water and Climate Course Open Now

This week, the University of Colorado Boulder launched a free, online course exploring water and climate in the western United States.

Tribal Climate Leaders Program

The North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center, NC CASC, at CIRES is seeking Master’s degree applications from students affiliated with the 31 federally recognized tribes in the North Central region (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado). The program is for those pursuing topics related to climate adaptation science.

Climate Change Altering the Southern Ocean’s Ability to Absorb Carbon Dioxide

Climate change is altering the ability of the Southern Ocean off the West Antarctic Peninsula to absorb carbon dioxide, according to a new study, and that could magnify climate change in the long run. The study, led by scientists at Rutgers University with co-authors from CIRES and NOAA, is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Teens Traveled to CU Boulder to Explore Climate Change Through Film

Seventeen high school students from southern Colorado and New Mexico journeyed to CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder recently to

Persistent Plume

Thunderstorms generated by a group of giant wildfires in 2017 injected a small volcano’s worth of aerosol into the stratosphere, creating a smoke plume that lasted for almost nine months. CIRES and NOAA researchers studying the plume found that black carbon or soot in the smoke was key to the plume’s rapid rise: the soot absorbed solar radiation, heating the surrounding air and allowing the plume to quickly rise.

The billowing smoke clouds provided researchers with an ideal opportunity to test climate models that estimate how long the particulate cloud would persist—after achieving a maximum altitude of 23 km, the smoke plume remained in the stratosphere for many months. These models are also important in understanding the climate effects of nuclear war or geoengineering. 

New NOAA App Brings Earth and Space Animations to Your Phone

An enormous earthquake triggered a tsunami on the northwest coast of the United States in 1700. The giant wave rippled across the ocean, bounced back and forth off islands, and flooded coastlines around the Pacific to different heights. The astonishing patterns of waves reflecting and refracting across the vast basin are almost too complex to visualize. But now a new free app can bring the power of this ancient earthquake to life on your smartphone. NOAA's SOS Explorer™ Mobile, an app for personal mobile devices, tells earth science stories by playing visually stunning movies on a virtual globe.

Where There’s Fire, There’s Smoke—and Secrets For Science to Uncover

Extreme wildfire seasons are no longer an outlier in the western United States, where climate change is drying out vegetation and people are moving deeper and deeper into western forests. To protect these rural communities, land managers are increasingly fighting fire with fire—prescribed fires that burn off belts of flammable vegetation to create firebreaks and reduce fuel buildup, preventing larger fires later. All that fire produces a lot of smoke—and a serious air pollution problem. This summer, NOAA and NASA are teaming up on a massive research campaign called FIREX-AQ that will use satellites, aircraft, drones, mobile and ground stations to study smoke from wildfires and agricultural crop fires across the United States. 

Climate Change to Make Hot Droughts Hotter in the US Southern Plains

Droughts are recurrent, disruptive weather events whose impacts are often compounded by extreme and prolonged heat waves. Now a new NOAA study in the Journal of Climate warns that in the already warm and frequently dry southern Great Plains and Southwest, climate change will make these “hot droughts” significantly hotter—and longer—than they used to be. 

CIRES, NOAA Scientists Receive Presidential Honor

The White House has named three Boulder atmospheric scientists among 309 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers. 

Brian McDonald and Andrew Rollins were both working with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder when nominated; Rollins is now a federal scientist at NOAA. Their colleague Andrew Hoell of NOAA in Boulder, Colorado, was also honored.

Earth Lab’s Data Analytics Graduate Certificate Kicks Off Second Year

Earlier this year, students in CU Boulder’s Earth Data Analytics program huddled around their computers—some in a classroom o

“Spheres” Spotlights Showers, Superconductors, Smoke

The latest edition of Spheres highlights recent research headlines from all around CIRES.

Surprisingly Large Carbon Uptake by North American Biosphere During El Niños

New analysis of NOAA’s long-term air samples by CIRES and NOAA scientists finds that the North American terrestrial biosphere takes up unexpectedly large amounts of carbon in response to elevated carbon dioxide levels during El Niño years.

Modeling Earth’s Geomagnetic Fields

Scientists use many instruments to measure Earth’s magnetic fields. Satellite, airborne, marine, and land-based observations show the position and strength of Earth’s invisible magnetism. NOAA scientists generate the model from a combination of satellite and ground-based data, as well as airborne and marine magnetic data compiled into the Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (EMAG2). From these, scientists create the HDGM to show fields of magnetism and their annual fluctuations. Known for its accuracy, the HDGM is the most advanced model to track changes in the global magnetic field.

Who’s the Source of a Banned Ozone-destroying Chemical?

It was one of the major scientific discoveries of 2018: Emissions of an ozone-destroying chemical responsible for creating the Antarctic ozone hole were unexpectedly rising again, in an apparent violation of an international ban on its manufacture and use. The finding was reported by NOAA scientist and CIRES Fellow Stephen Montzka and an international team of colleagues.

Where were the emissions coming from? A new study published today in Nature provides an answer.

Rising Emissions Drive Greenhouse Gas Index Increase

Record levels of greenhouse gas pollution continued to increase humanity’s impact on the atmosphere’s heat-trapping capacity during 2018, according to a yearly analysis released by NOAA scientists today.

U.S. Methane Emissions Flat Since 2006 Despite Increased Oil and Gas Activity: Study

Natural gas production in the United States has increased 46 percent since 2006, but there has been no significant increase of total U.S. methane emissions and only a modest increase from oil and gas activity, according to a new CIRES-led study.

A New View of Wintertime Air Pollution

The processes that create ozone pollution in the summer can also trigger the formation of wintertime air pollution, according to a new study led by CIRES and NOAA researchers. The team's unexpected finding suggests that in the U.S. West and elsewhere, certain efforts to reduce harmful wintertime air pollution could backfire.

Your Walls are Covered in Sweat

Lactic acid—the main chemical in human sweat—leaves our skin, travels through the air, and sticks to our walls.

CIRES’ William Lewis Lecture, “Lakes, Nutrients, and Water Sin” on April 30

William Lewis, Director of the CIRES Center for Limnology, University of Colorado Boulder, and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biol

Untangling Methane Sources

With natural gas booming across the Front Range, drilling rigs may operate within feet from cattle farms.

Arctic Sea Ice at Maximum Extent for 2019

Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.78 million square kilometers (5.71 million square miles) on March 13

Call for Media Grad Students for Arctic Opportunity

The MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate; (https:/

CIRES’ New Center for Microbial Exploration

Microbes are everywhere: from the frigid ice sheets of Antarctica, to the middle of the rainforest—down to the plumbing in your hou

A Hidden Source of Air Pollution? Your Daily Household Tasks

Cooking, cleaning and other routine household activities generate significant levels of volatile and particulate chemicals inside the average home, leading to indoor air quality levels on par with a polluted major city, University of Colorado Boulder researchers say.

Mining Climate Models for Seasonal Forecasts

A team of CIRES and NOAA scientists has figured out a shortcut way to produce skillful seasonal climate forecasts with a fraction of the

Ice Shelves Buckle Under Weight of Meltwater Lakes

For the first time, a research team co-led by CIRES-based scientists, has directly observed an Antarctic ice shelf bending under the weig

Arctic Opportunity for Science Journalists

The deadline has passed and an international panel of judges is reviewing applications.

Science and Art Join Forces in Innovative Film to Premiere February 20 in Fiske

A few years ago, internationally recognized artist Lars Jan installed glass tanks in the middle of New York's Times Square and slowly filled them with water. Live performers inside tried to keep performing everyday activities: tuning a guitar, reading a paper, getting dressed.

World Magnetic Model Out-of-Cycle Release

Earth’s northern magnetic pole is moving quickly away from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia. This movement has forced NCEI’s scientists to update the World Magnetic Model (WMM) mid-cycle.

Typically, a new and updated version of the WMM is released every five years. With the last release in 2015, the next version is scheduled for release at the end of 2019. Due to unplanned variations in the Arctic region, scientists have released a new model to more accurately represent the change of the magnetic field between 2015 and now.

New study: China’s Regulations Unsuccessful in Curbing Methane Emissions

China, already the world’s leading emitter of human-caused greenhouse gases, continues to pump increasing amounts of climate-changing methane into the atmosphere despite tough new regulations on gas releases from its coal mines, a new Johns Hopkins-led study shows.

Greenland Ice Melting Four Times Faster Than in 2003

Greenland is melting faster than scientists previously thought—and will likely lead to faster sea level rise—thanks to the co

Colorado’s Lake Dillon is Warming Rapidly

The surface waters of Lake Dillon, a mountain reservoir that supplies water to the the Denver area, have warmed by nearly 5 degrees Fahre

Highlights of CIRES Science at AMS 2019

Every year, several dozen CIRES scientists and colleagues present important work during the AMS Annual Meeting. This year's highlights follow, organized by day. These highlights do not necessarily reflect the importance of the science; rather, they reflect talks, posters and discussions likely to be of interest to a broad scientific audience. 

Highlights of CIRES Science at AGU 2018

Every year, more than 200 CIRES scientists and colleagues present important work during the AGU Fall Meeting. This year's highlights follow, organized by day. These highlights do not necessarily reflect the importance of the science; rather, they reflect talks, posters and discussions likely to be of interest to a broad scientific audience. 

Uneven Rates of Sea Level Rise Tied to Climate Change

The pattern of uneven sea level rise over the last quarter century has been driven in part by human-caused climate change, not just natural variability, according to a new study.

Quirky Glacial Behavior Explained

In August 2012, in the frigid wilderness of West Greenland, the Jakobshavn Glacier was flowing and breaking off into the sea at record sp

2018 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Released

New research published in The Lancet medical journal last night shows that rising temperatures as a result of climate change are already

Is Antarctica Becoming More Like Greenland?

Antarctica is high and dry and mostly bitterly cold, and it’s easy to think of its ice and snow as locked away in a freezer, protected from melt except around its low-lying coasts and floating ice shelves. But that view may be wrong.

Better Wind Forecasts for Energy Industry

New research on wind behavior in complex terrain will improve forecasts for wind energy firms by 15-25 percent, and has already led to improved wind forecasts for the entire country, according to a 4-year study funded by NOAA and the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Violent Crime Rates Rise in Warmer Winters

As global temperatures climb, warmer winters in parts of the country may set the scene for higher rates of violent crimes such as assault and robbery, according to a new CIRES study published in AGU's journal GeoHealth.

Your Showerhead Slime is Alive—and Mostly Harmless

The day after Halloween, something scary may still lurk—inside your showerhead.

Study Reconciles Persistent Gap in Natural Gas Methane Emissions Measurements

A new study offers answers to questions that have puzzled policymakers, researchers and regulatory agencies through decades of inquiry an

CIRES Visiting Fellows Program Open

CIRES sponsors a prestigious Visiting Fellows

CU Boulder to Host Federal Climate Adaptation Science Center

The U.S.

Is It Possible? A Future Where People and Nature Thrive

Can humans drive economic growth, meet rising demand for food, energy and water, and  make significant environmental progress?

You Can Improve Your Spatial Skills With Training

Do you marvel at your friend's ability to assemble complex IKEA furniture and navigate a new city, or do you all-around groan at your own lack of spatial skills? Don’t fret! A new CIRES-led study found that you, too, can improve your spatial reasoning with practice.

CIRES Founding Director John Christopher Harrison, 1929-2018

CIRES mourns the passing of our founding director, John Christopher Harrison, who died peacefully in his sleep on October 2 after a four-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Arctic Sea Ice at Minimum Extent for 2018

Arctic sea ice has likely reached its minimum extent for the year, at 4.59 million square kilometers (1.77 million square miles) on Septe

New Aerosol Map Will Improve Air Quality Monitoring, Forecasting in a Changing Climate

As wildfires and dust storms in a changing climate create health challenges for people worldwide, NOAA has announced funding for a University of Colorado Boulder-led project that promises to help improve air quality monitoring and forecasting.

Unprecedented Ice Loss in Russian Ice Cap

In the last few years, the Vavilov Ice Cap in the Russian High Arctic has dramatically accelerated, sliding as much as 82 feet a day in 2

China is Hot Spot of Ground-Level Ozone Pollution

In China, people breathe air thick with the lung-damaging pollutant ozone two to six times more often than people in the United States, Europe, Japan, or South Korea, according to a new assessment. By one metric—total number of days with daily maximum average ozone values (based on an 8-hour average) greater than 70 ppb—China had twice as many high ozone days as Japan and South Korea, three times more than the United States, and six times more than Europe.

CIRES Welcomes Environmental Economist Matt Burgess

As the Fall 2018 semester kicks off at CU Boulder, CIRES welcomes Matt Burgess, an  environmental economist, to join its Council of Fellows. Matt Burgess melds ecology, economics, and policy in his work—forming a new connection between CIRES and CU Boulder’s department of Economics.

Wildfire Temperatures Key to Better Understanding Air Quality

When wildfires burn, they don’t only damage land, homes, and businesses. Wildfire emissions, which can be transported over long distances, can be toxic and contribute to the formation of secondary pollutants such as ozone and fine particles in the atmosphere. Those emissions affect human health and the environment, so scientists want to know what’s in wildfire smoke. According to new research from CIRES and NOAA, what matters most is not what kind of fuel is burning, but the temperature at which it burns.

New Clues to Origins of Mysterious Atmospheric Waves in Antarctica

Two years after a CIRES and CU Boulder team discovered a previously unknown class of waves rippling continuously through the upper Antarctic atmosphere, they’ve uncovered tantalizing clues to the waves’ origins. The interdisciplinary science team’s work to understand the formation of “persistent gravity waves” promises to help researchers better understand connections between the layers of Earth’s atmosphere—helping form a more complete understanding of air circulation around the world.

Why Winter Air Pollution Remains High in the East

The air in the United States is much cleaner than even a decade ago. But those improvements have come mainly in summer, the season that used to be the poster child for haze-containing particles that cause asthma, lung cancer and other illnesses.         

CIRES, NOAA Research Drones Take to the Skies for Flight Week

This month, two dozen small research drones will zip, hover and soar over parts of the San Luis Valley, collecting data on how and where clouds form, storms start, and rain falls. Improving weather forecasts requires better observations from parts of the atmosphere where it can be difficult to make measurements. So to get instruments to the right place at the right time, researchers are experimenting with small, remotely-piloted drones carrying state-of-the-art weather instruments.

Plant-Damaging Ozone Pollution Highest in East Asia but Declining in North America

Ozone pollution can harm rice, wheat, and other crops and plants, and a new global assessment shows plant-damaging ozone levels declining in North America, stable in Europe, and rising significantly in East Asia. These data will help researchers quantify the loss in yield in staple food crops based on the uptake of the pollutant by the plants’ leaves.


A Glimpse into Climate Change Through the Eyes of Teenagers

At the end of June, 15 middle and high school students from across southern Colorado and New Mexico journeyed to the University of Colorado Boulder to explore—in film—the effects of environmental change on their lives and in their communities. Through an immersive, CIRES-hosted science-education experience, these Upward Bound Math Science students took a deeper look at climate change topics, and used their new knowledge to create short, educational movies.

Bird’s Eye View of the Arctic

Drones and other unmanned technologies can cost-effectively collect weather data in harsh or remote environments and contribute to better weather and climate models, according to a new study from CIRES and NOAA researchers. Unmanned aircraft and instrument-bearing tethered balloons are helping fill in critical data gaps over difficult-to-sample surfaces in the Arctic, including newly forming sea ice and partially frozen tundra.

White House Recognizes Women's Science Mentoring Group with Colorado Ties

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation have named the Earth Science Women's Network as one of 41 individuals or organizations honored with presidential awards for teaching and mentoring in the sciences. The awards recognize schools and organizations in more than 50 states and U.S. territories.


New Study Explains Antarctica’s Coldest Temperatures

Tiny valleys near the top of Antarctica’s ice sheet reach temperatures of nearly -100 degrees Celsius, according to a published this week in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters. The finding could change scientists’ understanding of just how low temperatures can get at Earth’s surface, and how it happens, according to the researchers.

New Study Finds U.S. Oil & Gas Methane Emissions 60% Higher than Estimated

The U.S. oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane from its operations each year, 60 percent more than estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new study published today in the journal Science.

Nation’s Largest Indoor Air Quality Experiment

The average person spends 90 percent of his or her time indoors—yet little is understood about how chemical compounds indoors interact and transform throughout our daily lives.

Cranking Up the Volume on Wildfire

Western wildfire seasons are worse when it’s dry and fuel-rich, and the chances of ignition are high—and all three factors were pushed to their limits last year, triggering one of the largest and costliest U.S. wildfire seasons in recent decades, according to a new paper. Climate change likely helped exacerbate fuels and dryness, the paper found, and people’s behavior contributed the sparks.

Interdisciplinary Climate Science: Risky But Worth It

In recent years, interdisciplinary research has been promoted widely, yet it can represent a risky pursuit for early career scientists. For example: climate science integrates research from across disciplines—yet taking a deliberately interdisciplinary approach can be perceived as 'less-than-rigorous' compared to a single discipline—according to a new study by Virginia Institute of Marine Science, National Weather Service, CIRES/NOAA, and other researchers across the country.

NOAA Finds Rising Emissions of Ozone-Destroying Chemical Banned by Montreal Protocol

Emissions of one of the chemicals most responsible for the Antarctic ozone hole are on the rise, despite an international treaty that required an end to its production in 2010, a new NOAA study shows.

Making Research Relevant for Decision Makers

Experts in NOAA/CIRES’ Western Water Assessment have released a new usable science guide to break down common barriers: research questions may not be targeted to resolve issues of most relevance to stakeholders, and research products such as publications or datasets are often inaccessible or impractical for use by non-experts.

In 2016’s Record Arctic Warmth, a Glimpse of the Future

A new analysis of the extraordinary heat that affected the Arctic in 2016 finds that it could not have happened without the steep increases in greenhouse gas concentrations caused by human activity, and resulting loss of sea ice, over the past 150 years. Evaluating ocean and atmospheric observations with advanced modeling tools, scientists from NOAA and CIRES found that about 60 percent of 2016’s record warmth was caused by record-low sea ice observed that year, and the ensuing transfer of ocean heat to the atmosphere across wide expanses of ice-free or barely frozen Arctic Ocean.

Turning a Love for the Outdoors into PhD Science

In the spring of 2009, CU Boulder researcher Alice Hill sat atop an icy Alaskan glacier for the first time, supporting an outdoor leadership team of 12 people. The landscape was stark and white—and cold, sharp wind was constant. She was bundled in windproof down, sipping hot liquids to keep warm after a day of mountain exploration.

High-Res Forecasts Could Help U.S. Expand Offshore Wind Power

A new NOAA dataset of wind forecasts could help the energy industry identify which offshore areas in the United States have the best potential for wind resource development. The data from this study, just published in the journal Wind Energy, could pinpoint areas of reduced risk and ultimately help minimize the cost of offshore wind power.


Physics of a glacial ‘slushy’ reveal granular forces on a massive scale

The laws for how granular materials flow apply even at the giant, geophysical scale of icebergs piling up in the ocean at the outlet of a glacier, CIRES and Emory University scientists have shown.

A Surprising New Superconductor

Last September, CIRES chemist and instrument designer Don David and colleagues Dave Pappas and Xian Wu at the National Institute of Standards and Technology discovered a powerful new plated metal combination that superconducts at easily attained temperatures—paving the road for the next critical steps in the development of cutting-edge supercomputers. David and his colleagues just published the new recipe: an ultrathin layer of rhenium sandwiched between layers of gold, each measuring 1/1000th the diameter of a human hair that can superconduct at critical temperature over 6 Kelvin.

Personal Plumes

When people are out and about, they leave plumes of chemicals behind them—from both car tailpipes and the products they put on their skin and hair. In fact, emissions of siloxane, a common ingredient in shampoos, lotions, and deodorants, are comparable in magnitude to the emissions of major components of vehicle exhaust, such as benzene, from rush-hour traffic in Boulder, Colorado, according to a new CIRES and NOAA study.

U.S. Gains in Air Pollution are Slowing Down

After decades of progress in cleaning up air quality, U.S. improvements for two key air pollutants have slowed significantly in recent years, new research concludes. The unexpected finding indicates that it may be more difficult than previously realized for the nation to achieve its goal of decreased ozone pollution, scientists said.

Training the Next Wave of Earth Data Scientists

CIRES’ Earth Lab now boasts one of the only professional certificate programs in the nation to focus specifically on Earth data science applications. The year-long, three-course “Earth Data Analytics - Foundations” online certificate, which launches at CU Boulder in August 2018, provides students with critical skills in Earth science, data analytics, and interdisciplinary collaboration—training the next generation of researchers to succeed in today’s world of big data.

Russian Arctic Glacier Loss Accelerating

Geophysicists examining glacier changes in the Russian Arctic have found that the rate of ice mass loss has nearly doubled over the last decade when compared to records from the previous 60 years, according to Cornell-led research published April 24 in Remote Sensing of Environment.

National Ocean-Science Competition Makes a Splash in Colorado

This Earth Day weekend, over 100 students from 20+ U.S. states, including Alaska and Hawaii, will chart their course to the University of Colorado Boulder, to match wits in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. The student finalists will put their knowledge to the test—expertly answering Jeopardy-style trivia questions on topics including marine chemistry, policy, biology, and more. CIRES will host the competition here in Boulder—it’s the first time the nationals have been held in a fully landlocked state.

Arctic Sea Ice Maximum Second Lowest in Satellite Record

Sea ice over the Arctic Ocean likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.48 million square kilometers (5.59 million square miles) March 17, the second lowest in the 39-year satellite record, falling just behind 2017. This year’s maximum extent is 1.16 million square kilometers (448,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum of 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles).

Detecting Methane from Miles Away

A new field instrument developed by a collaborative team of researchers can quantify methane leaks as tiny as 1/4 of a human exhalation from nearly a mile away. CIRES, NOAA, CU Boulder, and NIST scientists revamped and “ruggedized” Nobel Prize laser technology—turning a complex, room-sized collection of instruments into a sleek, 19-inch portable unit to tote into the field near oil and gas operations. The instrument collects precise, nonstop data, providing game-changing information critical for safe industry operations and controlling harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Mapping Our Planet, One Ocean at a Time

It could be said that Earth’s oceans are the final frontier in exploration. More than 80 percent of the world's oceans remain unexplored and unmapped. Human activities in our oceans continue to increase, and scientists from around the globe have come together to make mapping the entire ocean a reality by 2030. To aid in this endeavor, scientists from NCEI and other institutions have developed an algorithm that will play a significant role in cultivating a seabed mapping strategy for the North Atlantic Ocean and beyond.

A New View of the Sun

When the Sun flared dramatically last September, causing geomagnetic storms and radio blackouts on Earth, a new NOAA solar telescope captured the drama from a different perspective. Now, NOAA has released these new images to the scientific community—images that scientists from CIRES and NCEI have played a key role in capturing.

Multipurpose Mapping

Say you're developing a training program for submarine pilots. You want an underwater scene that's realistic so that their training is meaningful. NOAA's got those data, thanks to a team of CIRES and federal employees ironically located in the landlocked state of Colorado. These scientists, working as part of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), develop high-resolution, three-dimensional coastal maps, or digital elevation models (DEMs).

Consumer & Industrial Products Now a Dominant Urban Air Pollution Source

Chemical products that contain compounds refined from petroleum, like household cleaners, pesticides, paints and perfumes, now rival motor vehicle-related emissions as the top source of urban air pollution, according to a surprising NOAA-led study. People use a lot more fuel than they do petroleum-based compounds in chemical products—about 15 times more by weight, according to the new assessment. Even so, lotions, paints and other products contribute about as much to air pollution as the transportation sector does, said lead author Brian McDonald, a CIRES scientist working in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division.

Sea Level Rise Accelerating

Global sea level rise is not cruising along at a steady 3 mm per year, it’s accelerating a little every year, like a driver merging onto a highway, according to a powerful new assessment led by CIRES Fellow Steve Nerem. He and his colleagues harnessed 25 years of satellite data to calculate that the rate is increasing by about 0.08 mm/year every year—which could mean an annual rate of sea level rise of 10 mm/year, or even more, by 2100.

Powerful New Dataset Reveals Patterns of Global Ozone Pollution

Although ozone pollution is dropping across many parts of the United States, western Europe and Japan, many people living in those countries still experience more than a dozen days every year in which levels of the lung irritant exceed health-based standards.

“Building” a Future in Science with Construction-Based Toys

Childhood play experiences strongly shape a person's spatial skills, according to a new CIRES-led study—those skills can be critical to success in fields like science and engineering.

Dust on Snow Controls Springtime River Rise in West

Dust, not spring warmth, controls the pace of spring snowmelt that feeds the headwaters of the Colorado River, according to a new study. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the amount of dust on mountain snowpack controls how fast the Colorado Basin's rivers rise in the spring regardless of air temperature; more dust is associated with faster spring runoff and higher peak flows.

Mining Climate Data and Maritime History from Civil War-Era U.S. Navy Ships’ Logs

A new grant will let a University of Washington-led project add a new fleet to its quest to learn more about past climate from the records of long-gone mariners. CIRES' Gil Compo is part of the team, which won a  2017 “Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives” award, announced earlier this month by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Library and Information Resources.

What Lives in Your Dirt?

CIRES researchers are one step closer to finding out after compiling the first global atlas of soil bacterial communities and identifying a group of around 500 key species that are both common and abundant worldwide. 

Ocean Science Competition for High Schoolers Thrives in Landlocked State

Late Winter in Colorado brings dozens of Trout Bowl contestants to Boulder—high school students from across the Front Range and beyond who compete in an ocean science-themed, jeopardy-style competition. But instead of presenting questions about world history and pop culture, judges ask questions like: “Explain the difference between the compensation depth and the oxygen minimum in the ocean.”

CIRES Science @ #AMS2018

Highlighted presentations by CIRES scientists during the 2018 annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society.

CIRES Director Helping Set National Earth Science Priorities

WASHINGTON – NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) should implement a coordinated approach for their space-based environmental observations to further advance Earth science and applications for the next decade, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Announcing the Reservoir Sedimentation Management Webinar Series

Tune in for this webinar series sponsored by CIRES Outreach & Education and CIRES Western Water Assessment. In this webinar series, the Subcommittee on Sedimentation’s National Reservoir Sedimentation and Sustainability Team presents sustainable solutions to reservoir sediment management.

Continued Emissions May Cause Global North-to-South Shift in Wind Power By End of Century

In the next century, wind resources may decrease in many regions of the Northern Hemisphere and could sharply increase in some hotspot regions down south, according to a study by University of Colorado Boulder researchers. The first-of-its-kind study predicting how global wind power may shift with climate change appears today in Nature Geoscience.

Local Air Pollution on Alaska's North Slope Changes Cloud Properties

Local air pollution on Alaska's North Slope appears to affect liquid clouds that form downwind, leading to smaller droplets less likely to fall as drizzle or rain, according to new research. Clouds in the region can either cool or warm the surface, depending on their specific properties and season. In the summertime, Arctic clouds generally cool the surface by reflecting sunlight, but changing droplet size may alter the degree of that cooling.

CIRES Science @ #AGU17

Talks and posters by CIRES scientists, events and more CIRES @ #AGU17

Click for daily highlights:

NOAA Satellite Data Illuminate Oil Production Trends in Iraq and Syria

Airport Runway Names Shift with Earth’s Magnetic Field

Earth's magnetic field is constantly changing and while large-scale changes, such as a complete reversal of the magnetic field, happe

Major Return on Investment from Improving Climate Observations

A well-designed climate observing system could help scientists answer knotty questions about climate while delivering trillions of dollars in benefits by providing decision makers information they need to protect public health and the economy in the coming decades, according to a new paper published today.

Oil and Gas Emissions a Major Contributor to Bad Ozone Days

2017 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Released

Climate change is unequivocally affecting the health of people around the world today, with a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, according to an international report published today in the prestigious medical journal Lancet.

Raton Basin Earthquakes Linked to Oil and Gas Fluid Injections

A rash of earthquakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico recorded between 2008 and 2010 was likely due to fluids pumped deep underground during oil and gas wastewater disposal, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

The study, which took place in the 2,200-square-mile Raton Basin along the central Colorado-northern New Mexico border, found more than 1,800 earthquakes up to magnitude 4.3 during that period, linking most to wastewater injection well activity. Such wells are used to pump water back in the ground after it has been extracted during the collection of methane gas from subterranean coal beds.

Highlights of CIRES Scientists @ GSA

This year the annual Geological Society of America meeting will be held October 22 through 25 in beautiful Seattle, Washington. GSA brings together scientists from around the globe: “to advance geoscience research and discovery, service to society, stewardship of Earth, and the geosciences profession.” This year’s annual meeting features several CIRES researchers in diverse fields. See below for a few you don’t want to miss! Please note all times are listed in Pacific time. Follow on social media with the hashtag #GSA2017.

Study Illuminates Public Perceptions of Climate Engineering

Many people expressed serious concerns when presented with the idea of deliberately manipulating Earth's climate, according to a small, focus-group study conducted in four places around the world. But despite those negative feelings, they remained open about "geoengineering" or climate intervention ideas, in the face of a changing climate and uncertain future.

A Global Look at Earth’s Surface Waters

While Boulder battled temperatures in the high 90’s this summer, CIRES ESOC researcher J. Toby Minear and his team were knee-deep in frigid Alaskan waters—taking calibration ground measurements for a NASA mission that will harness new, state-of-the-art satellite technology to view Earth’s water in incredible detail from space.

Clouds Like Honeycomb

Polygons are widespread in nature: Drying mud may crack into many-sided blocks, and bees shape honeycomb into regular, six-sided cells. Hexagons also appear in broad sheets of clouds across parts of Earth’s oceans, and now a team of researchers has used a network approach to analyze why. Their work promises to help scientists represent clouds more accurately in computer models of weather and climate change. 

The Mountains that Remade America, by Craig Jones

CIRES Fellow and Professor of Geology Craig Jones has released a new book: The Mountains that Remade America:  How Sierra Nevada Geology Impacts Modern Life. The book explores the intimate connection between this well-known mountain range, its geology, and the evolution of human history in America. Jones gives us answers to questions like: Why do these mountains exist where they do? How have they changed the way Americans live? And just how different would the modern United States be today if these mountains had not formed?

Thirty Five Years of Water Science

Summit County, Colorado, has been growing for decades—its forested slopes and sparkling waters draw more residents and tourists each year. More people and their housing, boats, and activities create wastewater runoff and land disturbance that may harm water quality. Summit County’s Lake Dillon, however, is especially well protected against degradation—thanks to a long-term collaboration of the intergovernmental Summit Water Quality Committee, Denver Water and the CIRES Center for Limnology. Water quality has remained stable despite the region’s rapid growth.  

Finding Resilience in Changing Climates

The National Science Foundation has awarded a University of Colorado Boulder-led team nearly $500,000 to explore how Indigenous peoples living in the arid U.S. Southwest and the icy Arctic are adapting to rapid social and environmental changes that affect food security.

Coming Soon: 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Movie

Larisza Krista’s movie of the 2012 total solar eclipse in Queensland, Australia didn’t require a zoom lens, a solar filter, a tripod, or a video camera. Instead, it took computer programming and hundreds of still photos. Krista developed a tool to process solar eclipse images from many sources and stitch them together, to create a solar eclipse “movie.”

Eclipse Will Have Atmospheric Impact

On August 21, outside of Lusk, Wyoming, Terry Bullett and Justin Mabie, like thousands of others across the United States, will be watching the solar eclipse cross the sky above. Totality there will last for less than two minutes, starting at 11:46 am. But Bullett and Mabie will be watching the eclipse with more than just their (appropriately protected) eyes: They’ve set up instruments in a field outside of Lusk to take research radar measurements before, during, and after the eclipse. Information captured by their instrument will help them study the ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere that’s critical for radio and other forms of communications.

Ozone Treaty Taking a Bite Out of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty adopted initially to protect and ultimately to heal Earth’s protective ozone layer, has significantly reduced emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals from the United States. But in a twist, a new study by NOAA and CIRES scientists shows the 30-year old treaty has also significantly reduced climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from the United States.

Soil Doesn’t Forget

Ecologists need to understand what and where soil microbes live in Earth’s ecosystems—these microorganisms can influence what can thrive above. But there’s a gap in the field: Today’s climate conditions do not fully explain the types of microbes they see. So CIRES researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder are looking thousands of years back in time—and they’re finding answers.

Alaska’s North Slope Snow-Free Season is Lengthening

On the North Slope of Alaska, snow is melting earlier in the spring and the snow-in date is happening later in the fall, according to a new study by CIRES and NOAA researchers. Atmospheric dynamics and sea ice conditions are behind this lengthening of the snow-free season, the scientists found, and the consequences are far reaching—including birds laying eggs sooner and iced-over rivers flowing earlier.


Two Degrees F Already Baked In

Even if people could instantly turn off all our emissions of greenhouse gases, the Earth would continue to heat up about two more degrees Fahrenheit by the turn of the century, according to a sophisticated new analysis published in Nature Climate Change. And if current emissions continue for 15 years, odds are good that we’ll see nearly three degrees (1.5 C) of warming by then.

New Associate Director for Science: Christine Wiedinmyer

CIRES welcomes Dr. Christine Wiedinmyer, an internationally recognized atmospheric scientist who will begin as our new Associate Director for Science August 21.

Innovation Mitigates Cloud Problem in Climate and Weather Forecast Models

A resolution challenge in weather and climate modeling has dogged modelers for years: Computationally, it’s just too expensive to represent certain clouds in the detail needed to make them behave realistically; yet clouds are critical to accurate weather and climate modeling. Now, a team of CIRES, NOAA and University of  Wisconsin-Milwaukee experts has proposed a solution, and in a test, their new clouds even produced credible drizzle.


Preview the Total Solar Eclipse with NOAA’s Science On a Sphere®

For those who cannot view the August 21 total solar eclipse from its “path of totality,” or even for those who just want a preview of the live event, NOAA has released two new eclipse datasets for the illuminated Science On a Sphere®.

Earth Lab Joins CIRES

Starting July 1, on its second anniversary, a University of Colorado Boulder program called Earth Lab will become part of CIRES, a longstanding leader in Earth system research. Earth Lab scientists and staff are tackling a critical challenge in Earth science research at CIRES: dealing with increasingly enormous environmental datasets.

The World Inside Your Showerhead

Don't panic, but there is a largely unknown world of tiny creatures living inside your showerhead. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder are working to illuminate the secrets of this dark, damp microcosm.   

Alaskan Tundra Becoming Source of Seasonal Carbon Emissions

Inspiring Young Students to Take a Closer Look at Our Changing World

Tune in for the opportunity to be inspired and amused by the work of talented youngsters determined to change the world. By inviting 80 students to participate in an immersive, science-education experience, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder is hoping to influence a new wave of young environmental scientists.

Saying Goodbye to Glaciers

Glaciers around the world are disappearing before our eyes, and the implications for people are wide-ranging and troubling, Twila Moon, a glacier expert at the University of Colorado Boulder, concludes in a Perspectives piece in the journal Science today.


High-Altitude Aircraft Data May Help Improve Air Quality Models, More

Sulfur dioxide released from volcanoes or power plants causes acid rain and leads to particles that play a role in breaking down the protective ozone layer high in the atmosphere. But those particles also reflect sunlight away from Earth, leading some to propose that people could inject sulfur dioxide (SO2) high in the atmosphere to mitigate global warming.

Modern River Piracy

The retreat of a massive Yukon glacier a mile up its valley has redirected meltwater from one river basin to another in the first modern case of “river piracy,” according to a new analysis by a team of researchers including Mike Willis, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Cleaning Up

Twenty-one scientists and family members patrolled the edges of highway 36 Saturday morning, using poker sticks to pick up scraps of plastic and old bottles, filling tough orange plastic trash bags with their findings.

As US Drilling Surged, Methane Emissions Didn’t

A new NOAA-led study shows that methane emissions from the United States did not grow significantly from 2000 to 2013 and are not likely to have been an important driver of the increase in atmospheric methane levels observed worldwide after 2007, as other studies have suggested.

Arctic Sea Ice Max at Record Low for Third Straight Year

Arctic sea ice was at a record low maximum extent for the third straight year, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA.

The Crowd & The Cloud Series Features CIRES Director

There’s a revolution happening in science. Enabled by smartphones, computers and mobile technology, regular people are observing their environments, monitoring neighborhoods and collecting information about the world and the things they care about. These so-called “citizen scientists” are the focus of a 4-part public television series premiering in April, THE CROWD & THE CLOUD, hosted and narrated by CIRES Director Waleed Abdalati. 

SnowEx: Science Supporting Water Management

Dozens of scientists headed into Colorado’s high country by ski, snowshoe, snow machine, and aircraft in February 2017. The snow physicists, data experts, hydrologists, and others kicked off NASA’s multi-year SnowEx mission with its singular overarching goal: Figure out the most accurate, reliable way to measure the water content in snow—from space. 

NOAA Instruments Aid Forecasters During Epic California Winter

Lives have been lost, and roads and property damaged this winter as a number of storms battered northern California, causing record precipitation as well as numerous floods, mudslides, and debris flows.

Kristen Averyt to head Desert Research Institute

Kristen Averyt, CIRES associate director for science, will serve as the next president of Nevada's Desert Research Institute, effective July 1.

Preparing for the Worst

Flood, drought, fire, blizzard, tornado: these are but a few of the natural hazards faced by communities around the western United States. But rather than wait for federal or state officials to lead the way, it’s cities that are really taking action in dealing with these kinds of hazards.

When Good Ozone Goes Bad

Late spring and early summer is when the air quality is generally good across most of the United States. But for the desert southwest, newly published NOAA research details how a common springtime weather pattern and pollution transported from Asia often conspire to create unhealthy ozone levels.

Highlights of CIRES Science at the American Meteorological Society

Talks and posters by CIRES scientists, events and more: CIRES@ #AMS2017

Above-Ground Air Monitoring Takes Flight This Winter

Utah's Division of Air Quality and partners, including researcher from NOAA and CIRES, are studying Salt Lake City's winter particulate pollution from aboard a Twin Otter.

Anne Perring Receives Presidential Honor

President Obama has named CIRES Anne Perring, an atmospheric scientist who works at NOAA in Boulder, as one of 102 young scientists and engineers to receive the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

What’s Cooking in Ghana?

Close to half the world’s population cooks over an open fire every day. That’s hard on human health—people cooking over an open fire breathe in smoke and gases that can damage their lungs.

On the Origin of Life in the Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands are home to a tremendous diversity of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. But why this is, and when it all began, remains something of an open question.

Closer Collaborations Between Scientists, Data Users Aim to Improve Decision Making

Scientists are increasingly forming tight partnerships with water managers, community leaders, risk managers and other decision makers, collaborating in the actual design of research. Such “co-produced science” not only improves decisions, but can help scientists generate knowledge that has broader impact than a scientific paper. CIRES' Jeff Deems is one of hundreds presenting on "co-produced science" at AGU. 

Faster Than the Speed of Ice

Glaciers and ice sheets move in unique and sometimes surprising patterns, according to a new method that uses satellite images to provide a near-real-time view of flowing ice in Greenland, Antarctica and mountain ranges around the world. With imagery and data from Landsat 8, scientists including from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (part of CIRES at CU Boulder) are mapping the flow speed for every large glacier and ice sheet on Earth, and making it available in near-real-time, online.

CIRES Science at #AGU16

Talks and posters by CIRES scientists, events and more CIRES @ #AGU16

Sea Ice Hit Record Lows in November

Unusually high air temperatures and a warm ocean have led to a record low Arctic sea ice extent for November, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for the month, caused by moderately warm temperatures and a rapid shift in circumpolar winds.

Fire Starters

On October 1, top chemistry researchers from around the country came to Missoula, Montana, to light stuff on fire. They converged at an old building that looked like a mad scientist’s warehouse. Inside, they helped each other set up millions of dollars worth of instruments. Wind tunnels weaved in and out of the walls, and a rickety elevator ferried researchers to the top of a giant smoke funnel. These scientists were kicking off a multi-year mission called FIREX—Fire Influence on Regional and Global Environments Experiment, to better understand the air quality and climate effects of fire—in the controlled environment of the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Sciences Laboratory (Fire Lab).

Ancient History

CIRES Visiting Fellow Adam Schneider uses environmental archaeology to understand how changes of climate affected people in the ancient Middle East and North Africa.

Distant Impacts: Smoke, Dust from Pacific Northwest Fires affect Colorado's Air Quality

During poor air quality days in Denver last year, scientists found that specks of mineral dust swept into the region along with smoke from Pacific Northwest wildfires, they report in a new study published in the Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Both smoke and mineral dust have consequences not only for health, but also for climate.

Pollution Emitted Near Equator has Biggest Impact on Global Ozone

Since the 1980s, air pollution has increased worldwide, but it has increased at a much faster pace in regions close to the equator. 

Polar Bear Season

Four CIRES researchers, including CIRES Fellow Jen Kay, head north, to the Arctic tundra near Churchill, Canada, just in time to see the local polar bears as they congregate on the shores of Hudson Bay.

NOAA-Led Work Could Improve Air Quality, Climate Modeling

The United States and the European Union take markedly different approaches to vehicle emissions controls, and the evidence is in the air, according to a new study.

Just Who Lives With You?

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Colorado Boulder used DNA testing and citizen science to create an “atlas” that shows the range and diversity of arthropods found in homes across the continental United States.

Stone Walls, Railway Lines and Carbon Fibers Record Turkey's Westward Drift

In February 1944, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake shook a sparsely populated region of central Anatolia in Turkey. Within hours, the steel rails of the Ankara-Istanbul railroad began to distort. By the next day, they had been misaligned by more than 13 feet as a result of slip on the North Anatolian Fault, a fault with many similarities to the San Andreas Fault in California.

The "Fingerprint" of Feedlots

Gathering accurate, big-picture information on emissions from concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) is no easy task.

Study Finds Fossil Fuel Methane Emissions Greater than Previously Estimated

Methane emissions from fossil fuel development around the world are up to 60 percent greater than estimated by previous studies, according to new research led by scientists from CIRES and NOAA.

Planetary Tomography

By dissecting the sloshing signals of ocean tides recorded by magnetic satellites high above the Earth, a team of international researchers has managed to produce interior images of our planet, the scientists reported today in the journal Science Advances. Their proof-of-concept work could transform scientists’ ability to image and understand what lies below Earth’s crust, and could even help them remotely probe the interiors of other celestial bodies with tidal saltwater, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa

Wastewater Injection and Induced Seismicity

An increase in earthquake activity is occurring in areas of the eastern and central U.S., areas where unprecedented volumes of wastewater, produced along with oil and gas, are being disposed of, by injection, into deep geological formations. A new study, out today in Science, provides strong evidence of the link between oil and gas wastewater disposal and earthquakes in Texas.


Losing Its Cool

Measuring just how much mass a glacier is losing—through melting and calving—is no easy task. While there’s plenty of satellite data from space, scientists haven’t had access to much local, on-the-ground observation, which is the sort of information that’s necessary to more accurately measure glacial mass loss. But now a team of scientists, including CIRES’ Mike Willis, have put a series of GPS systems in place that give them the kind of data they need. Using that information, they find that previous estimates of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet—already known to be shrinking—may be underestimates. 

2016 Ties 2007 for Second Lowest Arctic Sea Ice Minimum

The Arctic’s ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent on September 10, 2016, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, part of CIRES and CU Boulder. Arctic sea ice extent on that day stood at 4.14 million square kilometers (1.60 million square miles), statistically tied at second lowest in the satellite record with the 2007 minimum

Indigenous Knowledge at International Data Week

Welcome to the first ever International Data Week! This event, which runs September 11-17, brings together data scientists, researchers and policy makers in exploring how to take advantage of the data revolution and use all that information to benefit society. Among the participants this year is the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA). 

Preventing Human-Caused Earthquakes

While the earthquake that rumbled below Colorado’s eastern plains May 31, 2014, did no major damage, its occurrence surprised both Greeley residents and local seismologists. The earthquake happened in an area that had seen no seismic activity in at least four decades, according to a new analysis by a team of Colorado researchers. It was likely caused by the injection of industrial wastewater deep underground—and, the team concluded, quick action taken by scientists, regulators, and industry may well have reduced the risk of of larger quakes in the area.

Putting Science to Work

Using seed grant money from CU, CIRES' WWA is working with Earth Lab to develop workshops and a class on usable science. With usable science, scientists have a better understanding of how their research will be used and the people using the research have their needs addressed. Essentially, it’s more about shaping the research agenda with those who are affected by a particular issue, rather than just handing them the results of a study.


Methane leaks: A new way to find and fix in real time

Researchers have flown aircraft over an oil and gas field and pinpointed—with unprecedented precision—sources of the greenhouse gas methane in real time.

Accounting for Ozone

The first peer-reviewed study to directly quantify how emissions from oil and gas activities influence summertime ozone pollution in the Colorado Front Range confirms that chemical vapors from oil and gas activities are a significant contributor to the region’s chronic ozone problem.

Greenland and the Legacy of Camp Century

Camp Century, a U.S. military base built within the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1959, doubled as a top-secret site for testing the feasibility of deploying nuclear missiles from the Arctic during the Cold War.

Reconstructing Arctic History

There's little doubt that Arctic sea ice is shrinking, but a new study looking back to the 1850s reveals that today's ice loss is unprecedented in extent and rate.

CIRES' Jen Kay Wins NSF Early Career Award

University of Colorado Boulder atmospheric scientist Jennifer Kay has been honored with a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, worth more than $800,000

Study: As Alaska Warms, Methane Emissions Appear Stable

Analysis of nearly three decades of air samples from Alaska’s North Slope show little change in long-term methane emissions despite significant Arctic warming over that time period, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters

Mounting Tension in the Himalaya

During the Gorkha earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, only part of the fault ruptured, below-ground. A new study finds the other part remains locked, accumulating further strain on that segment of the fault. 

Milky Way Now Hidden from One-Third of Humanity

The Milky Way, the brilliant river of stars that has dominated the night sky and human imaginations since time immemorial, is just a faded memory for one third of humanity and 80 percent of Americans, according to a new global atlas of light pollution produced by Italian and American scientists.

New Study: Arctic Sea Ice Loss Likely Not a Factor in Recent Northern Hemisphere Cold Winters

Arctic sea ice loss is a major factor behind the warming Arctic, but melting sea ice is probably not behind recent cold winters in parts of Europe, Asia, and the United States, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Climate Change’s Likely Role in Kidney Disease Epidemics

Global warming will likely exacerbate epidemics of chronic kidney disease seen recently in hot, rural regions of the world, according to a new assessment by an international team of researchers, including two from the University of Colorado Boulder. 

North Dakota’s Bakken Oil and Gas Field Leaking 275,000 Tons of Methane per Year

The Bakken oil and gas field is leaking a lot of methane, but less than some satellites report and less than the latest Environmental Protection Agency inventory for petroleum systems, according to the researchers’ calculations. That's the finding of the first field study measuring emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from the Bakken, which spans parts of North Dakota and Montana. The work was published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

World’s Shallowest Slow-Motion Earthquakes Detected Offshore of New Zealand

Research published in the May 6 edition of Science indicates that slow-motion earthquakes or “slow-slip events” can rupture the shallow portion of a fault that also moves in large, tsunami-generating earthquakes. The finding has important implications for assessing tsunami hazards. The discovery was made by conducting the first-ever detailed investigation of centimeter-level seafloor movement at an offshore subduction zone.

Making The Instruments That Help Make The Science

The Integrated Instrument Development Facility (IIDF) may be in the basement of the CIRES building, but there’s a whole world of invention and innovation happening down there as a group of instrument designers, glass blowers, electronics experts and machinists design, build and test scientific instruments for CIRES, the chemistry department and the wider CU Boulder community. 

Will Droughts Turn the Amazon into a Giant Source of Carbon Emissions?

As climate change increases temperatures and alters rainfall patterns across South America, will Amazonian rainforests shift from a carbon sponge to a carbon source?

One Oil Field a Key Culprit in Global Ethane Gas Increase

A single U.S. shale oil field is responsible for much of the past decade’s increase in global atmospheric levels of ethane, a gas that can damage air quality and impact climate, according to new study led by the University of Michigan, with CIRES and NOAA co-authors.

From The Archives: Crowdsourcing Earth's Magnetic Field

Happy May—Bike to School and Bike to Work days fall in this month! Back in December 2014, we wrote about CrowdMag, a new citizen science effort that has geophysicists asking smart phone users around the world for help mapping Earth’s magnetic field. In honor of spring's cyclists and walkers, who collect terrific magnetic data, we're reposting an adapted version of this earlier story and hoping to get new citizen scientists on board!

Islands Face A Drier Future

In a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, a new way of modeling the effects of climate change on islands shows that previous analyses underestimated the number of islands that would become substantially more arid by mid century–73 percent, up from an estimate of 50 percent. That puts an increasing amount of pressure on millions of humans and vital ecosystems that are both facing the brunt of the effects of climate change and underrepresented in global climate models.

Rethinking Induced Seismicity

A survey of a major oil and natural gas-producing region in Western Canada suggests there may be a link between induced earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing, not just wastewater injection, according to a new report out this week in the journal Seismological Research Letters.

Arctic Sea Ice Maximum

Arctic sea ice was at a record low maximum extent for the second straight year, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder and NASA.

Antarctica's "Upside-Down Rivers"

“Upside-down rivers” of warm ocean water threaten the stability of floating ice shelves in Antarctica, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center published today in Nature Geoscience. The study highlights how parts of Antarctica’s ice sheet may be weakening due to contact with warm ocean water.

Raina Gough Joins NASA’s Mars Rover Science Team

NASA has selected CU Boulder researcher Raina Gough to join the Mars Curiosity rover mission as a participating scientist; she hopes to expand the science team’s search for evidence of liquid water. In the laboratory, Dr. Gough and her colleagues have shown that a process called deliquescence may create briny liquids under conditions likely to exist, in certain times and places, on Mars’ surface.

History On Ice

The American Geophysical Union invited CIRES research associate William Colgan and six team members, including CIRES director Waleed Abdalati, to compile and synthesize decades worth of research on glacier crevasses, to highlight overarching key concepts and new research directions. Their review paper has just been published in Reviews of Geophysics.

When Less Is More

Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) is an ozone-depleting chemical that's been largely banned for many years. The chemical is still released into the air in fairly small amounts here in the United States, but a new study from CIRES and NOAA reports those rates are still 100 times higher than expected, on average. 

2015 California Blowout Led to Largest U.S. Methane Release Ever

First published study since Aliso Canyon well was plugged shows leak was equivalent to one-quarter of Los Angeles’ annual methane pollution

Gijs de Boer Receives Presidential Honor

Boulder’s Gijs de Boer, 36, (pictured above in orange) is one of 106 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. He is being recognized “for fundamental contributions to the understanding and modeling of Arctic atmosphere."

Where Clouds and Particles Meet Climate

New research from a team of NOAA-led scientists proposes a totally new approach to understanding how tiny particles in the atmosphere and clouds interact—and that understanding those interactions is critical if you want to know how clouds in turn impact climate.

Rapid, Affordable Energy Transformation Possible

The United States could slash greenhouse gas emissions from power production by up to 78 percent below 1990 levels within 15 years while meeting increased demand, according to a new study by NOAA and University of Colorado Boulder researchers.

CU Boulder Team Discovers Surprising Waves in Antarctic Atmosphere

University of Colorado Boulder researchers who have spent thousands of hours observing the atmosphere high above Antarctica have discovered a previously unknown class of wave that ripples constantly through the atmosphere, likely affecting high-level winds, climate, and even Earth-based communications systems.

AMS 2016

CIRES scientists are lead authors and co-authors on dozens of papers being presented at the 96th annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans, Louisiana this week. Linked are a few highlights, by day.

Greenland's "Sponge" Affected By Atmospheric Warming

A new study of snow and firn layers high on the Greenland ice sheet shows that recent atmospheric warming is changing the ability of near-surface firn layers to store meltwater, which can result in a faster release of runoff from the ice sheet.