Science

Science news

David Steinmann

Native American legends spoke of a gateway to the underworld, with noxious clouds of steam spewing from the Earth. Humans would pass out in a few minutes if they enter the cave because of the lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Located on the side of Steamboat Springs' Howelsen Hill, the ancient cave was formed by hot spring water flowing through the travertine rock.

This dark, slimy, stinky site -- Sulphur Cave Spring -- is also the only place in the world a new species of tiny worms have been found.

Courtesy of Colorado State University

Colorado State University researchers are working on finding new ways to measure air quality. To help pilot a new wearable air quality monitor, they’ve turned to people like Katherine Steger. The thing is, Steger is a fifth-grader.

“Eventually the hissing noise it would make when it would suck in the air became kind of soothing to me, helped me go to sleep at night, it really sort of helped me,” she told a CSU asthma researcher in a focus group at the end of the study. “I didn’t notice it was there.”

Steger and her classmates at Fort Collins’ Rivendell Elementary helped Dr. John Volckens and his team test the what’s called the Automated Microenvironmental Air Sampler.

courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

With warm weather approaching, many scientific and conservation organizations in Northern Colorado are appealing to volunteers to help with data collection. While aiding in important research is the goal, summer fun is also a bonus.

Here Are 6 Things To Know About The Latest GMO Science

May 17, 2016
Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Genetically-engineered crops are generally safe to eat, but in the 20 years since the first commercial GMO crops hit the market, they haven’t delivered on all their promises, according to a new analysis from a National Academy of Sciences panel.

For more than two decades genetically-engineered crops -- plants in which scientists have transferred genes among species to achieve new traits like herbicide tolerance or insecticide -- have been lightning rods in food discussions.

Perhaps the report’s greatest charge to its readers: avoid sweeping generalizations about GMOs, which can paint a broad swath of plant varieties considered to be “GMO” as either good or evil, panacea or scourge, savior or destructor.

Curious About A Cow's Feelings? Listen To Her Moo

May 11, 2016
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

We all learned it as kids: Old MacDonald has a farm and on that farm he has a cow that says “moo.” But why? Why do cows moo?

Whenever I’m out reporting in the field I can tell many ranchers have a powerful connection with their cattle – they can almost understand them. But researchers today are trying to figure out exactly what cows are saying.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

The costs of wind and solar power have fallen dramatically in recent years. Still, renewables only account for a fraction of the energy produced in the United States.

That's one of the challenges facing the new director of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. Dr. Martin Keller, who took over following the retirement of Dan Arvizu in late 2015, describes NREL's mission -- acting as the nation's premier renewable energy research laboratory -- as one of filling in the gaps in science and technology.

H.A. Weaver et al / published in Science.

Standing in a hallway decorated with images of planets and other space objects, John Spencer is looking at a high resolution photo of Pluto hanging in front of him. It’s striking, a mostly gray sphere with dark maroon and golden hues. Spencer, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute’s who works out of their Boulder office, points out features.

"The North Pole is up here. This area up here is a vast plain of frozen nitrogen."

It’s hard to believe, but until July 2015, scientists like Spencer had almost no idea what Pluto looked like. That’s when the New Horizons spacecraft zoomed by the dwarf planet, capturing images and data that led to a vast reimagining of Pluto. Now, he and others are sharing what they’ve learned.

If you've been digging out of snowbanks lately, as many people in the East have been after a record-setting blizzard, blame the oceans.

Scientists have been doing some forensic work to figure out what set this megastorm in motion. And they think they've found a trail that starts with the weather pattern called El Niño.

El Niño starts in the tropical Pacific. Every few years, the ocean there gets unusually warm. This year is one of the biggest El Niños ever. Heat and moisture from it have been swept up into the tropical jet stream and carried eastward.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Wheat is one of the world’s staple foods and a big crop on the Great Plains, but it has been left in the dust. A corn farmer can grow 44 percent more bushels per acre than 30 years ago, but only 16 percent more wheat. That’s led many farmers to make a switch.

NOAA

More storms are likely along the Pacific coast, especially California as we move into 2016. Sea surface temperatures from the El Niño are going down slightly, which will energize the storm track – but not in Colorado.

“And repeated storms, I mean the main thing with El Niño is that you get one storm after another,” said Klaus Wolter, a climatologist with the University of Colorado-Boulder.

“Any individual storm, it would be really hard to say if it is an El Niño storm. The fact that you get a lot of them makes all the difference.”

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