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.

Dwarf birch growing in northern Qikiqtaaluuk, Baffin Island

Ancient plant DNA and pollen found under Baffin Island lake show a greener Arctic (ArcticToday)

April 8, 2021

The snowy landscape of the Arctic was greener more than 100,000 years ago and could get there again as the climate warms and plants migrate further north, new research suggests. Plant DNA taken from soil 10 meters below a lake near Clyde River shows dwarf birch shrubs used to grow up to the northernmost point of Baffin Island, according to research led by Sarah Crump, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The samples, more than 100,000 years old, were found in soil and were more intact than samples from permafrost, suggesting they may have remained unfrozen.

Industrial smokestack and clouds

Despite pandemic shutdowns, carbon dioxide and methane surged in 2020 (NOAA Research News)

April 7, 2021

Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, NOAA announced today. Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years. The article mentions the analyses done in INSTAAR's Stable Isotope Lab.

A sunny winter day in Rocky Mountain National Park with snow on the trees and mountains

Increased winter snowmelt threatens western water resources (CU Boulder Today)

April 5, 2021

More snow is melting during winter across the West, a concerning trend that could impact everything from ski conditions to fire danger and agriculture, according to a new CU Boulder analysis of 40 years of data, led by Keith Musselman.

Dwarf birch growing in northern Qikiqtaaluuk, Baffin Island

Arctic was once lush and green, could be again, new research shows (CU Boulder Today)

March 17, 2021

Imagine not a white, but a green Arctic, with woody shrubs as far north as the Canadian coast of the Arctic Ocean. This is what the northernmost region of North America looked like about 125,000 years ago, during the last interglacial period, finds new research from CU Boulder led by Sarah Crump. Researchers analyzed plant DNA more than 100,000 years old retrieved from lake sediment in the Arctic and found evidence of a past ecosystem. As the Arctic warms much faster than everywhere else on the planet in response to climate change, the findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may not only be a glimpse of the past but a snapshot of our potential future.

Underwater view of dolphins swimming near the surface, Mexico

Long-term emissions cuts are needed to slow ocean acidification (

Jan. 4, 2021

During the first half of 2020, global greenhouse gas emissions dropped by about nine percent in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. People around the world reported seeing signs that “nature was healing” as a result of a steep decline in human activities such as transportation and production. However, a new study from UC Boulder has shown that the positive changes seen in natural ecosystems were not reflected throughout Earth’s oceans.

 Fish near the sea bottom in Sipadan Island, Malaysia

Impacts of COVID-19 emissions reductions remain murky in the oceans (CU Boulder Today)

Dec. 11, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic resulting shutdowns resulted in a 9% drop in the greenhouse gas emissions at the root of climate change. Unfortunately, any silver lining from the pandemic remains murky in the oceans. INSTAAR researchers Nicole Lovenduski delved into the data and found no detectable slowing of ocean acidification due to COVID-19 emissions reductions. Even at emissions reductions four times the rate of those in the first half of 2020, the change would be barely noticeable. Lovenduski shared the results Friday, Dec. 11 at the American Geophysical Union 2020 Fall Meeting. The findings will also be submitted to the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

A sweeping view of Niwot Ridge in the Rocky Mountains.  Moon visible above the clouds.

Colorado mountains bouncing back from ‘acid rain’ impacts (CU Boulder Today)

Dec. 8, 2020

A long-term trend of ecological improvement is appearing in the mountains west of Boulder. Researchers from CU Boulder have found that, thanks to vehicle emission regulations, Niwot Ridge is slowly recovering from increased acidity caused by vehicle emissions in Colorado’s Front Range. Their results show that nitric and sulfuric acid levels in the Green Lakes Valley region of Niwot Ridge have generally decreased over the past 30 years, especially since the mid-2000s.

Producing oil well on grasslands

US methane “hotspot” is snapshot of local pollution (CIRES)

Nov. 20, 2020

A giant methane cloud caught by satellite in 2014 looming over the U.S. Southwest wasn’t a persistent hotspot, as first thought when it made national news. Instead, the methane cloud was the nightly build-up of polluted air that trapped emissions of the potent greenhouse gas near the ground, according to a new CIRES- and NOAA-led study with INSTAAR participants.

Sarah Crump and Darren Larsen ski seven miles up to their field site, carrying coring equipment

The secret life of glaciers: Lake sediments reveal a 10,000 year record of climate and ice

Nov. 20, 2020

A team of past and present INSTAAR researchers have reconstructed the history of Teton Glacier, Wyoming, by analyzing sediment from alpine lakes. Their work is documented in a new study published this week in Science Advances.

Scientists with skis travel on a snow covered lake with dramatic Teton mountain peaks behind them.

New research illuminates how glaciers have responded to past climate changes (Occidental College)

Nov. 19, 2020

Current and former INSTAARs Darren Larsen, Sarah Crump, and Aria Blumm analyzed sediment from a glacial lake to learn about glacier fluctuations and climate shifts over the last 10,000 years.