Study assesses likelihood of Arctic ozone hole

This year's ozone hole over Antarctica was the second-smallest in 20 years, according to NASA.

Last year’s ozone hole over Antarctica was the second-smallest in 20 years, according to NASA.

CFC ban showing signs of success

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say it’s unlikely that the Arctic will see ozone depletion on the scale of the Antarctic ozone hole, thanks mainly to international efforts to limit ozone-killing chemicals.

“While there is certainly some depletion of Arctic ozone, the extremes of Antarctica so far are very different from what we find in the Arctic, even in the coldest years,” said MIT atmospheric scientists Susan Solomon.

“It’s really a success story of science and policy, where the right things were done just in time to avoid broader environmental damage,” said Solomon, who made some of the first measurements in Antarctica that pointed toward CFCs as the primary cause of the ozone hole. Continue reading

Climate: NASA to probe forest and forest fire emissions

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New climate research could help fine-tune global warming models. Photo courtesy NASA.

Satellites and planes to scour atmosphere from top to bottom

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Since clouds and pollution high in the atmosphere are still somewhat of a global warming wild card, scientists have been trying to refine their understanding of how those factors affect the climate.

Better data could help refine climate models used to project how much temperatures will increase the next few decades, and a new NASA research project starting in early August could deliver some of that information.

Satellite sensors will probe from above, while planes with instruments on board will fly near the edge of space and at lower elevations simultaneously to provide a multi-dimensional look at how air pollution and natural emissions, which are pushed high into the atmosphere by large storms, affect atmospheric composition and climate. Continue reading

NASA drones to study tropospheric climate drivers

Missions aims to sharpen climate-change predictions

NASA Global Hawk No. 872 flares for landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The autonomously operated unmanned research aircraft will be flying at high altitude over the Pacific Ocean during the ATTREX environmental science mission. (NASA/Jim Ross

A NASA Global Hawk flares for landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The autonomously operated unmanned research aircraft will be flying at high altitude over the Pacific Ocean during the ATTREX environmental science mission. Photo courtesy NASA/Jim Ross.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate scientists have a clear understanding of how greenhouse gas physics work in the lower atmosphere, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how global warming will play out in the upper layers, where water vapor and ozone have an as-yet unquantified impact on climate changes.

Starting this month, NASA will use unmanned aircraft flying as high as 65,000 feet to gather data that could provide some answers. The research missions will start at Edwards Air Force Base in California, with 30-hour flight out across the Pacific.

The Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) missions will study moisture and chemical composition in the upper regions of the troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The tropopause layer between the troposphere and stratosphere, from about eight miles to 11 miles above Earth’s surface, is the point where water vapor, ozone and other gases enter the stratosphere. Continue reading

Researchers document astounding number of microbial and fungal species transported with high-altitude dust plumes

Scanning electron microscopy reveals a raisin-shaped bacterial spore atop a grain of dust that journeyed from Asia high in the troposphere to the West Coast and was detected by an observatory in central Oregon.

Scanning electron microscopy reveals a raisin-shaped bacterial spore atop a grain of dust that journeyed from Asia high in the troposphere to the West Coast and was detected by an observatory in central Oregon. Image courtesy NASA.

‘Atmosphere as ecosystem’

By Summit Voice

*Adapted from a University of Washington press release.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Aerial dust plumes from near and far are known to affect the timing of snowmelt in the Colorado Rockies, and in other areas, airborne dust helps supply nutrients for marine organisms.

A new study shows that those dust plumes — traveling high in the atmosphere — are also feeding a global melting pot of microscopic life, carrying thousands of species of bacteria and fungi across vast distances.

The findings were surprising to the researchers, who said the results of the study prompted them to perhaps start thinking of the upper atmosphere as an ecosystem.

“The long-range transport and surprising level of species richness in the upper atmosphere overturns traditional paradigms in aerobiology,” says David J. Smith, who recently earned his doctorate at the University of Washington in biology and astrobiology.

In a paper published in the current issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Smith reports that his research enabled him to gather enough biomass in the form of DNA to apply molecular methods to samples from two large dust plumes originating in Asia in the spring of 2011. The scientists detected more than 2,100 unique species compared to only 18 found in the very same plumes using traditional methods of culturing, results they published in July. Continue reading

Climate: smaller volcanoes found to affect upper atmosphere

A NASA satellite captures a view of the smoke billowing from the Nabro Volcano in Ethiopia during a June 2011 eruption.

New study to help inform climate models

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Using data from sensitive satellite instruments, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have determined relatively small volcanic eruptions can affect climate on a global level, as aerosols from the eruptions are transported into the upper levels of the atmosphere by weather systems like monsoons.

“If an aerosol is in the lower atmosphere, it’s affected by the weather and it precipitates back down right away,” said Adam Bourass, with university of Saskatchewan’s Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies. “Once it reaches the stratosphere, it can persist for years, and with that kind of a sustained lifetime, it can really have a lasting effect,” Bourass said, explaining that the particles scatter incoming sunlight, thus cooling the Earth’s surface. Continue reading

Colorado: Red Rocks to hold first-ever winter concert

Red Rocks will hold its first-ever winter concert aimed at winter sports enthusiasts.

Hip hop, winter sports will meld at Jan. 27 show at  famed outdoor venue

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Ski industry folks from around the country will be in for a special treat when they visit Denver for the annual SIA SnowShow later this month, as Red Rocks will host its first-ever winter concert to coincide with the country’s largest snowsport industry trade show.

The hip hop flavored Jan. 27 concert will feature Atmosphere, Common, Grieves and Budo and Get Cryphy. More info at Icelantic’s Facebook page. The Evergreen-born ski company was a driving force in setting up the unique show.

“All of us at Icelantic grew up skiing in the winter and going to Red Rocks in the summer. With Winter on the Rocks we’re bringing together two of our biggest passions,” said Icelantic’s Sam Warren. “This event has been two years in the making and we are stoked that together with AEG Live Rocky Mountains we are able to bring this show to Red Rocks. This is much more than a big-name artist playing to a group of fans,” Warren said. Continue reading

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