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.

Steep mountains climb out of a glacial lake in the Kangchenjunga region in eastern Nepal

A new Cold War in the Himalaya: Asia’s water tower as a climate and geopolitical hotspot (Nepali Times)

Nov. 6, 2020

Updates from last week's virtual conference, "The Himalayas: Geopolitics and Ecology of Melting Mountains," that brought together academics and researchers from around the world, including INSTAAR Alton Byers.

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.

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.

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.

Carolyn Gibson stands in the middle of a collapse scar representing wet, degrading permafrost in the Arctic

Alaska is getting wetter. That’s bad news for permafrost and the climate

July 24, 2020

Alaska is getting wetter. A new study spells out what that means for the permafrost that underlies about 85% of the state, and the consequences for Earth’s global climate.

Rainbow visible over Lake Oroville from the top of Oroville Dam in Butte County California.

Researchers find that heavy snowmelt plus usually warm temperatures amped up Oroville Dam incident

July 23, 2020

In February 2017, failures in the spillways of Oroville Dam forced the evacuation of 188,000 people and caused $1 billion in damage repairs. According to scientists, including INSTAARs Keith Musselman, Leanne Lestak, and Noah Molotch, a warmer climate might create more dangerous events like this.

Penguin on ice floe

The South Pole feels Pacific heat

June 29, 2020

In a "news and views" piece in Nature Climate Change, INSTAAR Sharon Stammerjohn and CIRES researcher Ted Scambos spell out the evidence and consequences of rapid warming at the South Pole and call for action to “flatten the curve” of global carbon emissions.

Chad Wolak prepares NOAA air samples for carbon-14 measurement.

Tracking fossil fuel emissions with carbon-14

June 1, 2020

Researchers from NOAA and the University of Colorado 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 scientists have relied on for decades to date archaeological sites. In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they report the first-ever national scale estimate of fossil-fuel derived carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions obtained by observing CO2 and its naturally occurring radioisotope, carbon-14, from air samples collected by NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.