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

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. Spheres, CIRES’ annual publication of research highlights, answers questions such as:

  • How did the accuracy of weather models change when so many commercial airlines stopped flying? 
  • How does the coronavirus get around? Choirs provided insight.
  • What happened when schools shut down? The CIRES Education & Outreach team pivoted to virtual programming.

Despite the radical changes wrought by quarantines and uncertainty, some field research and lab work kept on. Analysis and writing accelerated for some. Papers poured out. 

In the polar regions, for example, CIRES researchers documented record melt on an Antarctic ice shelf. NSF funded a CIRES team to help run the Community Office of Navigating the New Arctic, one of the agency’s 10 “Big Ideas.” And the MOSAiC expedition returned after more than a year on the ice, loaded with “an astonishing collection of data.”

And there’s more:

  • How sweat and bleach combine to alter the air in your gym
  • What we can learn about human behavior from sewage 
  • New academic opportunities for Tribal communities
  • How wildfires start (hint: not much lightning involved)
  • What triggered a decline in emissions of a banned ozone-depleting gas? 

Explore these and many other insights into CIRES science here: https://cires.colorado.edu/spheres.


CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.


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