2020 marked the fifth hottest year on record in the United States and one of the most devastating wildfire seasons, with 58,950 blazes scorching more than 10 million acres and nearly 18,000 structures. With much of the state in a drought, Colorado experienced three of its largest-ever fires and one of its longest fire seasons. As temperatures rise again, CU Boulder researchers offer insight into everything from how a changing climate will impact water supplies, crops and landscapes to how best to protect our homes and health from fire and smoke.
It’s no secret: The air quality is bad in Colorado this summer. Learn about the easy and effective ways we can keep our indoor air clean from ozone, wildfire smoke and COVID-19.
In light of recent Colorado fires, floods and landslides, environmental experts Fernando Rosario-Ortiz and Ben Livneh discuss how fire may shape the future of water in the West.
With fires blazing across Colorado, California and Oregon, much of the Western United States is awash in smoke this summer. How does the smoke impact our health? Is it OK to exercise outdoors? What can we do to protect ourselves indoors? Colleen Reid has answers.
Hannah Brenkert-Smith studies the role of residents' choices in wildfire risk, working to improve mitigation programs. Her most recent work near Bailey, Colorado, concludes residents often overestimate their preparation and underestimate their risk.
So far, 2021 is one of the 10 wettest years on record since 1872 in the Denver area. Chelsea Nagy discusses what a wet spring and resulting plant growth in the Front Range could mean for the rest of the year.
The director of CU Boulder's Natural Hazards Center speaks from personal experience as an evacuee of the Calwood Fire when she warns others: “The time is now to make provisions for whatever risks you may face.”
Bark beetle outbreaks and wildfire alone are not a death sentence for Colorado’s beloved forests—but when combined, their toll may become more permanent, CU Boulder research shows.
A new study of 22 burn areas across 710 square miles found that forests are not recovering from fires as well as they used to, and many regions will be unsuitable for ponderosa pine and Douglas fir in the coming decades.
Drought & Extreme Heat Research
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 CU Boulder analysis of 40 years of data.
Research from CU Boulder and CIRES suggests that during the 21st century, our ability to predict drought using snow will literally melt away.
New grant supports interdisciplinary research on ‘the critical zone’ and the future of Western water
Three CU Boulder faculty are principal investigators on a new five-year, $6.9 million National Science Foundation grant to study the “critical zone”—from Earth’s bedrock to tree canopy top—in the American West.
Heat waves, which are projected to become more frequent and intense as the century progresses, could cause as much as 10 times more crop damage than is now projected, a team of researchers led by CU Boulder has found.
CU faculty members share expert commentary on hot topics
Western Water Assessment
The Western Water Assessment (WWA) is a university-based applied research program that addresses societal vulnerabilities to climate variability and climate change, particularly those related to water resources. WWA is based in Boulder but works across the Intermountain West—Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The team is comprised of researchers in multiple disciplines—climatology, hydrology, ecology, social sciences, and law—at CU Boulder and several other institutions in the region.