The Unnatural World

the-unnatural-world-9781476743905_lgThe Unnatural World (start time: 6:58): It’s an audacious topic for a book: the planet, and audacious individuals who are working to save — actually, to remake — human civilization and our home on Earth. David Biello is the science curator at TED and a contributing editor at Scientific American. His debut book, The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age (Scribner), will be out in paperback next month. It explores how we have altered “nature” in so many ways, from burning fossil fuels and warming the oceans and atmosphere, to tearing down tropical rain forests, to killing off so many species. In this newest epoch, dubbed by many the Anthropocene, humans are not just messing things up; they are also inventing solutions, as Biello notes. Daring optimists in his book include Elon Musk and his Tesla electric cars and trucks.

Hosts: Chip Grantis, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grantis
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker

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Committed Warming

Committed warming as a function of transient climate response, courtesy of Nature Climate Change.

Committed warming as a function of transient climate response, courtesy of Nature Climate Change.

Much of current climate science research focuses on understanding how the climate is changing and what type of climate we will have in the near future. But to understand where the climate is going, we need to understand where the climate has been. It is especially important to understand how the climate has responded to the rise of the modern, industrial world, which has emitted greenhouse gases that warm the climate. Because many of these gases will last for a long time in the atmosphere, some of this warming has already been set in motion and will happen regardless of future greenhouse gas emissions. This change is known as “committed warming”.

Determining how much committed warming has occurred in the climate is important to understand the future path of our climate. How on Earth speaks with Dr. Robert Pincus, a co-author of a new study published in Nature Climate Change that provides an estimate of committed warming using a global database of surface temperatures. Dr. Pincus is a Research Scientist at the Earth System Research Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hosts: Alejandro Soto
Engineer: Alejandro Soto, Shelley Schlender
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Additional Contributions:  Beth Bennett, Joel Parker
Executive Producer:  Alejandro Soto

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2017 Graduation Special (part 1)

diploma-and-graduation-hatWith graduation season is upon us, or in many cases in the rearview mirror, today’s edition of How on Earth is the first of a two-part “Graduation Special”. Our guests in the studio today are scientists who recently graduated with – or soon will receive – their Ph.D.  They talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next.

morganMorgan Rehnberg – CU Boulder, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
Topic: Small-Scade Structure in Saturn’s Rings

davidDavid Horvath – Colorado School of Mines, Department of Geophysics
Topic: Planetary Hydrology: Implications for the Past Martian Climate and Present Titan Lake Hydrology Using Numerical Models of the Hydrologic Cycles on Titan and Mars

josephJoseph Lee – CU Boulder, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Topic: Wind Energy and Interactions between Wind Turbines and the Atmosphere

Host / Producer / Engineer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Quantum Dot Antibiotics // Shrinking Ozone Hole

Quantum Dot Antibiotics (c Shelley Schlender)

Quantum Dot Antibiotics (c Shelley Schlender)

Quantum Dot Antibiotics (starts 1:00) This programmable antibiotic might keep pace with quickly evolving superbugs.  Unlike most drugs – it’s not derived from biological sources.  It’s a tiny version of the semiconductors in everything from TVs to iphones to solar panels.  This “antibiotic” is made of nanoparticles, known as quantum dots.  CU Biofrontiers scientists Prashant Nagpal and Anushree Chatterjee explain their new invention.

South Pole ozonesonde (balloon) launch. c NOAA

South Pole ozonesonde (balloon) launch. c noaa

Shrinking Ozone Hole – (starts 15:24) The ozone hole is finally growing smaller – we’ll find out why and how long it will take to completely “heal” the ozone hole from Birgit Hassler, a researcher with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Susan Moran
Producer:Shelley Schlender
Engineer:Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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2016 Graduation Special (part 2)

diploma-and-graduation-hatIn this follow-up episode of our “Graduation Special” we talk with three more guests graduating with science Ph.D.’s from the University of Colorado in Boulder.  They join us to talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next:

CarleighSamson_headshotCarleigh SamsonEnvironmental Engineering Program
Topic: Modeling Relationships between Climate, Source Water Quality and Disinfection Byproduct Formation and Speciation in Treated Drinking Water

 
View More: http://americanchemicalsociety.pass.us/headshotsPatrick BarbourDepartment of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Topic: Property-Guided Synthesis of Tricyclic Indolines to Confront Antibiotic Resistance in Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

94938Greg ThompsonDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Topic: Advances in a Microphysics Parameterization to Predict Supercooled Liquid Water and Application to Aircraft Icing

Host / Engineer : Shelley Schlender
Producer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer : Shelley Schlender

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2016 Graduation Special (part 1)

diploma-and-graduation-hatThe graduation season is upon us and our guests in today’s show will be graduating with science Ph.D.’s from the University of Colorado in Boulder.  They join us to talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next:

greg_banditGreg SalvesenDepartment of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
Topic: Rethinking Accretion Disks Around Black Holes

 
small_headshotJesse NusbaumerDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Topic: An Examination of Atmospheric River Moisture Transport and Hydrology Using an Isotope-enabled Climate Model

Odessa ReunionOdessa GomezEnvironmental Engineering Program
Topic: Characterizing Responses of Primary Biological Aerosols to Oxidative Atmospheric Conditions

 

Host / Producer / Engineer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Prairie Wildfire // Predicting Heat Waves // Mapping Nitrogen Pollution

credit Karen McKinnon - Pacific ocean and atmosphere can predict a heat wave in the Eastern US.

credit Karen McKinnon – Pacific ocean and atmosphere can predict a heat wave in the Eastern US.

Prairie Fire (start time: 0:57) Journalist and Megafire expert Michael Kodas discusses the raging Kansas prairie fire and how it compares to wildfires in Colorado.

Pacific Temperatures Predict New York Heat Waves (start time: 6:58) Climatologist Karen McKinnon says it’s possible to use precise monitoring of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures to predict heat waves on the East Coast 50 days in advance.

Mapping Nitrogen Pollution (start time: 15:45)  CU scientist Sam Simkin explains how human-caused nitrogen pollution  may be killing off plant diversity throughout the US . . . and his maps show where.

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Susan Moran
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Additional Contributions: Tom Yulsman
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Beyond Cop21Paris: Climate Science & Policy

Today, Dec. 8, we offer the following feature:

Waleed Abdalati

Waleed Abdalati, photo credit David Oonk/CIRES

Changing Climate, Changing Policy (start time: 7:06): As political leaders are still hammering out an accord at the UN Climate Summit, or COP21, in Paris, to rein in global warming, today we discuss the underlying scientific facts about climate change, and the policy promises and challenges for our future. Hosts Susan Moran and Daniel Glick interview two Colorado scientists at the intersection of science and policy. Dr. Waleed Abdalati is a geoscientist and director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), a partnership between the University of Colorado-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lisa Dilling with CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

Lisa Dilling, photo credit Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado

Dr. Lisa Dilling is an associate professor of environmental studies, also at CIRES, who brings expertise in science policy related to climate issues. She directs The Western Water Assessment, a NOAA program that provides information for policy makers throughout the Intermountain West about the region’s vulnerabilities to climate change impacts. Contributing host Daniel Glick was an editor of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, and his team has produced videos on the immediate and human impacts of climate change.

Hosts: Daniel Glick, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional contributions: Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender

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Arctic Frontiers // Wind Forecasting

Sami and reindeer in Finnmark, Norway. Photo credit: Thomas Nilsen/The Barents Observer

Sami and reindeer in Finnmark, Norway. Photo credit: Thomas Nilsen/The Barents Observer

Arctic Dispatch (starts at 2:18): There is no question that the Arctic is thawing faster than anywhere on the planet, except the western Antarctic Peninsula. But there are still so many unknowns regarding how things are actually changing in different places, and to what effect. How On Earth’s Susan Moran recently attended the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway. Among the scientists who discussed research on how the receding and thinning ice in the Arctic will likely affect different species was  George Hunt, a research professor of biology at the University of Washington. Aili Keskitalo, an indigenous Sami from Finnmark, Norway and president of the Sami Parliament, discussed how energy projects, including windmill parks, are negatively affecting reindeer and Sami culture. Hunt and Keskitalo discussed these issues with Moran.

Wind turbines, Photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wind turbines, Photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wind forecasting (starts at 10:40): The wind industry in the U.S. faces several hurdles, including a technical one: discovering how the wind is going to blow near the mountains. For power systems to be reliable, operators must know when to expect the blustery gusts or when to expect a still breezeless calm day.  That means they need accurate wind forecasts.  The Department of Energy has just given a substantial grant to a coalition of organizations in Colorado to help improve wind energy forecasting in mountain and valley regions. Julie Lundquist, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado, discusses the current and planned research with co-host Jane Palmer.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jane Palmer
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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Coral Climate Clues // Tropical Carbon Sink

On today’s show we offer three feature interviews, including a short opening interview.

martini

Credit: Russell Kane, Creative Commons

Alcohol and weight gain (starts at 3:34): Science journalist Jill Adams shares the latest science on the connection between alcohol and weight gain. The science is murky, as she states in her recent column in the Washington Post.

 

Scientists drilling a coral sample from Jarvis Island. Photo credit: Julia Cole

Scientists drilling a coral sample from Jarvis Island. Photo credit: Julia Cole

Climate Clues in Coral (starts at 9:02): Despite certain appearances and rumors to the contrary, global warming has not been on holiday for the past decade. But increases in temperature at the Earth’s surface have slowed down, prompting scientists to work hard to figure out why. It seems that a lot of heat that has been building up in our planet’s climate system due to greenhouse gas emissions has winded up deep in the Pacific Ocean. Why? Diane Thompson, a post-doctoral scientist at NCAR and lead author on a new study, discusses with HOE’s Tom Yulsman how a sample of coral from a remote atoll in the tropical Pacific revealed some important answers.

Tropical forest in the Serra do Mar Paranaense in Brazil. Photo credit: Deyvid Setti e Eloy Olindo Setti via Wikimedia Commons

Tropical forest in the Serra do Mar Paranaense in Brazil. Photo credit: Deyvid Setti e Eloy Olindo Setti via Wikimedia Commons

Tropic forests love CO2 (starts at 16:04) It’s been known for some time that tropical forests are not only rich in biodiversity, but they also absorb a lot of carbon dioxide that humans spew into the atmosphere.  But just how much greenhouse gases—namely CO2–these forests take up, say, compared with temperate and boreal forests, has been eluding researchers.  Britton Stephens, an atmospheric scientist at NCAR, discusses with HOE’s Susan Moran a new study he co-authored. It suggests that tropical forests may be absorbing far more CO2 than many scientists had previously thought.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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