Posts tagged change
While 99 percent of Earth’s land ice is locked up in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the remaining ice in the world’s glaciers contributed just as much to sea rise as the two ice sheets combined from 2003 to 2009, says a new study led by Clark University and involving the University Colorado Boulder.
The new research found that all glacial regions lost mass from 2003 to 2009, with the biggest ice losses occurring in Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and the Himalayas. The glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic sheets lost an average of roughly 260 billion metric tons of ice annually during the study period, causing the oceans to rise 0.03 inches, or about 0.7 millimeters per year.
The study compared traditional ground measurements to satellite data from NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, and the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, missions to estimate ice loss for glaciers in all regions of the planet.
“For the first time, we’ve been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea rise,” said geography Assistant Professor Alex Gardner of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., lead study author. “These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets.”
A paper on the subject is being published in the May 17 issue of the journal Science.
“Because the global glacier ice mass is relatively small in comparison with the huge ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, people tend to not worry about it,” said CU-Boulder Professor Tad Pfeffer, a study co-author. “But it’s like a little bucket with a huge hole in the bottom: it may not last for very long, just a century or two, but while there’s ice in those glaciers, it’s a major contributor to sea level rise,” said Pfeffer, a glaciologist at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research
ICESat, which ceased operations in 2009, measured glacier changes using laser altimetry, which bounces laser pulses off the ice surface to determine changes in the height of ice cover. The GRACE satellite system, still operational, detects variations in Earth’s gravity field resulting from changes in the planet’s mass distribution, including ice displacements.
GRACE does not have a fine enough resolution and ICESat does not have sufficient sampling density to study small glaciers, but mass change estimates by the two satellite systems for large glaciated regions agree well, the scientists concluded.
“Because the two satellite techniques, ICESat and GRACE, are subject to completely different types of errors, the fact that their results are in such good agreement gives us increased confidence in those results,” said CU-Boulder physics Professor John Wahr, a study co-author and fellow at the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
Ground-based estimates of glacier mass changes include measurements along a line from a glacier’s summit to its edge, which are extrapolated over a glacier’s entire area. Such measurements, while fairly accurate for individual glaciers, tend to cause scientists to overestimate ice loss when extrapolated over larger regions, including individual mountain ranges, according to the team.
Current estimates predict if all the glaciers in the world were to melt, they would raise sea level by about two feet. In contrast, an entire Greenland ice sheet melt would raise sea levels by about 20 feet, while if Antarctica lost its ice cover, sea levels would rise nearly 200 feet.
The study involved 16 researchers from 10 countries. In addition to Clark University and CU-Boulder, major research contributions came from the University of Michigan, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Trent University in Ontario, Canada, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies in Boulder, NASA’s ICESat satellite was successfully operated from the CU-Boulder campus by a team made up primarily of undergraduates from its launch in 2003 to its demise in 2009 when the science payload failed. The students participated in the unusual decommissioning of a functioning satellite in 2010, bringing the craft into Earth re-entry to burn up. ICESat’s successor, ICESat-2, is slated for launch in 2016 by NASA.
-CU media release-
As a result of a state mandate to eliminate “List A” noxious weed species from all public and private property in Colorado communities, the City of Boulder is proposing an update to its existing weed ordinance to require property owners to remove the weeds from all properties.
“List A” weed species, as provided in the Colorado Noxious Weed Act, are plants that have yet to be well established in Colorado but are either present in small populations or are invasive in nearby states. There are two species of “List A” weeds that are of most concern within Boulder’s city limits: myrtle spurge and Japanese knotweed. The city was awarded a grant through the Colorado Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed Management Fund to assist in an educational plan.
“Early detection and eradication of these particular species can prevent them from becoming a major problem in Colorado,” said city Integrated Pest Management Coordinator Rella Abernathy. “Most of these plants are ‘escaped’ ornamental plants and many residents may not realize that they present a threat to the natural lands surrounding Boulder and are illegal to grow here.”
These noxious, invasive plants can negatively impact biodiversity, threaten endangered species, degrade native habitat, displace wildlife, increase soil erosion, damage streams and other wetlands and increase the risk and frequency of wildfires if allowed to spread. Boulder is in compliance with the Colorado Noxious Weed Act on city-owned properties but has not been enforcing the statue on private property.
The city will focus on education and outreach to notify the public of the requirements and to provide information for identification, environmentally-sound weed removal and suggested replacement plant options.
“A soft enforcement approach is being implemented with voluntary compliance being the goal and enforcement action being a last resort,” said Code Enforcement Supervisor Jennifer Riley. “However, ticketing is possible if property owners do not comply with repeated requests from officers to address illegal weeds.”
Education will begin with a “Purge Your Spurge” event on May 18 where residents are encouraged to pull their myrtle spurge and exchange it for free native plants. This event will occur as part of Boulder Community Day at the East Boulder Community Center, 5660 Sioux Drive, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Other education efforts will include a webpage; fact sheets; media engagement; outreach to nurseries, landscapers and lawn care companies; and code enforcement officers who assist with education in the field.
“Identifying and removing noxious weeds from private property can take some effort, but it’s important to prevent these weeds from spreading to our neighbors’ yards and ultimately to natural areas,” said Abernathy. “Fortunately, only two of the weeds from the list are widespread within the Boulder city limits, myrtle spurge being the most common. We want to make sure people can easily identify the weeds, know how to remove them safely and know what native plants can be used to replace them.”
Myrtle spurge has been commonly used as a decorative plant. People should be aware that it contains a white sap that can cause skin irritation including blistering if touched. Those removing it should wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves and eye protection. Removing at least four inches of the root is recommended to prevent its return. It should be placed in a plastic bag and tightly fastened. DON’T compost noxious weeds as that will cause the weed to spread.
The city’s weed ordinance is expected to be modified through a City Manager rule change, which will be published in the Daily Camera on May 3, as well as on the city’s website. Public feedback will be accepted until May 20. The rule is anticipated to go into effect on June 1, 2013.
For more information or to provide feedback on the proposed City Manager’s rule, contact Rella Abernathy at 303-441-1901.
– CITY OF BOULDER NEWS RELEASE –
The Earth’s climate zones are shifting at an accelerating pace, says a new study led by a scientist at the CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
The acceleration of change means that the species inhabiting each zone have less time to adapt to the climatic changes, said lead author Irina Mahlstein, a CIRES scientist who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “The warmer the climate gets, the faster the climate zones are shifting. This could make it harder for plants and animals to adjust.”
The study is the first to look at the accelerating pace of the shifting of climate zones, which are areas of the Earth defined by annual and seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation, as well as temperature and precipitation thresholds of plant species. Over 30 different climate zones are found on Earth; examples include the equatorial monsoonal zone, the polar tundra zone and cold arid desert zone.
“A shift in the climate zone is probably a better measure of ‘reality’ for living systems, more so than changing temperature by a degree or precipitation by a centimeter,” said Mahlstein.
The scientists used climate model simulations and a well-known ecosystem classification scheme to look at the shifts between climate zones over a two-century period, 1900 to 2098. The team found that for an initial 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of warming, about 5 percent of Earth’s land area shifts to a new climate zone.
The models show that the pace of change quickens for the next 3.6 F of warming as an additional 10 percent of the land area shifts to a new climate zone. The paper was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 21.
Certain regions of the globe, such as northern middle and high latitudes, will undergo more changes than other regions, such as the tropics, the scientists found. In the tropics, mountainous regions will experience bigger changes than low-altitude areas.
In the coming century, the findings suggest that frost climates — the coldest climate zone of the planet — will largely decrease. In general, dry regions in different areas of the globe will increase, and a large fraction of land area will change from cool summers to hot summers, according to the study.
The scientists also investigated whether temperature or precipitation had a greater impact on how much of the land area changed zones. “We found that temperature is the main factor, at least through the end of this century,” said Mahlstein.
John Daniel at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and Susan Solomon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology co-authored the study.
-CU press release
Boulder County Recognized for its Leadership on Reducing Carbon Pollution and Addressing Climate Change0
Boulder County awarded a 2013 Organizational Leadership Award as part of the annual the Climate Leadership Awards sponsored by EPA and other leading climate change organizations
Boulder County, Colo. – Boulder County is pleased to be among fewer than a handful of local governments recognized for its leadership and innovation around the issue of climate change and clean energy.
Today it was announced by the EPA’s Climate Protection Partnerships Division and its co-sponsors, The Climate Registry (The Registry), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), that Boulder County is a winner of the 2013 Organizational Leadership Award as part of the annual the Climate Leadership Awards (CLA).
The CLA is a national awards program that recognizes and encourages exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change. Award winners must demonstrate leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in internal operations and throughout the supply chain, as well as integrating climate resilience into their operating strategies.
“We are thrilled to be recognized for the work of our staff and our partners throughout the community who have made it their tireless priority to engage residents of Boulder County in activities and actions that have led to real change on behalf of the environment and reducing our carbon footprint countywide,” said Cindy Domenico, Chair of the Boulder County Commissioners. “Whether it be in the realm of energy efficiency, transportation, Zero Waste, residential and commercial building retrofits, or significant investments in renewable energy options, we’re proud to be on the leading edge of innovation in these areas.”
This year’s awards mark a noteworthy increase in public-sector city and county engagement, a priority effort that Boulder County has championed in collaboration with its municipal partners since the creation of the county’s Sustainability Initiative in 2005.
“It is an honor to receive recognition for the commitment that our past and present County Commissioners and sustainability staff have made to a healthier and more environmentally sustainable place to live,” said Boulder County Sustainability Coordinator, Susie Strife. “This award is a reflection of the hard work, progressive decision making and leadership of Boulder County and the collaborative partnership with all of our municipalities, in particular the Cities of Boulder and Longmont.”
Programs like EnergySmart, Boulder County’s Energy Efficiency service, are helping Boulder County reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings. EnergySmart has helped over 8,600 homes and 2,400 businesses with energy efficiency upgrades.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, EnergySmart is stimulating the local economy with over $16 million in energy efficiency upgrades and advancing the state’s energy independence. EnergySmart is a collaborative partnership throughout Boulder County, and is funded by seed funding from the Department of Energy’s BetterBuildings Program, combined with contributions from the City of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan tax and the City of Longmont.
Other demonstrations of the county’s forward thinking actions include the development of the Climate Change Preparedness Plan, blueprints for action around sustainability and energy efficiency, and the county’s recently completed Transportation Master Plan which identifies programs, services, and facilities that Boulder County will implement to help people get where they need to go in the future in a safe, efficient, and environmentally sensitive manner.
The CLA awards will be presented tonight at the Climate Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
The City of Boulder today released a 38-page report detailing the results of extensive research into the possibility of creating a city-owned and operated electric utility. The evaluation looked at a total of six options for meeting the community’s Energy Future goals. One is a baseline evaluation of staying with Xcel Energy with no change to the way it operates. The other five are options predicated on the city creating its own utility, which would be free from regulations that can limit innovation and customization.
The results show that there are several forms a new utility could take that don’t require trade-offs among the community’s core values. The Boulder community has said it wants cleaner and greener energy with rates and reliability comparable to or better than those provided by Xcel Energy. The community is also seeking more local control and a voice in decision-making, as well as an opportunity to enhance economic vitality by providing a test bed for emerging technology and a low-cost, high-reliability environment in which businesses can thrive.
When Boulder voters approved the continued exploration of a municipal utility in November 2011, they set limiting requirements in the Charter that must be met before City Council could proceed. These included provisions related to rates, revenue sufficiency and reliability, as well as plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase renewable sources of energy.
Under some of the options analyzed, a municipal electric utility would meet the Charter metrics and have a high likelihood of being able to:
· Offer all three major customer classes (residential, commercial and industrial) lower rates than what they would pay Xcel, not just on day one, as required by the Charter, but on average over 20 years;
· Maintain or exceed current levels of system reliability and emergency response, and, if the community chose to, use future investments to enhance dependability;
· Reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent from current levels and exceed the Kyoto Protocol target in year one;
· Obtain 54 percent or more of its electricity from renewable resources; and
· Create a model public electric utility with leading-edge innovations in reliability, energy efficiency, renewable energy, related economic development and customer service.
The report also examines the impact that a variety of stranded cost and acquisition cost rulings could have on rates and revenue requirements over 20 years.
The full memo, with all attachments, is available at www.boulderenergyfuture.com.
Process and Participation
“We are excited to share the results of this detailed analysis with City Council and our community. We believe the findings demonstrate that a municipal utility could be good for consumers, good for Boulder businesses and good for our planet,” said Heather Bailey, executive director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development. “We look forward to an informed conversation over the next couple of month about how best to proceed.”
Bailey said she is especially grateful for the participation of more than 50 community members, many of whom have industry expertise, who donated their time to serve on working groups. These groups helped to ensure that a variety of perspectives was included and that all modeling was based on reasonable assumptions and data.
“This has been a community-wide review process, and this has greatly enhanced the quality and integrity of our report,” Bailey said. “I wish to thank everyone who has played a role in this direct way, as well as the countless members of the public who have shared their thoughts and concerns with me over the past year.”
An Xcel Energy Partnership Alternative?
While the city is committed to exploring ways to achieve “the electric utility of the future,” it has acknowledged that there might be ways to do so short of creating its own utility – in the form of a new partnership with the existing electric provider, Xcel Energy.
In December, the city released a paper that outlined a variety of ideas that could achieve the community’s goals if Xcel Energy is interested. The city has since spoken with officials from the current utility several times, asking them to identify which of the suggestions they would be willing to consider, as well as any innovative approaches the company might like to propose. Xcel officials have said they are open to a dialogue but have not yet come forward with specifics about what ideas they would like to discuss.
The framework for considering how the city should proceed includes the possibility of modeling an Xcel partnership option, when and if additional details become available. There are, in the analysis released today, also at least two options that might be achievable with the participation of a collaborative and willing energy partner.
“What we are looking to do is move beyond a 19th century approach to providing energy and create a forward-looking, innovative and consumer-friendly utility model that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels,” Bailey said. “Xcel Energy has served us for decades, and in many ways, done an admirable job. It is possible they could help us meet our objectives. We would welcome their involvement in a meaningful, timely and transparent discussion.”
Boulder City Council is scheduled to hear a presentation based on this memo and ask questions at a Study Session on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The session will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 8 for Boulder viewers and online at www.boulderchannel8.com. A recording will also be available at the above website for later viewing. There is no opportunity for public comment at study sessions, but they are an excellent way to learn more about a topic and the staff’s work.
City Council will discuss this issue again – and decide whether to move forward with the next steps related to the potential creation of a city electric utility – on April 16. This meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at 1777 Broadway and will include a public hearing.
Opportunities for Public Feedback
Between now and council’s April 16 decision, the city is providing multiple ways for the community to provide input about the analysis and how council might move forward.
As always, council accepts correspondence on any issue of community interest. In addition, there is a comment form available for this specific initiative on the project website.
In addition, the city is offering the following unique opportunities:
· An online questionnaire that will be available at www.bouldercolorado.gov between Feb. 27 and March 27;
· A conference telephone call designed to focus on rates and reliability, two key concerns for the business community, from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 (please register in advance at www.bouldercolorado.gov/energyfuture/businesscall);
· A community open house exploring the pros and cons of each of the modeled options from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, at the West Senior Center, 909 W. Arapahoe Ave.;
· Focused questions and examination of the options on the city’s new digital town hall platform, Inspire Boulder; and
· Presentations, by invitation, from Bailey or other members of the staff team to interested organizations and associations.
All input collected during the next couple of months will be shared with council in advance of the April 16 meeting.
Creeping climate change in the Southwest appears to be having a negative effect on pinyon pine reproduction, a finding with implications for wildlife species sharing the same woodland ecosystems, says a University of Colorado Boulder-led study.
The new study showed that pinyon pine seed cone production declined by an average of about 40 percent at nine study sites in New Mexico and northwestern Oklahoma over the past four decades, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Miranda Redmond, who led the study. The biggest declines in pinyon pine seed cone reproduction were at the higher elevation research sites experiencing more dramatic warming relative to lower elevations, said Redmond of CU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department.
“We are finding significant declines in pinyon pine cone production at many of our study sites,” said Redmond. “The biggest declines in cone production we measured were in areas with greater increases in temperatures over the past several decades during the March to October growing season.”
The cones in which the pinyon seeds are produced are initiated two years prior to seed maturity, and research suggests the environmental stimulus for cone initiation is unseasonably low temperatures during the late summer, said Redmond. Between 1969 and 2009, unseasonably low temperatures in late summer decreased in the study areas, likely inhibiting cone initiation and development.
The study is one of the first to examine the impact of climate change on tree species like pinyon pines that, instead of reproducing annually, shed vast quantities of cones every few years during synchronous, episodic occurrences known as “masting” events. Redmond said such masting in the pinyon pine appears to occur every three to seven years, resulting in massive “bumper crops” of cones covering the ground.
In the new Ecosphere study, the researchers compared two 10-year sequences of time. In addition to showing that total pinyon pine cone production during the 2003-2012 decade had declined from the 1969-1978 decade in the study areas, the team found the production of cones during masting events also declined during that period.
Some scientists believe masting events evolved to produce a big surplus of nut-carrying cones — far too many for wildlife species to consume in a season — making it more likely the nuts eventually will sprout into pinyon pine seedlings, she said. Others have suggested masting events occur during favorable climate conditions and/or to increase pollination efficiency. “Right now we really don’t know what drives them,” Redmond said.
“Across a range of forested ecosystems we are observing widespread mortality events due to stressors such as changing climate, drought, insects and fire,” said CU’s Barger. “This study provides evidence that increasing air temperatures may be influencing the ability of a common and iconic western U.S. tree, pinyon pine, to reproduce. We would predict that declines in pinyon pine cone production may impact the long-term viability of these tree populations.”
Wildlife biologists say pinyon-juniper woodlands are popular with scores of bird and mammal species ranging from black-chinned hummingbirds to black bears. A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Northern Arizona estimated that 150 Clark’s Nutcrackers cached roughly 5 million pinyon pine nuts in a single season, benefiting not only the birds themselves but also the pines whose nuts were distributed more widely for possible germination.
For the new study, Redmond revisited nine pinyon pine study sites scattered throughout New Mexico and Oklahoma that had been studied previously in 1978 by Forcella. Both Forcella and Redmond were able to document pinyon pine masting years by counting small, concave blemishes known as “abscission scars” on individual tree branches that appeared after the cones have been dropped, she said.
Since each year in the life of a pinyon pine tree is marked by a “whorl” — a single circle of branches extending around a tree trunk — the researchers were able to bracket pinyon pine reproductive activity in the nine study areas for the 1969-1978 decade and 2003-2012 decade, which were then compared.
Pinyon pines take three growing seasons, or about 26 months, to produce mature cones from the time of cone initiation. Low elevation conifers including pinyon pines grow in water-limited environments and have been shown to have higher cone output during cool and/or wet summers, said Redmond. In addition to the climate-warming trend under way in the Southwest, the 2002-03 drought caused significant mortality in pinyon pine forests, Redmond said.
“Miranda’s ideas and accompanying results will be of value to ecologists and land managers in the deserts of the Southwest and beyond,” said Forcella, now a research agronomist in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. “The work is evidence that the University of Colorado continues to cultivate a cadre of high-caliber graduate students for which it rightfully can take tremendous pride.”
Pinyon nuts, the Southwest’s only commercial source of edible pine seeds today, were dietary staples of indigenous Americans going back millennia.
For more information on CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department visit http://ebio.colorado.edu.
Written by Ann Schimke on Feb 5th, 2013. | Copyright © EdNewsColorado.org
Jamie Marrufo, a senior at Greeley West High School, noticed right away that the vending machine in the student commons looked a little different when she got back from winter break.
One of the new vending machines offering healthier snacks in the Weld School District 6.
“I was like, ‘Where are the Snickers?’”
They were gone.
So were the rest of the candy bars as well as the fried potato and corn chips. In their place were baked chips, honey wheat pretzels, Chex Mix, beef jerky, granola bars, and pouches of trail mix, peanuts, almonds and sunflower seeds. The change was part of a district-wide vending machine makeover intended to offer snacks lower in fat, sugar and calories.
Although Marrufo, who buys snacks from the machine about twice a week, loves Snickers bars, she likes the new vending machine choices too.
“It’s healthy food,” she said. “I think it’s good.”
Her friend Aimee Veenendaal, a junior who doesn’t like candy, also approved of the changes.
“I actually like it because that’s basically what I eat…the healthier stuff.”
Weld County School District 6 launched the new snack vending program in early January with the help of a $157,329 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation. The grant paid for the district’s 16 food vending machines, a vending truck, the salary of a district vending employee for one year and marketing materials to promote the new program.
Jenna Schiffelbein, the district’s wellness specialist, said the impetus for the switch was feedback from a district-wide wellness assessment in 2011-12. With the exception of some nut products, the new vending snacks, which are accessible to students only at the district’s four high schools, all adhere to the district’s standards on fat and sugar content. In addition, each snack is coded with a red, yellow or green sticker indicating that, nutritionally speaking, it is “good,” “better,” or “best.”
The district has not changed the contents of its beverage vending machines as part of the new program, though Schiffelbein said that may come later. Currently, beverage machines in all Colorado districts are regulated by the state’s Healthy Beverages Policy standards, which prohibit soda from being sold to students.
Do your homework
- Colorado’s Healthy Beverage Policy standards
- Colorado law banning trans fat from school food, effective 9/1/13
- Resources for healthy vending programs from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation
- Colorado Legacy Foundation: School Nutrition Data Snapshot
- Colorado laws on “School Food Environment” from the National Association of State Boards of Education’s“State School Healthy Policy Database”
- Centers for Disease Control report: “Competitive Foods and Beverages in U.S. Schools: A State Policy Analysis”
Healthy vending programs increasing
Weld District 6 is part of a growing group of Colorado districts that have slimmed down their vending machine snacks in recent years. While there is no hard data on the number of districts that have launched healthy vending programs, school nutrition leaders agree that more and more districts are heading in this direction.
Denver Public Schools and Jeffco Public Schools launched healthy vending programs several years ago, Boulder Valley joined the club last year, and Adams 12 is currently in the process of making the switch.
Jane Brand, director of the Colorado Department of Education’s Office of School Nutrition, said a variety of factors have driven the change, including the USDA’s updated nutrition standards for school meals, which took effect last fall, and its new, long-awaited “Smart Snacks in Schools” proposal, which came out Feb. 1.
Greater awareness about health and wellness in schools and high-profile initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign have also contributed to the push for healthier vending snacks, she said.
Naomi Steenson, director of Nutrition Services and Before and After School Enrichment in Adams 12, said, “It’s the right thing to do for the kids.”
The Jeffco experience
In Jeffco Public Schools, the largest district in the state, the vending program was revamped with healthier food in 2007-08 after a state audit found the district in violation of the federally-mandated “Competitive Foods” rule barring vending items from being sold when school meals are served. Linda Stoll, executive director of Food and Nutrition Services, said the district’s vending machines were supposed to be on timers that would disable them at the appropriate times, but because they lacked the technology the machines were always on.
As a result of the violation, the district launched a new vending bid process, specifying nutrition guidelines from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization focused on reducing childhood obesity. The guidelines use a common rule called the “35-10-35” standard, which stipulates that no more than 35 percent of a snack’s total calories can be from fat, no more than 10 percent can be from saturated and trans fat, and no more than 35 percent of a snack’s weight can be from sugar. Boulder Valley also uses these guidelines while Weld 6 uses a slightly stricter “30-10-35” standard.
In addition to a version of the 35-10-35 standard, some districts opt for additional parameters. For example, Boulder Valley also bans vending fare with non-nutritive sweeteners, hydrogenated or trans fat, artificial dyes, additives or preservatives. Jeffco prohibits high fructose corn syrup.
Not all snacks that met the letter of Jeffco’s standards were approved by Stoll. She vetoed MoonPies because she believed they were unhealthy though somehow they met the guidelines.
Stoll said she hopes the changes, which affected students in 17 high schools, have encouraged students to make healthier food choices.
“I’m sure kids miss Flamin’ Hot Cheetos but I haven’t heard a lot of complaints,” she said.
Impact on sales
While many food service directors expect some decline in sales after switching to healthier vending fare, it’s hard to quantify since individual schools often manage the day-to-day details of vending machines.
A vending machine containing healthier snacks at Greeley West High School.
At Fairview High School in Boulder, sales have dropped about 44 percent since new healthier vending snacks were introduced last winter. Still, school treasurer Ronda Pendergrass said the decrease may have nothing to do with a lack of interest in healthier choices. Instead, she believes it’s because the old machines weren’t properly programmed to be disabled during the school’s lunch periods until a few months into the 2011-12 school year. Thus, they racked up more sales than they should have.
Vending proceeds at Fairview benefit the athletics program, paying for sports equipment, signing parties for college-bound student athletes and some scholarships, said Pendergrass.
In Weld District 6, Nutrition Services Director Jeremy West said with the new vending selection in place, “Sales may dip a little bit. We do not have candy bars in there. We do not have gummy worms in there.”
Ultimately, West’s goal is for the new vending program is to break even, fully supporting itself after the grant funding is gone. Under the new program, 15 percent of vending sales will return to the schools that house the machines and 85 percent will go to the nutrition services department.
Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for Boulder Valley School District (and an expert on EdNews Parent), said she’s not concerned about whether sales have dropped since the district switched to healthier vending items last winter.
CU researchers say deep ice cores show past Greenland warm period may be ‘road map’ for continued warming of planet0
A new study by an international team of scientists analyzing ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet going back in time more than 100,000 years indicates the last interglacial period may be a good analog for where the planet is headed in terms of increasing greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.
The new results from the NEEM deep ice core drilling project led by the University of Copenhagen and involving the University of Colorado Boulder show that between 130,000 and 115,000 years ago during the Eemian interglacial period, the climate in north Greenland rose to about 14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today. Despite the strong warming signal during the Eemian — a period when the seas were roughly 15 to 25 feet higher than today — the surface of the north Greenland ice sheet near the NEEM facility was only a few hundred yards lower than it is today, an indication to scientists it contributed less than half of the total sea rise at the time.
The NEEM project involves 300 scientists and students from 14 countries and is led by Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, director of the University of Copenhagen’s Centre of Ice and Climate. CU-Boulder geological sciences professor and ice core expert Jim White is the lead U.S. investigator on the project. The National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs funded the U.S. portion of the effort.
The new Nature findings showed that about 128,000 years ago, the surface elevation of ice near the NEEM site was more than 650 feet higher than present but the ice was starting to thin by about 2 inches per year. Between about 122,000 and 115,000 years ago, Greenland’s surface elevation remained stable at roughly 425 feet below the present level. Calculations indicate Greenland’s ice sheet volume was reduced by no more than 25 percent between 128,000 years ago and 122,000 years ago, said White.
A paper on the subject was published in the Jan. 24 issue of Nature.
“When we calculated how much ice melt from Greenland was contributing to global sea rise in the Eemian, we knew a large part of the sea rise back then must have come from Antarctica,” said White, director of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “A lot of us had been leaning in that direction for some time, but we now have evidence that confirms that the West Antarctic ice sheet was a dynamic and crucial player in global sea rise during the last interglacial period.”
Dahl-Jensen said the loss of ice mass on the Greenland ice sheet in the early part of the Eemian was likely similar to changes seen there by climate scientists in the past 10 years. Other studies have shown the temperatures above Greenland have been rising five times faster than the average global temperatures in recent years, and that Greenland has been losing more than 200 million tons of ice annually since 2003. The Greenland ice loss study was led by former CU-Boulder scientist Isabella Velicogna, who is currently a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine.
The intense melt in the vicinity of NEEM during the warm Eemian period was seen in the ice cores as layers of re-frozen meltwater. Such melt events during the last glacial period were rare by comparison, showing that the surface temperatures at the NEEM site were in a cold, nearly constant state back then. But on July 12, 2012, satellite images from NASA indicated 97 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet surface had thawed as a result of warming temperatures.
“We were quite shocked by the warm surface temperatures observed at the NEEM ice camp in July 2012,” said Dahl-Jensen. “It was raining at the top of the Greenland ice sheet, and just as during the Eemian period, meltwater formed subsurface ice layers. While this was an extreme event, the present warming over Greenland makes surface melt more likely, and the predicted warming over Greenland in the next 50-100 years will very likely be so strong that we will potentially have Eemian-like climate conditions.”
The Greenland ice core layers — formed over millennia by compressed snow — are being studied in detail using a suite of measurements, including stable water isotope analysis that reveals information about temperature and greenhouse gas levels and moisture changes back in time. Lasers are used to measure the water stable isotopes and atmospheric gas bubbles trapped in the ice cores to better understand past variations in climate on an annual basis — similar in some ways to a tree-ring record.
The results from the Nature study provide scientists with a “road map” of sorts to show where a warming Earth is headed in the future, said White. Of the nine hottest years on Earth on record, eight have come since the year 2000. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that temperatures on Earth could climb by as much as 11 degrees F by 2100.
Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from sources like vehicle exhaust and industrial pollution — which have risen from about 280 parts per million at the onset of the Industrial Revolution to 391 parts per million today — are helping to raise temperatures on Earth, with no end in sight, said White.
“Unfortunately, we have reached a point where there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it’s going to be difficult for us to further limit our impact on the planet,” White said. “Our kids and grandkids are definitely going to look back and shake their heads at the inaction of this country’s generation. We are burning the lion’s share of oil and natural gas to benefit our lifestyle, and punting the responsibility for it.”
In the past, Earth’s journey into and out of glacial periods is thought to be due in large part to variations in its orbit, tilt and rotation that change the amount of solar energy delivered to the planet, he said. But the anthropogenic warming on Earth today could override such episodic changes, perhaps even staving off an ice age, White said.
While three previous ice cores drilled in Greenland in the last 20 years recovered ice from the Eemian, the deepest layers were compressed and folded, making the data difficult to interpret. Although there was some folding of the lowest ice layers in the NEEM core, sophisticated ice-penetrating radar helped scientists sort out and interpret the individual layers to paint an accurate picture of the warming of Earth’s Northern Hemisphere as it emerged from the previous ice age, White said.
In addition to White, other CU-Boulder co-authors on the NEEM paper include INSTAAR scientist Bruce Vaughn and graduate student Tyler Jones of INSTAAR and CU-Boulder’s Environmental Studies Program.
“It’s a challenge being on the ice sheet, because we are out of our comfort zones and are working long, physical hours in an environment that is extremely cold and where the sun never sets,” Jones said. “Being a member of the research team allowed me to understand the ice core recovery process and the science behind it in terms of learning more about past climates and the implications for future climate change.”
Other nations involved in NEEM include Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Other U.S. institutions involved in the effort include Oregon State University, Penn State, the University of California, San Diego and Dartmouth College.
A video and a slide show on the project will be available on the CU-Boulder news site by clicking on the story headline at http://www.colorado.edu/news.
When a sun-gazing NASA satellite designed and built by the University of Colorado Boulder launched into space on Jan. 25, 2003, solar storms were raging.
A decade later, the four instruments onboard the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, or SORCE, have given scientists an unprecedented look at some of the most intense solar eruptions ever witnessed — including the notorious Halloween storms in October and November 2003 — as well as the anomalously quiet solar minimum that hushed the sun’s surface beginning in 2008 and, now, a new solar maximum that appears to be the least active in a century.
“We were there to see it transform from a fairly normal solar cycle to a very low-activity solar cycle,” said Tom Woods, associate director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, known as LASP, and principal investigator for SORCE. “Of course we couldn’t predict or know that, but it’s very exciting.”
The data generated by SORCE’s instruments, which were originally designed to operate for just five years, are downloaded twice a day with the help of CU-Boulder undergraduates working at LASP mission control. Scientists are now using that data to better understand how energy from the sun affects Earth’s climate. While human-produced greenhouse gases have been the dominant driver of climate change over the last several decades, the activity of the sun can either enhance or offset the resulting global warming.
“About 10 to 15 percent of the climate warming since 1970 is due to the sun,” Woods said. “That’s going to change now. Now that solar activity is low, the global warming trend could slow down some, but not nearly enough to offset the anthropogenic effects on global warming.”
The current, lackluster solar maximum is being compared to periods when astronomers observed very few sunspots in the early 19th century known as the Dalton Minimum and in the last half of the 17th century known as the Maunder Minimum. During the Maunder Minimum, which coincided with an era known as the Little Ice Age, temperatures in Europe were especially cool, with rivers and canals freezing during the winter across the continent and rapidly advancing glaciers destroying villages in the Swiss Alps.
The SORCE mission is also a critical contributor to the long-term record of total solar irradiance — the magnitude of the sun’s energy when it reaches the top of the Earth’s atmosphere — which stretches back to 1978, when the Nimbus-7 satellite was launched. The Total Irradiance Monitor, or TIM, instrument onboard SORCE is taking the most accurate and most precise measurements of total solar irradiance ever collected.
“The total solar irradiance provides nearly all the energy powering the Earth’s climate system, exceeding all other energy sources combined by 2,500 times,” said Greg Kopp, LASP senior research scientist and co-investigator responsible for the TIM instrument. “Any change in total irradiance can thus have large effects on our climate.”
Data from the SORCE mission have also begun a new record for measurements of visible and near-infrared light emitted from the sun. The solar spectral irradiance measurements are being made for the first time by the Spectral Irradiance Monitor, or SIM. Combined with other instruments onboard SORCE, scientists can now see all the wavelengths, including those in the ultraviolet range, emitted by the sun at once. This new way of seeing the sun has led to interesting discoveries, including that the energy emitted in some wavelengths of light vary out of phase with the sun’s overall activity, actually increasing as the number of sunspots decreases.
Now that SORCE has doubled its original life expectancy, LASP scientists are building new instruments to take over when SORCE gives out. A new TIM built at LASP launched on NASA’s Glory mission in 2011, but the satellite failed to make orbit. After the loss of Glory, CU-Boulder scientists, determined to avoid a gap in the record of total solar irradiance measurements, came up with a creative solution, repurposing a ground-based TIM to quickly make it space-worthy and then integrating it onto a U.S. Air Force satellite built by Ball Aerospace that is set to launch in August of this year.
“It’s important to have continuous measurements of solar irradiance since we’re looking for small changes in the sun’s output over decades and even centuries,” said Kopp. “Detecting such small changes using measurements disconnected in time would make this even more difficult.”
A new SIM instrument, also built at LASP, is scheduled to launch in 2016 on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite. But while SORCE is expected to continue functioning for at least another year, allowing for overlapping measurements with the TIM instrument launching in August, it’s uncertain if SORCE’s SIM instrument will still be running when its successor makes it to space in 2016.
“We’re definitely hoping and planning that SORCE lasts through this year,” Woods said. “But 2016 — I don’t think SORCE’s battery is going to last that long.”
During SORCE’s 10-year foray in space, the satellite also witnessed two rare transits of the planet Venus in front of the sun and another two less-infrequent transits by Mercury. When Venus, the larger of the two planets and the closer to Earth, blocked out part of the sun’s light, SORCE’s TIM instrument measured a corresponding drop in the amount of total solar irradiance. The measurements are now useful reference tools for astronomers hoping to discover planets around other stars by measuring a dip in a star’s light from a planetary transit.
In all, CU-Boulder has received about $120 million from NASA for the construction and operation of SORCE. But in 2008, LASP took the unusual step of returning $3 million in cost savings from the SORCE mission to NASA that resulted from the program’s efficient operations.
Researchers at LASP are planning to celebrate SORCE’s 10th birthday with cake, a science seminar and a write-up of the satellite’s top-10 accomplishments in NASA’s The Earth Observer magazine.
But while the decade mark is typically an important milestone for celebration here on Earth, the more appropriate milestone for SORCE may come in 2014 at the 11-year mark, the average length of a complete solar cycle
“Eleven years is special to us,” Woods said. “Instead of having a big science conference this year, we’re planning it for next January.”
For more information, visit LASP’s SORCE website at http://lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/index.htm.
A video of CU-Boulder researchers discussing the SORCE mission is available at http://www.colorado.edu/news/multimedia/cu-boulders-sun-gazing-satellite-turns-10-0.
TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity is distributing 50,000 free Endangered Species Condoms for holiday and New Year’s Eve celebrations around the country. More than 600 volunteer distributors will hand out the condoms at events in all 50 states. The condoms are part of the Center’s 7 Billion and Counting campaign focusing on the effects of rapid human population growth on rare plants and animals.
“There are more than 3 billion people on the planet under the age of 25. The choices this generation makes will determine whether our planet and its wildlife and natural resource base are burdened with 8 billion or 15 billion people. The difference between these paths can be measured by how many other species are left to roam alongside us,” said Jerry Karnas, population campaign director with the Center. “Our Endangered Species Condoms are a great way to get a conversation started about how the growing human population is affecting the wild world around us, especially animals already teetering on the edge of extinction.”
As part of its full-time population campaign launched in 2009, the Center has given out 450,000 free Endangered Species Condoms, featuring polar bears, panthers and other species threatened by population growth, loss of habitat and consumption of natural resources. This year, the Center is providing condoms to college health centers, nightclub owners, environmental activists, women’s reproductive-health groups and other activists around the United States.
The world’s human population has doubled since 1970, reaching 7 billion in October 2011. According to the latest research, it could exceed 9 billion by 2050. In recent weeks, several federal reports have noted the impact that population is having on the natural world. A recent decision to propose Endangered Species Act protection for 66 coral species said that “the common root or driver of most, possibly all” of the threats that corals face — like climate change and changing ocean conditions — is the world’s growing human population. Another report, by the Department of the Interior, raised serious questions about the ability of the Colorado River to meet demands of a growing population in the western United States.
“The evidence is mounting, and the solutions are at hand if only we’re just willing to start talking about them,” Karnas said. “Universal access to birth control, a rapid transition to clean energy, robust land-acquisition programs and much smarter growth policies can combine to forge a future for wildlife and a high quality of life for people. There’s no better time to start than in the new year of 2013.”
The Center is the only environmental group with a full-time campaign highlighting the connection between unsustainable human population growth and the ongoing extinction crisis for plants and animals around the world. In 2011 the Center released a report on the top 10 U.S. species threatened by population growth.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Nikolaus Correll likes to think in multiples. If one robot can accomplish a singular task, think how much more could be accomplished if you had hundreds of them.
Correll and his computer science research team, including research associate Dustin Reishus and professional research assistant Nick Farrow, have developed a basic robotic building block, which he hopes to reproduce in large quantities to develop increasingly complex systems.
Recently the team created a swarm of 20 robots, each the size of a pingpong ball, which they call “droplets.” When the droplets swarm together, Correll said, they form a “liquid that thinks.”
To accelerate the pace of innovation, he has created a lab where students can explore and develop new applications of robotics with basic, inexpensive tools.
Similar to the fictional “nanomorphs” depicted in the “Terminator” films, large swarms of intelligent robotic devices could be used for a range of tasks. Swarms of robots could be unleashed to contain an oil spill or to self-assemble into a piece of hardware after being launched separately into space, Correll said.
Correll plans to use the droplets to demonstrate self-assembly and swarm-intelligent behaviors such as pattern recognition, sensor-based motion and adaptive shape change. These behaviors could then be transferred to large swarms for water- or air-based tasks.
Correll hopes to create a design methodology for aggregating the droplets into more complex behaviors such as assembling parts of a large space telescope or an aircraft.
In the fall, Correll received the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development award known as “CAREER.” In addition, he has received support from NSF’s Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research program, as well as NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
He also is continuing work on robotic garden technology he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009. Correll has been working with Joseph Tanner in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department to further develop the technology, involving autonomous sensors and robots that can tend gardens, in conjunction with a model of a long-term space habitat being built by students.
Correll says there is virtually no limit to what might be created through distributed intelligence systems.
“Every living organism is made from a swarm of collaborating cells,” he said. “Perhaps some day, our swarms will colonize space where they will assemble habitats and lush gardens for future space explorers.”
For a short video of Correll’s team developing swarm droplets visit http://www.colorado.edu/news/multimedia/researchers-creating-team-tiny-robots. For more information about CU-Boulder’s computer science department visit http://www.colorado.edu/engineering/academics/degree/computer-science.
Boulder County Commissioners adopt 2013 budget
The county’s mill levy and general operating budget to remain flat for 2013
Boulder County, Colo. – The Boulder County Commissioners have adopted a budget of $319.6 million for 2013, down from $321.7 million in 2012.
The 2013 budget represents a nearly flat comparison to the one adopted in 2012, based largely on the fact that the county is in its second year of a biannual property reappraisal cycle. With property values assessed only every other year, the second year in the cycle rarely reflects much of a change in the property tax portion of the county’s projected revenue stream.
The real difference in the budget this year is reflected through a reduction in carryover funds from the year prior and the annual adjustment of revenues in funds other than the General Fund (such as the Road & Bridge Fund and Capital Expenditure Fund) which fluctuate year-to-year based on their designated purpose and funding sources.
In keeping with a flat budget, the County Commissioners have worked hard to bring expenses in line with revenues for 2013, all the while continuing to support programs popular with county residents.
As in past years, the careful and deliberate process of evaluating program requests by elected offices and departments in a public forum has led to sound fiscal decisions that allow the county to function at a high level and continue to provide excellent service to county residents with essentially no increase to the General Fund.
“The 2013 budget is a culmination of more than six months of productive discussion and input from our non-profit leaders, elected officials and department heads who work closely every day with members of the public to figure out how best to meet the needs our community,” said Cindy Domenico, Chair of the Board of County Commissioners. “We are pleased to adopt this fully balanced budget which serves as a guiding document for carrying out the values of our residents.”
Commissioner Deb Gardner said she was pleased to adopt a budget that “balances the long and short term needs of the county and works within a sustainable context to make sure that the county will stay on track for years to come in responding to the priorities set forth by the residents of Boulder County.”
Commissioner Will Toor remarked on the complexity of the county budget and praised the efforts of county leaders and staff for continuing to implement and expand on highly-desired programs for residents, even within a fiscally-constrained framework.
“Whether we look at the strong support for our non-profit community and our human services safety net programs, or the extension of the popular EnergySmart program,” which faces an end to its federal grant in mid-2013, “or the continued improvement of our county’s transportation network, including all modes of transportation, we’re very pleased with the ability to support incremental expansions of these programs despite the fiscal constraints we’re under,” said Toor.
The County Commissioners thanked staff and everyone from the public who participated in the budget process, acknowledging that the collaborative effort in creating next year’s budget made for a much better document through their efforts.
Commissioners certify mill levy
The Commissioners also today certified a mill levy of 24.645 mills, the same as the last two years, which is projected to generate property tax revenues of $134,612,456 in 2013 (up only slightly from $134,408,021 in 2012). The county’s mill levy amount represents roughly 29 percent of a property owner’s total average property tax bill within Boulder County. Other taxing entities that receive property tax revenues include (from 2012 data): school districts (53%), cities and towns (11%), and “other” fire, water and special districts (7%).
For a copy of the funding package for 2013, visit: www.bouldercounty.org/gov/budget.
A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has been awarded $9.2 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy to research modifying E. coli to produce biofuels such as gasoline.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to take what we have worked on for the past decade to the next level,” said team leader Ryan Gill, a fellow of CU-Boulder’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, or RASEI. “In this project, we will develop technologies that are orders of magnitude beyond where we are currently.”
The team is working with a non-pathogenic strain of E. coli. Among the microbe’s more than 4,000 genes, the team is searching for a small set and how it can be manipulated in a combination of on and off states to change the bacteria’s behavior.
“E. coli is not going to want to make your biofuel at all,” said Gill, who’s also a CU-Boulder associate professor of chemical and biological engineering. “It doesn’t do that naturally. It’s programmed with thousands of genes controlling how it replicates. We’re figuring out what control structure we need to rewire in the bug to make it do what we want, not what it wants.”
Included in the team are Rob Knight, CU-Boulder associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Pin-Ching Maness, principal scientist at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL; and Adam Arkin, physical biosciences director at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The researchers hope to engineer the production of ethylene and isobutanol in the modified E. coli. The two compounds are widely used commodities that can be converted into gasoline among other chemicals.
The greatest challenge is harnessing an efficient and inexpensive process that competes with abundant and low-cost fossil fuels like oil, according to Gill.
“Microorganisms and their genomes are incredibly complex machines,” said Gill. “The first step alone — of pinpointing the part of the E. coli genome that can help us make biofuels or other chemicals on a cost-competitive basis — is a daunting challenge. Then we have to determine if the results we want will take one year or decades, $5 million or $500 million.”
The team will be able to simultaneously identify numerous E. coli genes and the results of turning these genes on or off using advanced technologies. Many of the technologies have been developed by the researchers’ own labs.
The grant is the first of its kind from the DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research and was awarded to only seven other research groups including teams led by MIT, Purdue University and the J. Craig Venter Institute.
In 2011, CU’s Technology Transfer Office named Gill an inventor of the year. In 2005, Gill won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award as well as a National Institutes of Health K25 Career Development Award for genomics research and teaching.