A satellite view of the Yukon River watershed in Alaska

Arctic communities planning for abrupt permafrost thaw

Oct. 21, 2020

A new INSTAAR-led project will engage Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to better understand abrupt permafrost change in Alaska. The National Science Foundation selected the project as part of its Navigating the New Arctic funding area, one of ten “Big Ideas” that NSF is investing in as an area of profound national challenge and opportunity. The research project brings Alaskan communities together with social and natural scientists to examine changes in permafrost thaw lake environments, including associated effects on villages in the Yukon River watershed.

Open coal mining pit and equipment

Unprecedented energy use since 1950 has transformed our planetary environment & humanity’s footprint (CU Boulder Today)

Oct. 16, 2020

A new study coordinated by CU Boulder makes clear the extraordinary speed and scale of increases in energy use, economic productivity and global population that have pushed the Earth towards a new geological epoch, known as the Anthropocene. Distinct physical, chemical and biological changes to Earth’s rock layers began around the year 1950, the research found. Led by Jaia Syvitski, CU Boulder professor emerita and former director of the Institute of Alpine Arctic Research (INSTAAR), the paper, published today in Nature Communications Earth and Environment, documents the natural drivers of environmental change throughout the past 11,700 years—known as the Holocene Epoch—and the dramatic human-caused shifts since 1950. Such planetary-wide changes have altered oceans, rivers, lakes, coastlines, vegetation, soils, chemistry and climate.

Scottish bog with highland mountains, clouds, and rain

For the love of peat (99 Percent Invisible)

Oct. 13, 2020

Trees versus peat as carbon sequesters: an example from Scotland. Listen to the 40 minute podcast episode.

An aerial view of trees and the Los Angeles Country Club golf course, parts of Los Angeles' urban ecosystem.

Lawns and landscaping complicate taking the measure of Los Angeles Basin’s carbon footprint

Oct. 12, 2020

The Los Angeles Basin is often thought of as a dry, heavily developed landscape. But a new study in PNAS led by NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder shows that the manicured lawns, emerald golf courses, and trees of America’s second-largest city play a surprisingly large role in its carbon footprint.

A rock outcrop in Grand Staircase National Monument in southern Utah.

Someday, even wet forests could burn due to climate change (CU Boulder Today)

Sept. 30, 2020

Millions of years ago, fire swept across the planet, fueled by an oxygen-rich atmosphere in which even wet forests burned, according to new research by new PhD graduate F. Garrett Boudinot and Julio Sepúlveda. The study, published today in Nature Geoscience, provides geochemical evidence showing that forest fires expanded dramatically, potentially burning up to 30 or 40 percent of global forests during a 100,000 year interval more than 90 million years ago. While today's fires are exacerbated by dry conditions, they found that forest fires during this period increased even in wet regions due to changes in global climate.

As part of research on Arctic wildfires, Merritt Turetsky inspects a long soil core at a field site in the Northwest Territories, Canada.

The Arctic is burning in a whole new way

Sept. 28, 2020

Widespread wildfires in the far north aren’t just bigger; they’re different—with strong consequences for the global climate—warn international fire scientists in a commentary published today in Nature Geoscience.

Photo of Julia Moriarity

Meet Julia Moriarty

Sept. 25, 2020

Learn a bit about Dr. Julia Moriarty, a new INSTAAR scientist and an Assistant Professor in ATOC who studies processes in the coastal oceans.

Nangama glacial lake, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, source of the 1960 glacial lake outburst flood, May 2019. Photo by Alton Byers.

Tracing past glacial floods in Kangchenjunga (Nepali Times)

Sept. 21, 2020

Satellite imagery is useful, but involving local people in research can often help fill gaps in research of glacial floods. Article by Alton Byers in the Nepali Times shares some of the detailed knowledge of local residents who witnessed glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) over the last four decades in the Kangchenjunga area of Nepal.

Fresh white snow falls on glacier ice floating in dark blue water

Sea ice triggered the Little Ice Age, finds a new study

Sept. 16, 2020

A new study, led by Martin Miles, finds a trigger for the Little Ice Age that cooled Europe from the 1300s through mid-1800s. The study also supports surprising model results suggesting that under the right conditions sudden climate changes can occur spontaneously, without external forcing.

Whitewater on a mountain stream

New grant supports interdisciplinary research on ‘the critical zone’ and the future of Western water (CU Boulder Today)

Sept. 2, 2020

Three CU Boulder faculty, including INSTAARs Holly Barnard and Eve-Lyn Hinckley, are principal investigators on a new five-year, $6.9 million National Science Foundation grant to study the “critical zone”—from Earth’s bedrock to tree canopy top—in the American West.