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.

Infrastructure in London

London produces a third more methane than estimates suggest (Imperial College London)

Feb. 18, 2022

Researchers from Imperial College London have performed new measurements using data from INSTAAR's Stable Isotope Lab (Sylvia Englund Michel). They found London produces 30-35% more methane than previously thought. Previous estimates suggested 25% of London's methane is from natural gas leaks, but the new study says it's up to 85%.

Snow covers Deer Creek, near the the headwaters of the Snake River on Jan. 29, 2022, in Summit County. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Climate change is eroding work to clean up the Snake River. Is snowmaking making it worse? (Colorado Sun)

Feb. 16, 2022

A warmer, drier alpine is impeding water quality for streams and rivers used for snowmaking, like the Snake River that runs through Keystone. Diane McKnight is interviewed in this Colorado Sun story.

Boulder flatirons after a light snow

The Western U.S. might be seeing its last snowy winters (Fast Company)

Jan. 12, 2022

Because of climate change, the snowpack in the Western U.S. is already 20% less than it was in the 1950s, a volume of water that could fill Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country. By the end of the century, most years in the region could be nearly snowless. Keith Musselman is interviewed.

Coastal erosion reveals the extent of ice-rich permafrost underlying active layer on the Arctic Coastal Plain in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska

Warming permafrost puts key Arctic pipelines, roads at “high risk,” study says (Washington Post)

Jan. 11, 2022

In coming decades, the shifting terrain that accompanies the warming of the permafrost caused by climate change will put most human-made structures in the Arctic at risk. Nearly 70 percent of the infrastructure in the Northern Hemisphere's permafrost regions—including at least 120,000 buildings and nearly 25,000 miles of roads—are located in areas with high potential for thaw of near-surface permafrost by 2050, according to new research. Quotes Merritt Turetsky: "I am writing a eulogy for the ecosystem that I love. The permafrost has been there for thousands of years in some places, and it will never come back."

Thawing permafrost on various peatlands in Alaska

The great Siberian thaw (The New Yorker)

Jan. 10, 2022

Permafrost contains microbes, mammoths, and twice as much carbon as the atmosphere. What happens when it starts to thaw? Merritt Turetsky weighs in.

Dry grass

How climate change primed Colorado for a rare December wildfire (NBC News)

Jan. 2, 2022

The ground, typically moist from snow this time of year, was dry and flammable as a result of unusually warm temperatures and a lack of precipitation in recent months, said experts including INSTAAR snow hydrologist Keith Musselman.

a common redpoll on a tree branch in winter, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Why redpolls look different, despite being the same species (earth.com)

Dec. 9, 2021

Redpolls, an Arctic-dwelling finch that flies south only sporadically, all share a characteristic red marking on their heads. But some redpolls are white with small bills, while others are larger and have whiter bills. Due to these differences, scientists initially thought that there were three different species of redpoll. However, new genetic research led by CU Boulder and including INSTAAR Scott Taylor has found that these apparently different species are in fact the same, but have a “supergene” that controls differences in morphology and plumage color.

Redpoll Finch on a tree branch against a dark background

Common arctic finches are all the same species (Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine)

Dec. 8, 2021

New research from CU Boulder confirms that there are not, in fact, multiple species of Redpoll Finches, as previously thought. Instead, the three recognized species are all just one with a “supergene” that controls differences in plumage color and morphology, making them look different.

Brightly colored topography model

CU Boulder team granted $2.56M to transform Earth surface science (CIRES)

Dec. 7, 2021

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. Eric Hutton, Albert Kettner, Irina Overeem, Mark Piper are co-PIs on the grant.

Two mountain streams come together, one with rusty red acid rock drainage

More metals found in Summit County river due to climate change, scientists say (9NEWS)

Nov. 10, 2021

A first-of-its-kind study by Garrett Rue and Diane McKnight suggests that warmer weather and less snowpack are causing higher concentrations of rare earth elements in the river.

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