Kate in Colorado Springs, Again

October 21, 2009 at 9:54 am

This fall, I spent another 4 weeks teaching a great class on Climate Change at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. As they did before, the college rented me an apartment for visiting faculty, and I stayed there during the week while I was teaching.

The house I stayed in was a huge converted Victorian Mansion

This year, however, the apartment was not part of an old tenement, but converted rooms from one of the largest Victorian-era mansions I have ever been in. This apartment was much larger than the last one, and had it’s own unique features. The kitchen was clearly added on, and in a narrow galley-style that was too small to contain all of the appliances. So, the refrigerator was in the dining room. Oh, and there was a formal dining room. The large mahogany table had room to seat 10.

The back of my apt building, four stories of rooms

The house sat on the western edge of the campus, on a hill above Monument Creek and looking out over the town directly at Pikes Peak.

View of Pikes Peak and an impending storm from my back balcony

The teaching keeps me incredibly busy for the whole month, but I managed one sunny afternoon to get out and hike up and down the creek.

The End of Summer

I find each visit to Colorado Springs makes me like the area a little more. It is an interesting mix of colleges, military installations, tourist traps and outdoor playgrounds. Nearby climbing areas such as Shelf Road, the South Platte and even Red Rock Canyon open space are some of my favorite places.

A small waterfall and mountains in the distance

It was a great trip, and a really nice way to spend the last few weeks of a beautiful fall.

Old stairs from surrounding neighborhoods lend access to the trails near the creek

Colorado Autumn

October 14, 2009 at 6:22 am


Usually, the minute leaves on aspens start to pale and crinkle, I am all over fall colors in the Rockies with my trusty little camera. It’s one of my favorite times of year, as the seasons shift from long, high-energy days to quiet, contemplative nights.

This year, I spent a(nother) month in Colorado Springs teaching an undergraduate class on Climate Change. It is an incredible learning experience for me, and the three-and-a-half week block system means the course is hugely demanding. I love the chance to throw myself at a task completely: intellectually, physically, and emotionally.

The 3 Season Tree

So, the moral of this post is that I gave up the chance at photography of mountains draped in yellow and orange aspens for the chance to talk about clouds and climate with an awesome group of college students. Totally. Worth. It.

Stormy Night

June 23, 2009 at 10:35 am

Last night I was in the house, working on a rhubarb cake, happily oblivious to the impending weather. Mark went out to ride his bike over to the grocery, and then came right back in and said I had to come outside and see this weather.

Super Cell

We’ve had a stormy spring, and a line of severe storms in the evening is not all that novel these days. But these storms were huge, and beautiful. They were organized along an instability boundary, forming pulse after pulse of circulating, swirling, very high based supercells.

Radar Image of squal line 6.22.09 at 7:35pm

Two things about this storm were extraordinary. The first is the amount of rain it dropped across our area. Nearly 3 inches over just a few hours in the northern part of our city. This is pretty serious rainfall for an area where the average June rainfall is less than 2 inches for the entire month.

The second was the light show. The lightening just poured out of these clouds all night long. Watching the frequent, huge, cloud-to-ground strikes as the storm neared was frightening and incredible. Watching the whole sky flash like a night club as the storms passed over was even more surreal. It was the ultimate “dark and stormy night” last night.

I tried to get a few pictures, but ended up not doing so well. I came inside early too, because the lighting was making me nervous. In the end, my photos weren’t all that impressive, but put together, they make a nice time-lapse view of the storm approaching our neighborhood at dusk last night. It was an amazing show.

The Big Thaw

April 7, 2009 at 1:56 pm

For the last few weeks I’ve been studying and preparing for my Preliminary Exam, so I’m spending all of my time thinking about clouds and climate. Which, really, isn’t such a bad way to spend time. It’s also springtime in Colorado, so the weekends have been snowy and cold.

While we’re shivering in the mountains, the rest of the climate is going through the typical spring seasonal shift. The sun has risen over one pole and set over the other. The northern hemispheric land masses are beginning their seasonal carbon sequestration. And climatologists are starting to look at changes in sea ice cover.

Two interesting articles went by this week, one from each pole.

In the north, groups studying arctic ice coverage announced that the 2008-2009 winter saw the fifth lowest maximum ice extent since monitoring began in 1979. They also mention that seasonal ice, the sea ice which melts and refreezes each winter, is up from ~50% of all northern sea ice to about 70%.

When I was flying home from Israel last January, we flew into the polar night over Greenland. When the plane flew back into the light of day, we watched the sun “rise” over the arctic sea ice north of Canada. I had the rare opportunity to see the glowing pink light illuminate the beautiful crystalline world below, without any clouds blocking the view. I was surprised to see that the sea ice was not just a blank, white, plain of emptyness, but, even in the depth of winter, it was a patchwork of peaks and valleys, with what looked like ice-rivers flowing around millions of big and little chunks of ice. It really is amazing how dynamic the polar oceans are, even in the deepest freeze.

In the southern hemisphere, the sun set a few weeks ago, and the summer melt season is ending. Satellite groups are reporting on the danger of a possible “imminent breakup” of the rest of a large ice shelf in Antarctica. The pictures (shown above) are really beautiful, and wild. This shelf already lost more than 650 square miles of ice to break-up and calving in the last year (old story with great pics here, new CNN report here). There’s a great and very interesting discussion on the ice shelf over at RealClimate.Org. If you have questions, I can try to answer them, but the ice dynamicists are all over at RealClimate. I highly recommend checking out that site.

According to CNN, the Wilkins Ice Shelf is (or was) about the size of Connecticut. And the largest ice shelf to be threatened so far, that we are aware of.

Earth Hour

March 29, 2009 at 7:54 am

If you haven’t met me, or read the About Us page yet, I (Kate) am a graduate student at Colorado State University, working on my Phd in Atmospheric Sciences. More specifically, I’m doing research into the methods used to include the effects of clouds in climate models, and hoping to improve our ability to forecast weather, climate and future climate change.

Working in an academic environment, full of atmospheric scientists, has been a truly wonderful experience, and one thing we all end up talking about is our impact on the very thing we have devoted our lives to studying. Topics of conversations around our “water coolers” invariably end up returning back to ways to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprints.

In Fort Collins, our carbon comes from the same general mix as the rest of the country. Electricity production and transportation are the two biggest sources, with electricity beating transportation by a measurable, but relatively small, chunk. This EIA report has great statistics all the way through the end of 2007. In Fort Collins, most of our electricity is generated by the Rawhide power plant, just north of town, which has improved emissions greatly in the last few years, but still helps Colorado into the “dirty” category on some carbon monitoring sites.

Earth Hour Mark

On Saturday night, between 8:30 and 9:30p, we participated in Earth Hour, by turning out our lights. While I know this really won’t reduce carbon emissions in the grand scheme of things, Mark and I decided to add our lights out to the rest as part of the “movement.”

It didn’t really look like a movement from where we were. Most of our neighbors were out for the night, so their lights were off anyway. Those that were home stayed on. I didn’t see any grand gestures or amazing splotches of darkness.

I think there’s more than one ethical question to be had about “lights out.” Most of our per-capita carbon in the US comes from power going to industrial and municipal sources. Office buildings with lights and computers on all night, towns with lights on parking lots 24/7. But this isn’t necessarily a “waste” of energy as many people suggest. It is a safety issue. My dad often talks about New York and other cities turning off the lights to save energy in the 70’s, and the huge spike in crime and murder that followed.

So, in my mind, turning off the lights might be a nice thing for the environment, but I do recognize the reasons we keep them on so often as well.

Earth Hour Kate

But for our Earth Hour, I took the chance to happily unplug from the world. I took a wonderful long bath, and then fell asleep at 9p. The lights didn’t come back on in our house on Saturday.

Snow V-Day

February 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Valentine's Day Flowers

So, last Saturday was Valentine’s Day, and Mark and I decided to celebrate by spending the weekend in the snow. We rented a cabin up near Cameron Pass (at about 10,000ft) for Friday and Saturday nights and hoped to get in some snowshoeing and good picturing of the high peaks in the Never Summer Range north of RoMo.

Frosty Liv

Unfortunately, the altitude turned out to be too much for me, and I spent Friday night laying awake with my heart thrumming in my chest. I felt so awful by the time the sun rose on Saturday that, despite my best efforts, we needed to head home. So, not the romantic get-away that we were hoping for, but we did identify a potential weak area to work on before the alpine season gets underway. I’ve never been great with altitude, and I guess all of the time I spent at sea-level this winter didn’t help. But we’ll get back up to the high peaks and work it out.

Spring Snow!

February 11, 2009 at 6:33 am

Snowy Morning

I think I’ve been living in Colorado long enough now. The inch of wet, sticky, clumpy snow that we got last night made me super excited for spring! Hooray for the return of moisture!


February 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Big Sky

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky!”

           – The Buddha