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NCAR & UCAR Scientists Highlight Advances in Weather, Water & Climate Research at AGU 2016

SAN FRANCISCO – Scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) will make dozens of presentations at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) during the week of December 12–16.Media Q&AThe Path Forward from Paris, One Year LaterUCAR President Antonio J. Busalacchi, AGU President Margaret Leinen (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), and Carlos Nobre (Brazilian National Institute of Science & Technology for Climate Change) - related to Union Session U23ATuesday, December 13, 4 p.m. - Moscone West 3000 (Press Conference Room)Note: The Moscone West Q&A follows Union Session U23A with these participants in Moscone North Hall E from 1:40-3:40 p.m.Selected Talks MONDAY | TUESDAY | WEDNESDAY | THURSDAY | FRIDAYFull calendar, special events& exhibitsNCAR & UCAR at AGU 2016>@AtmosNewsLive | #NCARscience MONDAY, December 12Getting Space Weather Data and More From 'Noise' in GPS Signals: The COSMIC MissionsWilliam Schreiner, UCARSA11A-04: Satellite Constellations for Space Weather and Ionospheric Studies: Overview of the COSMIC and COSMIC-2 Missions8:45-9:00 a.m., Moscone West 2016Climate Change, Lyme, Zika, and Other Vector-Borne DiseasesAndrew Monaghan, NCARGC12A-02: Assessment of Climate Change and Vector-Borne Diseases in the United States10:30-10:50 a.m., Moscone West 2020Extreme Rainfall Could Increase Fivefold Across Parts of the U.S. Later This CenturyAndreas Prein, NCARGC13H-04: The Future Intensification of Hourly Precipitation Extremes2:25-2:40 p.m., Moscone West 3003Building Resilient Cities and Ecosystems: Food, Energy, and Water SecurityPatricia Romero-Lankao, NCARU13A-05: Urbanization, Extreme Climate Hazards, and Food/Energy/Water Security2:54-3:12 p.m., Moscone West 2022/2024TUESDAY, December 13Carbon Dioxide's Opposite Effects in the Upper AtmosphereStan Solomon, NCARSA21C-03: Climate Change in the Upper Atmosphere8:30-8:45 a.m., Moscone West 20163D-Printed Weather Stations Aid Forecasting in Developing NationsPaul Kucera, NCARH23F-1637: Development of Innovative Technology to Expand Precipitation Observations in Satellite Precipitation Validation in Under-developed Data-Sparse Regions1:40-6:00 p.m., Moscone South - Poster HallScenarios for Reaching the Paris Agreement TargetsBen Sanderson, NCARGC24D-02: Pathways to 1.5 Degrees: New GCM Simulations for Scenarios Which Meet the Paris Temperature Targets4:15-4:27 p.m., Moscone West 3003WEDNESDAY, December 14Seeing Into Tornadoes and Hurricanes with High-Resolution SimulationsGeorge Bryan, NCARIN31F-07: Insights into Tornadoes, Hurricanes from High-Resolution Simulations9:30-9:45 a.m., Moscone West 2000A Weather Resiliency Toolbox for Communities and BusinessesJames Done, NCARPA32A-03: Tools in Support of Planning for Weather and Climate Extremes10:58-11:11 a.m., Moscone South 304Exploring Unanswered Questions in the Evolution of Prehistoric Climate - The Emiliani LectureBette Otto-Bliesner, NCARPP32A-01: Resolving Some Puzzles of Climate Evolution Since the Last Glacial Maximum: A Melding of Paleoclimate Modeling and Data11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m., Moscone West 2022/2024THURSDAY, December 15Novel Uses of Climate Information for Water Utility Planners David Yates, NCAR U42A-02: The Novel Use of Climate Information in Water Utility Planning 10:40-10:58 a.m., Moscone South 102What's In Wildfire Smoke? Jerome Barre, NCAR A42D-04: Quantifying Fire Emissions and Associated Aerosol Species Using Assimilation of Satellite Carbon Monoxide Retrievals 11:05-11:20 a.m., Moscone West 3004 <FRIDAY, December 16What's Causing Errors in Hurricane & Tropical Storm Forecasts? Chris Davis, NCAR A54F-06: On the Origin of Large Tropical Cyclone Track Errors 5:15-5:30 p.m., Moscone West 3012  Full calendar, special events & exhibit infoNCAR & UCAR at AGU 2016>@AtmosNewsLive | #NCARscience | #AGU16

Two NCAR scientists honored by American Geophysical Union

BOULDER, Colo. — Martyn Clark, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), will be honored next week as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for his exceptional contribution to Earth science.Clark is an expert in the numerical modeling and prediction of hydrologic processes. His current research includes developing new modeling methods to improve streamflow forecasts and better understand climate change impacts on regional water resources. Clark, who grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, has authored or co-authored 135 journal articles since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 1998.NCAR Senior Scientist Martyn Clark (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)"This well-deserved honor reflects Martyn's eminent work in the increasingly critical area of water-resource prediction and management," said NCAR Director James W. Hurrell.Clark said he was delighted to see NCAR's hydrologic modeling recognized. "Hydrology is beginning to play a much stronger role in addressing important interdisciplinary science questions about Earth System change, such as how changes in the terrestrial water cycle affect biological productivity and how groundwater can buffer water stress in ecosystems and human societies. It's exciting to advance modeling capabilities in these areas."NCAR Senior Scientist Bette Otto-Bliesner. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)Clark is among 60 individuals from eight countries recognized as Fellows this year; only one in one thousand AGU members receive this recognition in any given year. Nearly 40 percent of this year's fellows are from the 110 member colleges and universities of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR. This year's class will be honored next Wednesday at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.NCAR Senior Scientist Bette Otto-Bliesner, who was named an AGU Fellow last year, is being honored by her peers in the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Focus Group and Ocean Sciences Section by being asked to give the 2016 Emiliani Lecture. She will give the lecture next Wednesday at the AGU Fall Meeting on the topic of "Resolving Some Puzzles of Climate Evolution Since the Last Glacial Maximum: A Melding of Paleoclimate Modeling and Data."The AGU, dedicated to advancing Earth and space sciences for the benefit of society, is a not-for-profit, professional organization representing 60,000 members in more than 140 countries. 

Extreme downpours could increase fivefold across parts of the U.S.

BOULDER, Colo. — At century's end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States — including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest — according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, also finds that the intensity of individual extreme rainfall events could increase by as much as 70 percent in some areas. That would mean that a storm that drops about 2 inches of rainfall today would be likely to drop nearly 3.5 inches in the future."These are huge increases," said NCAR scientist Andreas Prein, lead author of the study. "Imagine the most intense thunderstorm you typically experience in a single season. Our study finds that, in the future, parts of the U.S. could expect to experience five of those storms in a season, each with an intensity as strong or stronger than current storms."The study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's sponsor, and the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America.“Extreme precipitation events affect our infrastructure through flooding, landslides and debris flows,” said Anjuli Bamzai, program director in NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences, which funded the research.  “We need to better understand how these extreme events are changing. By supporting this research, NSF is working to foster a safer environment for all of us.”The figure shows the expected increase in the number of summertime storms that produce extreme precipitation at century's end compared to the period 2000 - 2013. (©UCAR. Courtesy Andreas Prein, NCAR. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)A year of supercomputing timeAn increase in extreme precipitation is one of the expected impacts of climate change because scientists know that as the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, and a wetter atmosphere can produce heavier rain. In fact, an increase in precipitation intensity has already been measured across all regions of the U.S. However, climate models are generally not able to simulate these downpours because of their coarse resolution, which has made it difficult for researchers to assess future changes in storm frequency and intensity.For the new study, the research team used a new dataset that was created when NCAR scientists and study co-authors Roy Rasmussen, Changhai Liu, and Kyoko Ikeda ran the NCAR-based Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model at a resolution of 4 kilometers, fine enough to simulate individual storms. The simulations, which required a year to run, were performed on the Yellowstone system at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.Prein and his co-authors used the new dataset to investigate changes in downpours over North America in detail. The researchers looked at how storms that occurred between 2000 and 2013 might change if they occurred instead in a climate that was 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer — the temperature increase expected by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.Prein cautioned that this approach is a simplified way of comparing present and future climate. It doesn't reflect possible changes to storm tracks or weather systems associated with climate change. The advantage, however, is that scientists can more easily isolate the impact of additional heat and associated moisture on future storm formation."The ability to simulate realistic downpours is a quantum leap in climate modeling. This enables us to investigate changes in hourly rainfall extremes that are related to flash flooding for the very first time," Prein said. "To do this took a tremendous amount of computational resources."Impacts vary across the U.S.The study found that the number of summertime storms producing extreme precipitation is expected to increase across the entire country, though the amount varies by region. The Midwest, for example, sees an increase of zero to about 100 percent across swaths of Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa. But the Gulf Coast, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico all see increases ranging from 200 percent to more than 400 percent.The study also found that the intensity of extreme rainfall events in the summer could increase across nearly the entire country, with some regions, including the Northeast and parts of the Southwest, seeing particularly large increases, in some cases of more than 70 percent.A surprising result of the study is that extreme downpours will also increase in areas that are getting drier on average, especially in the Midwest. This is because moderate rainfall events that are the major source of moisture in this region during the summertime are expected to decrease significantly while extreme events increase in frequency and intensity. This shift from moderate to intense rainfall increases the potential for flash floods and mudslides, and can have negative impacts on agriculture.The study also investigated how the environmental conditions that produce the most severe downpours might change in the future. In today's climate, the storms with the highest hourly rainfall intensities form when the daily average temperature is somewhere between 20 and 25 degrees C (68 to 77 degrees F) and with high atmospheric moisture. When the temperature gets too hot, rainstorms become weaker or don't occur at all because the increase in atmospheric moisture cannot keep pace with the increase in temperature. This relative drying of the air robs the atmosphere of one of the essential ingredients needed to form a storm.In the new study, the NCAR scientists found that storms may continue to intensify up to temperatures of 30 degrees C because of a more humid atmosphere. The result would be much more intense storms."Understanding how climate change may affect the environments that produce the most intense storms is essential because of the significant impacts that these kinds of storms have on society," Prein said.About the articleTitle: The future intensification of hourly precipitation extremesAuthors: Andreas F. Prein, Roy M. Rasmussen, Kyoko Ikeda, Changhai Liu, Martyn P. Clark, and Greg J. HollandJournal: Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3168Writer:Laura Snider, Senior Science Writer and Public Information Officer

Days of record-breaking heat ahead

BOULDER, Colo. — If society continues to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate, Americans later this century will have to endure, on average, about 15 daily maximum temperature records for every time that the mercury notches a record low, new research indicates.That ratio of record highs to record lows could also turn out to be much higher if the pace of emissions increases and produces even more warming, according to the study led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).Over the last decade, in contrast, the ratio of record high temperatures to record lows has averaged about two to one."More and more frequently, climate change will affect Americans with record-setting heat," said NCAR senior scientist Gerald Meehl, lead author of the new paper. "An increase in average temperatures of a few degrees may not seem like much, but it correlates with a noticeable increase in days that are hotter than any in the record, and nights that will remain warmer than we've ever experienced in the past." The United States has experienced unusual warmth lately, as indicated by this July 22, 2016, weather map showing much of the country facing highs in the 90s and 100s and lows in the 70s. New research indicates that more record high temperatures may be in store. (Weather map by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Prediction Center.)The 15-to-1 ratio of record highs to lows is based on temperatures across the continental United States increasing by slightly more than 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above recent years, which is about the amount of warming expected to occur with the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions.The new research appears this week in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." It was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR's sponsor. The study was coauthored by NCAR scientist Claudia Tebaldi and by Dennis Adams-Smith, a scientist previously at Climate Central and now at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.Hotter days  In a 2009 study, Meehl and colleagues found that the ratio of record daily high temperatures to record daily low temperatures has steadily increased since the 1970s as average temperatures over the United States have warmed. Computer models at that time indicated that the ratio could continue to increase during this century, although the research team looked into just one scenario of future emissions. The scientists also found that the models were overstating the ratio of record highs to record lows in recent years, compared to observations.By digging further into the issue and analyzing why the models differed from observations, Meehl and his co-authors have now produced a better calibrated projection of future record-breaking daily highs across the U.S. They based their projections on the average temperature increase over the continental United States, rather than on a particular scenario of future emissions.By about 2065, for example, U.S. temperatures will rise by an average of slightly more than 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) if society maintains a “business as usual” increase in the emission of greenhouse gases. Under such a scenario, the ratio of record daily high temperatures to record daily lows will likely be about 15 to 1, although it could range anywhere from 7 to 1 up to 22 to 1, the study found.If temperatures increase even more this century, the ratio of record highs to record lows will jump substantially. For example, if temperatures climb more than 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F), Americans could experience about 38 record highs for every record low. Such an outcome could occur if society does not make any efforts to mitigate the production of greenhouse gases."Every degree of warming makes a substantial amount of difference, with the ratio of record highs to record lows becoming much greater," Meehl said. "Even with much warmer temperatures on average, we will still have winter and we will still get record cold temperatures, but the numbers of those will be really small compared to record high maximums."If temperatures were not warming, Meehl said, the ratio of record highs to record lows would average out to about one to one.Instead, record high temperatures have already become a common occurrence in much of the country. The ratio of record highs to lows has averaged about 2 to 1 over the first decade of the 21st century, but there is considerable year-to-year variation. The ratio was about 5 to 1 in 2012, dropping to about 1 to 1 in 2013 and 2014, then almost 3 to 1 in 2015. The unusual warmth of 2016, resulting from both climate change and natural patterns such as El Niño, has led to 24,519 record daily maximums vs. 3,970 record daily minimums—a ratio of about 6 to 1.Precipitation and the warm 1930sA key part of the study involved pinpointing why the models in the 2009 study were simulating somewhat more daily record high maximum temperatures compared with recent observations, while there was good agreement between the models and the observed decreases in record low minimums. The authors focused on two sets of simulations conducted on the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model (version 4), which is funded by DOE and NSF and developed by climate scientists across the country.Their analysis uncovered two reasons for the disparity between the computer models and observations.First, the models tended to underestimate precipitation. Because the air is cooled by precipitation and resulting evapotranspiration — the release of moisture from the land and plants back to the atmosphere — the tendency of the computer models to create an overly dry environment led to more record high temperatures.Second, the original study in 2009 only went back to the 1950s. For the new study, the research team also analyzed temperatures in the 1930s and 1940s, which is as far back as accurate recordkeeping will allow. Because the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s were unusually warm, with many record-setting high temperatures, the scientists found that it was more difficult in subsequent years to break those records, even as temperatures warmed. However, even taking the warm 1930s into account, both the model-simulated and observed ratio of record highs to record lows have been increasing."The steady increase in the record ratio is an immediate and stark reminder of how our temperatures have been shifting and continue to do so, reaching unprecedented highs and fewer record lows," said Tebaldi. "These changes pose adaptation challenges to both human and natural systems. Only a substantial mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions may stop this increase, or at least slow down its pace."About the articleTitle: "US daily temperature records past, present, and future"Authors: Gerald A. Meehl, Claudia Tebaldi, and Dennis Adams-SmithJournal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

James Hurrell elected to AGU position

BOULDER, Colo. —James W. Hurrell, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), has been elected incoming president of the Atmospheric Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). He will be formally installed as president-elect at the AGU's annual meeting in December."It is a great honor to be elected by peers throughout the atmospheric sciences community," Hurrell said. "This is a critical time for the atmospheric sciences as we seek to advance our knowledge of climate change, extreme weather events, air quality, and other issues that pose significant challenges to our society."NCAR Director James Hurrell. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)The Atmospheric Sciences Section studies the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of the atmosphere, particularly the two layers closest to Earth’s surface: the stratosphere and troposphere. These layers are crucial to life because they regulate planetary surface temperature, play an integral role in the world’s water cycle, and screen the planet from high-energy radiation. Much of the research focuses on global climate change, as well as monitoring fluctuations in the ozone layer and better understanding and predicting weather events and the effects of emissions from human activities."New ideas and approaches to AGU’s strategic challenges can be found in the collective wisdom of the organization's diverse membership," Hurrell said. "As president-elect, I am committed to eliciting those ideas and finding effective methods to further develop and implement the best of them." An NCAR senior scientist, Hurrell was named director of the center in 2013. He has contributed to numerous national and international science planning initiatives, including extensive involvement in the World Climate Research Programme, as well as the assessment activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also has served on several National Academy of Sciences panels, and he has provided briefings and testimonies to Congress on climate change science.Hurrell is a Fellow of the AGU, as well as of the American Meteorological Society and the Royal Meteorological Society. His personal research has centered on empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability, and climate change."Jim's vision and energy, along with his skill at drawing on insights from across the atmospheric sciences community, will enable him to make substantial contributions to AGU," said Antonio J. Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). "The UCAR community is excited over Jim's election and looks forward to his leadership in this important position."

UCAR publishes guidance to next presidential administration and Congress

BOULDER, Colo. — The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) has published guidance for the next U.S. presidential administration and Congress on the importance of better understanding and predicting weather, water, climate, and other aspects of the Earth system.A UCAR white paper emphasizes that focused investment of federal resources in the atmospheric, Earth, and related sciences will make significant contributions addressing important societal needs. These include protection of lives and property, expansion of new economic opportunities, enhancement of national security, and strengthening U.S. leadership in research and development."More than ever, federal support of research and education into the Earth system is critical to the nation," said UCAR President Antonio J. Busalacchi. "We are on the verge of a new era of prediction, based on understanding how the entire Earth system works. This will have a direct positive impact on lives and livelihoods."UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of 110 member colleges and universities.The white paper proposes federal support for advancing computer models, new observing systems, and more powerful computing resources, as well as a strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education system. Its proposals include a National Academies' decadal survey, involving representatives of the public and private sectors, which would develop priorities for weather research and forecasting."The United States should be the unambiguous leader in predicting weather, water, climate, and related systems," Busalacchi said. "Transforming this knowledge into action will allow our nation and the world to effectively respond and adapt to changing environmental conditions."UCAR federal government transition resources can be found here. 

UCAR/NCAR statement on the passing of Ralph J. Cicerone

Ralph Cicerone pictured at NCAR in the 1980s. (©UCAR. Photo by Ginger Hein. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) join colleagues in the Earth system science community and beyond in mourning the loss of renowned atmospheric scientist Ralph J. Cicerone, who died on Nov. 5.Dr. Cicerone left his job as a research chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1980 to join NCAR, where he led the Atmospheric Chemistry Division. In 1989, Dr. Cicerone took on a new challenge, accepting an offer to build an interdisciplinary department of geosciences at the University of California, Irvine.  "Ralph was a pioneer in thinking about the Earth as a connected system," said UCAR President Antonio J. Busalacchi. "His willingness to work across disciplines in pursuit of a deeper understanding of how the pieces of the Earth system fit together set an example for atmospheric scientists and helped set the research direction for our community as well as the whole of the National Academy of Sciences. His loss will be deeply felt at NCAR, UCAR, and far beyond."Read Dr. Cicerone's full obituary at the National Academy of Sciences webpage. 

UCAR hosts 6th annual veterans job fair Nov. 18

BOULDER, Colo. — Veterans, people with disabilities, and the public can meet with more than 30 Front Range employers at a job fair hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research on Friday, Nov. 18, on UCAR's Center Green campus, 3080 Center Green Drive, in north Boulder.Now in its sixth year, the annual event is co-sponsored by UCAR, Workforce Boulder County, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Starting at 10 a.m., the first hour is dedicated to veterans and people with disabilities, after which the general public is also invited to participate, starting at 11 a.m. until the fair ends at 2 p.m.Participants in a previous job fair at UCAR in discussion near the University of Colorado booth.  More than 30 employers from the Colorado Front Range will be participating in the 2016 event for veterans, people with disabilities, and the general public. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)"It's gratifying to have so many great employers from so many industries — more this year than ever," said Randy Schalhamer, UCAR's talent acquisition manager. "The job fair exemplifies UCAR's commitment to assisting veterans and people with disabilities."DetailsWhat2016 Job Fair for Veterans & People with Disabilities WhenFriday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (general public welcome from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)WhereUCAR Center Green Campus (Bldg 1), 3080 Center Green Drive, Boulder, 80301What to bringRésumésAccessabilityUCAR's Center Green Campus is wheelchair accessible.To request a reasonable accommodation, please contact Randy Schalhamer, 303-497-8703, rschalha@ucar.edu, by Friday, November 11.Participating EmployersThese Colorado companies will be recruiting for more than 700 current and upcoming job openings at this year's job fair: Ball Aerospace; Ball Corporation; Boulder Valley School District; BT; Catamount Constructors, Inc.; CBOPC Veterans Affairs; Children's Hospital Colorado
; City of Longmont; Denver Water; Dr Pepper Snapple Group; EchoStar Corporation; Enterprise Holdings; First National Bank; FirstBank; GE Lighting & GE Power; HUB International; HS Markit; Jeppesen; McLane Western; Platte River Power Authority; Shamrock Foods Company; Swingle Lawn, Tree and Landscape Care; UCAR Event Services
; Verizon Wireless; West Safety Services; 
Western States Fire Protection;  Winter Park Resort; Workforce Boulder County; Xcel Energy; and additional employers.

Free family fun at Super Science Saturday: Nov. 5

BOULDER, Colo. — Come learn about our changing climate at this year’s Super Science Saturday on Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Lab in south Boulder.This year’s theme coincides with a major new climate exhibit at the Mesa Lab. Climate-related activities will include a presentation on ozone's effect on plants, a tree-ring activity demonstrating the living record of climate, a "flubber" glacier display by Boulder-based UNAVCO, and shows by NCAR Wizards that focus on changing temperatures.Astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett, author of the climate books "The Wizard that Saved the World" and "I, Humanity," will share his stories.In addition, a number of other fun activities and experiments are on tap, including weather balloon launches, modular robotics, the CBS Denver Channel 4 mobile weather lab, Colorado State University's Little Shop of Physics, and more.Modular robotics was just one of the many activities at the 2015 Super Science Saturday. This year's event features hands-on climate and weather activities. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)"This year we wanted to highlight climate to reflect the outstanding updated interactive exhibit at our Mesa Lab," said Eileen Carpenter of the UCAR Center for Science Education. "But we also have our traditionally popular activities for children and entire families to enjoy as well." UCAR is the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which provides education and research services and manages NCAR under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.The multimedia climate displays on the second floor constitute what is believed to be the region’s largest permanent exhibit dedicated to climate change. One popular interactive exhibit, "Choose our Future," enables visitors to see how the choices they make, such as the type of car they drive, affect future temperatures. The information panels, touchscreens, audio recordings, and other activities highlight how our climate system works and the potential impacts of a changing climate on society and the environment.Activities at Super Science Saturday also will include learning about air movement by making devices to test in a wind tunnel, creating projects with solar-sensitive beads, face painting, and a pingpong ball launch.NCAR's High Altitude Observatory will display a solar telescope and provide information about the 2017 solar eclipse, and the NCAR 3D visualization laboratory will demonstrate some of its scientific animations.In addition to the Mesa Lab's science exhibits, a new tactile art exhibit will be open all day.  Snacks and lunch items will be available for purchase in the cafeteria.DETAILS:What: Super Science SaturdayWhen: Saturday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Where: NCAR’s Mesa Lab, 1850 Table Mesa Drive, BoulderWho:  Activities for the entire family, with events especially focused on children ages 6 to 12.Cost:  FreeMore information: 2016 Super Science SaturdayWriter:Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer 

Soil moisture, snowpack data could help predict 'flash droughts'

BOULDER, Colo. — New research suggests that "flash droughts" — like the one that unexpectedly gripped the Southern Rockies and Midwest in the summer of 2012 — could be predicted months in advance using soil moisture and snowpack data. Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) analyzed the conditions leading up to the 2012 drought, which ultimately caused $30 billion in economic losses, looking for any warning signs that a drought was on the way. In a study funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, the scientists find that observations of snowmelt and soil moisture could have predicted the ensuing drought up to four months in advance."The 2012 drought over the Midwest was one of the most severe and extensive U.S. droughts since the 1930s Dust Bowl, but it was also extremely challenging to predict," said Debasish PaiMazumder, lead author of the study. "This study demonstrated the potential to improve seasonal drought outlooks in the future, giving farmers, water planners, and others more time to prepare."The official U.S. Drought Monitor issued on Aug. 21, 2012. The map shows the exceptionally severe drought across the middle of the country. Just three months before, drought forecasts failed to predict that a drought was on the way. Click to enlarge. (Image courtesy National Drought Mitigation Center.)Seasonal drought forecasts issued in May 2012 for the upcoming summer did not foresee a drought forming in the country's midsection. But by the end of August, a drought that had started in the Southern Rockies had spread across the Midwest, parching Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri.These flash droughts — which form and intensify rapidly — can catch forecasters off guard because they are not preceded by any large-scale climate patterns that could act as a warning signal. For example, one contributor to the recent California drought was a persistent high-pressure system parked off the west coast of Canada that deflected storms away from the state. Because forecasters could identify the high-pressure system, they could also accurately predict fewer storms and a worsening of the drought.Previous research has shown that looking at soil moisture alone could improve the lead-time of drought predictions by one to two months. PaiMazumder and NCAR colleague James Done were interested in whether they could extend this further by adding snowpack into the equation.“Advance knowledge of a drought even a month or two ahead of time can greatly minimize the effects on society,” said Anjuli Bamzai, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.  “This study highlights the role of snowpack and soil moisture conditions in predicting the sudden onset of drought.”To explore the physical connections among snowpack, soil moisture, and drought, the researchers analyzed data collected between 1980-2012. To supplement those observations, they also explored the physical connections in a new NCAR-based community Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model dataset comprising 24 simulations of the period 1990-2000 and 2012. Because each simulation was run with small tweaks to the way the model represents atmospheric physics, the result was a broad look at different climate scenarios that could have plausibly unfolded during the study period."The model helped us get a handle on how robust the relationships between snowpack, soil moisture, and drought are," Done said. "The stronger the relationship, the better a predictor is."While observations of snowpack and soil moisture could have helped predict the 2012 drought, the method does not replace other drought prediction measures that identify large-scale phenomena that frequently lead to drought conditions."This is another ingredient that could be used when making seasonal drought forecasts," Done said. "But it's not the only ingredient, and for many droughts that are tied to large-scale precursors, it may not be the most important one." About the articleTitle: Potential Predictability Sources of the 2012 US Drought in Observations and a Regional Model EnsembleAuthors: Debasish PaiMazumder and James DoneJournal: Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, DOI: 10.1002/2016JD025322Writer:Laura Snider, Senior Science Writer and Public Information Officer   

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