Mon June 1, 2015

What Drives Nighttime Thunderstorms? NOAA And NCAR Hope To Find Out

Launching a weather balloon at dusk
Photo by Dave Allen/NIWA Courtesy of NCAR

June is the start of outdoor recreation season for many Coloradans, and it also marks the start of the peak season for powerful storms and lightning. Colorado's infamous weather unpredictability can suddenly bring afternoon hikes, picnics or games to a quick end.

It's nighttime weather, though, that has atmospheric scientists' attention. They'll be spending six weeks in the Great Plains, trying to figure out the mystery of thunderstorms that form at night. The results could help meteorologists better predict these sometimes damaging storms.

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Mon May 11, 2015

NCAR, CDC Researching Weather As A West Nile Predictor

Culex mosquito
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researchers with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that increased West Nile outbreaks correlated strongly with above-average temperatures in the preceding year.

They also found wet weather influenced outbreaks – although the actual impact varied by region. In much of the West, wetter-than-average winters correlated with above average outbreaks. Researchers found a different picture in the eastern U.S., where West Nile outbreaks correlated with fall and spring seasons that were drier than average.

That may seem counterintuitive; after all, doesn't a wet spring usually mean more mosquitoes in the summer, since they need water sites to reproduce?

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Wed April 29, 2015

Superweed? Scientists Define A Controversial Concept

Palmer amaranth, with herbicide-resistant varieties, can grow as tall as an NBA player, and costs farmers thousands of dollars to remove it.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s... a superweed?

If you’ve paid any attention to the debate concerning the adoption of genetically-engineered crops, you’ve heard of superweeds. They’re those nasty, hearty weeds that cross-breed with GMO corn to resist herbicide applications. Or, um...they’re new, special weeds, able to outcompete other pesky plants with undetermined magic properties, right? No, they’re the result of an over-reliance on a particular weed management strategy.

But which is it? That’s been the problem.

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Thu April 9, 2015
Weather Nerding

CSU Atlantic Hurricane Outlook Calls For Mild Season

An image of Hurricane Ivan, a Category 5 hurricane that hit the U.S. Southeast in 2004.

This year's Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be a calm one, according to the annual tropical storm outlook released April 9 by Colorado State University.  

Phil Klotzbach is a research scientist with the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU, and heads up the forecasting project. Klotzbach said the number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes is predicted to be "about half the average hurricane season."

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Mon March 16, 2015
Tasty Science

Is Fat The Sixth Taste? Denver Museum Goers Help Scientists With Mystery

Desiree Baca takes a taste test at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Her results, and those of hundreds of other visitors, are helping scientists learn if humans can taste fat.
Stephanie Paige Ogburn KUNC

At the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, children and their parents meander through the Expedition Health exhibit, chattering about science and bodies, peering through microscopes and conducting experiments.

A set of glass doors abuts the exhibit, and every once in a while, after a quick chat with a museum volunteer, a family makes its way through the doors.

Today, that family is the Bacas -- Tim, and daughters Raveania and Desiree, ages 12 and 11, from Aurora. They sit at a tall lab bench, and listen as Anjelica Miranda, dressed in a white lab coat, guides them through a taste test.

The Bacas are not aware of it yet, but they are taking part in one of the most unique science experiments in the country. Their taste test results, combined with that of hundreds of other museum visitors, may help scientists discover the genetic underpinnings of a sixth taste.

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