Published: Feb. 3, 2017
Tent in a canyon

This week's top research stories include a study on how a weekend of camping can help reset our circadian rhythm leading to better sleep patterns, a look at how coal mine dust affects Arctic snow melt and a study examining the slow recovery of Colorado's wildfire-stricken forests.

Can't get to sleep? A wilderness weekend can help

Filling the day with natural light and the night with true darkness for as little as a weekend can have a profound impact on our circadian rhythm, that may help us fall asleep earlier and potentially deliver other health benefits, according to new research involving Colorado campers.

Coal mine dust hastens Arctic snow melt

Dust released by an active coal mine in Svalbard, Norway, reduced the spectral reflectance of nearby snow and ice by up to 84 percent, according to new University of Colorado Boulder-led research.

The study illustrates the significant, localized role that dark-colored particulates—which absorb more solar radiation than light-colored snow and keep more heat closer to the Earth’s surface—can play in hastening Arctic ice melt. 

Colorado's wildfire-stricken forests showing limited recovery

Colorado forests stricken by wildfire are not regenerating as well as expected and may partially transform into grasslands and shrublands in coming decades, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

The researchers examined the sites of six low-elevation ponderosa pine forest fires which collectively burned 162,000 acres along the Colorado Front Range between 1996 and 2003. Eight to 15 years after the fires, the researchers expected – based on historical patterns –  to see young trees cropping up across the landscape. Instead, 59 percent of plots surveyed showed no conifer seedlings at all and 83 percent showed a very low density of seedlings. Although it is possible that more seedlings will appear in upcoming years, future warming and associated drought may hinder significant further recovery.



Collecting spectral reflectance measurements of surface snow with corresponding snow samples in Northern Svalbard. Photo Credit: Alia Khan / University of Colorado Boulder

Person next to burned trees

Colorado forests stricken by wildfire are not regenerating as well as expected.