Toxic Air’s Health Risks

Air pollution over Denver. Photo credit: NCAR
Air pollution over Denver. Photo credit: NCAR

Air Pollution, Possible Solutions
(start time: 2:36) It is ubiquitous and essential to our life. It it is also the cause of some 7 million premature deaths around the world every year, ranking just behind diet, cancer and tobacco as a health risk. That’s the air we breath. Beijing, New Delhi, and London are among the smoggiest, but the Denver metro area isn’t faring so well either. Yet many countries and cities have taken positive steps that have dramatically reduced emissions, from vehicles, smokestacks, crop and animal production, and other sources. Our two guests today have been researching air pollution—its sources, impacts and solutions–and they share their insights and data with How On Earth’s Susan Moran and guest host, journalist Jason PlautzBeth Gardiner, an environmental journalist based in London, authored the recently published book Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution. And Dr. Frank Flocke is an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and an author of a major study of air pollution sources on the Colorado Front Range.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jason Plautz
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Climate Change and Extinctions Following an Asteroid Impact

asteroid_impactClimate Change and Extinctions Following an Asteroid Impact (starts at 8:45) It has been hypothesized that the dinosaurs were killed off by a large asteroid that struck the Earth. The details of how the impact of a 10 kilometer diameter asteroid led to global scale extinction have remained elusive. Recently, climate researchers from the Boulder area published new climate model results that show how the asteroid impact ultimately leads to widespread cooling in the atmosphere and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation. These drastic and rapid changes to the climate due to the asteroid impact may explain the global scale extinction.

Two of the authors join us today to talk about this new research. Dr. Charles Bardeen works as a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and is the lead author of the new paper. Joining Dr. Bardeen is Professor Brian Toon, a co-author of the new research and a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Hosts: Alejandro Soto & Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Susan Moran, Beth Bennett, Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Alejandro Soto

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Climate Change and Cities

Climate Change and Cities (starts at 5:05)  Sea level rise, severe storms, heat waves – these are just a few of the challenges cities might be facing as the climate changes in the next few decades.  So how should they adapt to cope with such events? And with urban developments being one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, what can they do to mitigate their impact?

paty2 2010These are questions that the Urban Climate Change Research Network has set out to address in its Second Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities.  The report gives the expected climate projections for 100 cities along with guidance on increasing resilience and reducing impact.  The Network released its summary for city leaders at the Paris talks only three weeks ago, and Boulder’s Paty Romero Lankao was there to promote the report — she was a co-editor of the report and coordinating lead author of the chapter on governance. Dr. Lankao is a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who investigates the interactions between urban development and global environmental change, and in our show she talks with us about the outlook for cities and the report.

HostsJane Palmer, Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Headline Contributions: Susan Moran, Beth Bennett, Jane Palmer

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Global Climate Models & Climate Change

Events like heat waves are more likely with climate change. Image courtesy of Heartlander Magazine
Events like heat waves are more likely with climate change.
Image courtesy of Heartlander Magazine

Beth Bennett speaks with Claudia Tebaldi, a climate scientist at NCAR, about her work analyzing climate models to project climate change in the future. She addressed heat waves and local conditions and how these models can be used to make projections in these areas. Start time approx 5 min.

Host: Beth Bennett
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Additional contributions: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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NASA Visit // IPCC Report

wg2coverEarth Day gives us plenty of reason to reflect on the state of the planet and the impact we humans have had on it. This week’s show featured Dr. Linda Mearns, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, who is among hundreds of scientists who produced the latest report on global climate change. She’s a lead author of a chapter on regional climate change in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She also co-authored previous IPCC assessments – in 1995, 2001, and 2007. Dr. Mearns talks with How On Earth host Susan Moran about the science and implications of the IPCC report, including what it means for Colorado and the broader U.S. West.

Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch at the station, the recording of that live interview was lost. But we still have audio from our second feature.

NASA chief Charles Bolden meets with CU students on Friday, April 18, 2014. Photo: University of Colorado
NASA chief Charles Bolden meets with CU students on April 18, 2014. Photo: University of Colorado

Charles Bolden, the top administrator at NASA, was here in Boulder last week, touring the classrooms and facilities that earn the University of Colorado more space agency dollars than any other public university in the nation. We’ll hear what he has to say about CU’s role in the space program — past, present and future.

We’ve also recreated the Earth Day tribute that opened the show. These days it’s more like Earth Week, and it’s not too late to catch some of the planet-happy celebrations going on in the Boulder area this weekend. Listen for details.

Co-hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Producer and Engineer: Ted Burnham

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Volcanoes & the Atmosphere // Traffic in Beijing

Nabro volcano
(Image compliments of NASA.)

Volcanoes & the Atmosphere (start time 6:17): We’ve known for a long time that volcanic particles and gases can travel around the world, often affecting climate.  The 1815 eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora chilled New England and Europe, resulting in what came to be known as “the year without a summer.”  More recently, the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines cooled temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere by up to 0.6 degrees Celsius. Those were both sizable eruptions.  Co-host Beth Bartel talks with Bill Randel, division director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, about what a mid-sized eruption in the horn of Africa can tell us about atmospheric circulation.

Traffic in Beijing
(Image compliments of Flickr user hldpn.)

Traffic in Beijing (start time 15:13): A new study shows that China gets a gold medal for dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Yes, that’s Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world. The new study shows that China severely restricted auto traffic in the city, leading to a major reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it could be enough to make a dent in curbing climate change if similar efforts were to be made in cities around the world, and on a sustained basis. Co-host Susan Moran discuss the new paper and its implications with Helen Worden of the National Center of Atmospheric Research.

Hosts: Beth Bartel and Susan Moran
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran


Green Tech Author // NCAR Climate Scientist

energy comics, courtesy

This week’s How On Earth offers two features:
Co-host Susan Moran interviews Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor for The Atlantic magazine and author of the new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. Madrigal spins tales of the bicycle boom in the 1800s and how it paved the way for cars, ironically; of a time when gasoline emerged as a waste product of kerosene for lighting; and when crude oil was what you might call the environmentally sound alternative to oil from whales, which were nearly hunted to extinction.  Madrigal also pays tribute to Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab and its deep history of spawning renewable energy and surviving budget cuts. And he honors green-tech (and fossil fuel) inventors and beacons of yesteryear, as he looks forward to what a greener future could be.

In the second feature, Shelley Schlender interviews Warren Washington, a ground-breaking climate scientist at the National Center of Atmospheric Research in Boulder. He’s a world leader in using computers to model climate.  Last year he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama. Dr. Washington’s autobiography is  Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Ted Burnham
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender