News | Research

INSTAAR research is featured in thousands of news stories per year and more than 10,000 social media posts per year. Outlets include the New York Times, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, National Public Radio, and as well as more regional news outlets like High Country News, 9News, and the Denver Post.  The below list is a set of selected highlights.  Additional stories are noted @INSTAAR on Twitter.

Lines divide Sierra Nevada watersheds. Average is a modeled estimate for years 2000-2021. Figure by Leanne Lestak and Noah Molotch.

Scientists take flight to map California’s vast snowpack and measure flooding threats (L.A. Times)

May 26, 2023

Noah Molotch is quoted in this Los Angeles Times article about mapping the recent historic snowpack in California using laser pulses and spectrometers from the air. The flights are collecting data to estimate when and how fast the snow will melt, helping officials prepare for the runoff, manage water releases from dams, and asses areas at risk of flooding.

CU Boulder researchers collect snow measurements near the Continental Divide in Colorado for the snow survey last May. Photo by Kate Hale.

Earlier snowpack melt in the West could bring summer water scarcity (CU Boulder Today)

May 25, 2023

Snow is melting earlier, and more rain is falling instead of snow in the mountain ranges of the Western U.S. and Canada, leading to a leaner snowpack that could impact agriculture, wildfire risk and municipal water supplies come summer, according to a new CU Boulder analysis. Kate Hale and Noah Molotch are authors on the study.

nowpack in the Roaring Fork Valley in western Colorado, as seen during an Airborne Snow Observatories Inc. flight in mid-April.

Scientists are using lasers to uncover the secrets of Colorado’s snowpack. So what does it mean for your water supply?

May 12, 2023

In Colorado, 83% of the state’s water supply comes from surface water fed by winter snowpack and spring runoff. Colorado’s snowmelt also flows downstream to millions of other users in the Colorado River Basin. Having the most accurate snowpack measurement possible is vital for water agencies, which use the data to figure out how much ends up in home faucets and on farms for irrigation. The search for new, more accurate ways to measure snowpack is on.

A map slider compares compares the 2022 and 2023 snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

A boom year for Sierra Nevada snow (NASA)

April 28, 2023

After three years of busts, 2023 was a boom year for snow in the Sierra Nevada. Data provided by INSTAARs Noah Molotch, Leanne Lestak, and Kehan Yang provide a detailed picture of snowpack across the range and at different elevations, which helps the California Department of Water Resources and other water managers better forecast snowmelt in California.

Dentition of a modern baboon. Caj and his colleagues use tooth enamel from dentitions like this in their studies

Uncovering the real paleo diet: Novel isotope analytics of amino acids from fossil hominin teeth (Max Planck Institute for Chemistry)

April 12, 2023

Caj Neubauer and his colleagues are developing techniques to unlock hominin paleodietary information from fossil amino acids and other compounds in tooth enamel. Together, they are seeking to transform anthropology through their deep look into fossil molecules.

Group photo from Arctic Rivers Summit in Anchorage, December 2022. Photo by Keith Musselman.

As rising temperatures affect Alaskan rivers, effects ripple through Indigenous communities (CU Boulder Today)

April 11, 2023

Streamflow is increasing in Alaskan rivers during both spring and fall seasons, primarily due to increasing air temperatures over the past 60 years, creating dangers and difficulties for local communities. New CU Boulder-led research quantifies consequences already observed and experienced for generations by local Indigenous communities who rely on these rivers for their livelihoods.

Covered in netting to deflect stray balls, instruments gather methane data on the seventh hole of Midnight Sun Golf Course in Alaska. Permafrost is rapidly thawing across the far north, releasing the highly potent greenhouse gas, which leads to more warming. Photo by Frankie

The Arctic's permafrost-obsessed methane detectives (Wired)

April 7, 2023

The Far North is thawing, unleashing clouds of planet-heating gas. Tyler Jones, Bruce Vaughn, and Kevin Rozmiarek use detectors on drones or carried by hand to measure methane release from permafrost in Alaska.

An ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide is giving scientists a hint at the continent’s seasonal temperatures across millennia. Photo by Heidi Roop/NSF, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Ice cores record long-ago seasons in Antarctica (AGU Eos)

March 17, 2023

Researchers led by INSTAAR Tyler Jones used ice core data to reconstruct seasonal temperatures throughout the Holocene. The results link especially hot summers with patterns in Earth’s orbit. The results are the first seasonal temperature record stretching back 11,000 years.

A series of atmospheric rivers in early 2023 covered the Sierra Nevada in snow. Mario Tama, Getty Images.

Why rain on snow in the California mountains worries scientists (The Conversation)

March 14, 2023

Another round of powerful atmospheric rivers is hitting California, following storms in January and February 2023 that dumped record amounts of snow. This time, the storms are warmer, and are triggering flood warnings as they bring rain higher into the mountains on top of the snowpack. Keith Musselman explains the complex risks rain on snow creates and how they might change in a warming climate.

Khumbu Valley and Mount Everest, Chomolungma. by  Kalle Kortelainen

When someone sneezes on Everest, their germs can last for centuries (CU Boulder Today)

March 14, 2023

INSTAAR journal 'Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research' published an article on how mountain climbers can leave behind a frozen legacy of hardy microbes, which can withstand harsh conditions at high elevations and lie dormant in the soil for decades or even centuries.