One year ago today, a wildfire ignited near the Fern Lake trail head in Rocky Mountain National Park when careless hikers failed to extinguish their illegal campfire. Although October generally falls outside of the “fire season” in Colorado, 2012 had already been a record year for drought and wildfire, and the landscape was exceedingly dry and vulnerable to a spark. This autumn fire set off alarm bells for fire managers and climatologists, burning into the winter, growing by three miles in 35 minutes in December and smoldering under the snow long into the springtime. Finally, on June 25, 2013 officials declared the fire out, but warned that if conditions did not change, Coloradans could expect more anomalous, overwintering, long-burning, smoldering wildfires.
Launching an ozonesonde into the stratosphere is a far cry from launching a rocket. Preparation is minimal; timing is everything. A gust of wind rattles the hangar doors where NOAA scientist Bryan Johnson and researcher Patrick Cullis wait for the right moment to launch, a completely human-powered affair. The wind subsides and the pair jog out of the hangar, Cullis holding an enormous balloon and Johnson carrying a small Styrofoam box tethered to it. They pitch the device into the air and it begins its rapid rise, the small box swinging in the wind. Within minutes the massive balloon is reduced to a speck before it disappears into the clouds.
Thanks to this simple, hand-launched device, scientists have a better understanding of the ozone layer – but there are still holes in our knowledge that the ozonesonde cannot fill.
Events this week will discuss the relationship between extreme weather events and climate, and the 2018 NASA mission that will send a spacecraft closer to the sun than ever before. There will be a viewing of the HBO documentary “Too Hot Not to Handle,” followed by a discussion and reception with Susan Joy Hassol, the movie’s writer, on the CU Boulder campus.
“Challenges in Attribution of Weather and Climate Extremes,” hosted by the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR). April 30.
What? Randall Dole, the seminar’s speaker, is deputy director for research in the Physical Sciences Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder. He holds a doctorate in meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dole’s research emphasizes the connections between weather and climate. His published studies encompass phenomena associated with weather and climate extremes, including droughts, heat waves, tornadoes and extratropical cyclones. Dole has served on numerous high-level service roles relevant to weather and climate, and he was one of the three scientific experts on the U.S. delegation for the IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report, “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis.”
Where? CSTPR Conference Room. Map
Time? 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
“Solar Probe and the Solar Wind: The First Mission to our Nearest Star,” hosted by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). May 2.
What? LASP researcher David Malaspina will discuss the Solar Probe+ mission to study the sun. This mission will send a spacecraft closer to the sun than ever before with the goal of answering a fundamental question: “How does the sun interact with the solar system?” By repeatedly sampling the near-sun environment, the Solar Probe+ will answer other questions that have been ranked as top priorities by heliophysicists for decades, such as the origin and evolution of solar wind and the kind of interplanetary dust close to the sun. The seminar will also describe the Solar Probe+ itself, including its scientific instruments and challenges to its survival, such as temperatures of up to 2,600 Fahrenheit.
Where? LASP Space Technology Building (LSTB)-299, Auditorium. Directions
Time? 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
“Viewing of HBO’s Documentary: ‘Too Hot Not to Handle,’” hosted by the Forum on Science Ethics & Policy (FOSEP). May 2.
What? HBO’s 2006 documentary shows Americans experiencing climate change impacts and features leading scientists explaining these changes. The second half of the films is devoted to solutions available now to help address the climate challenge. The viewing will be followed by a discussion and reception with the movie’s writer Susan Joy Hassol. Hassol is the Director of Climate Communication, based in Boulder, Colorado. She’s worked for over 20 years to communicate the science of climate change to policy makers, the media and the public.
Where? CU Boulder, Eaton Humanities, room 250. Map
Time? 5:30 p.m.