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USGS Climate Connections: Questions from Colorado

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Jessica Robertson: Welcome to USGS Climate Connections in Colorado. I’m your host, Jessica Robertson. In this episode, we’re in Denver. Join us as we go into the city and see what questions people have about climate change.

Question 1

Random Temple: Hi my name is Random Temple and I am from Denver, Colorado. What is it exactly that has been affected specifically in Denver, in Colorado, or in neighboring areas? And what can I do to inform myself or be better informed in general about the subject of global warming?

Darius Semmens: Great question, Random. Climate scientists predict that Colorado will on average become warmer and drier in association with climate change. This means that our winter sports season will get slowly shorter and less frequently epic. The winter sports industry supports more than 37,000 jobs and contributes $2.2 billion to the Colorado economy each year. And this is just one example. Less snow and warmer weather means less water available for river recreation, irrigated agriculture, and even just drinking and other daily uses. Water availability has become an issue of increasing concern in Colorado and across the globe. To learn more about climate change in Colorado, there are a variety of information sources, such as our USGS homepage, or those of other state and local government agencies. Universities also have a lot of information about climate change.

Question 2

Lauren: I’m Lauren and I was just wondering if the wildfires this summer were related to climate change.

Deborah Martin: Hi Lauren, my name is Deborah Martin and I am a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. The 2012 fire season in Colorado was the most destructive on record, burning over 600 homes. Overall, it seems highly likely that warming temperatures have led to an increase in the fire activity, but there are other factors as well. For example, we have over 3,000 acres of dead trees as a result of mountain pine beetle and other insects. And those trees are more susceptible to burning under certain conditions. Also, we have 95,000 homes in forested areas that are prone to burning, and we have more ignitions in those zones. So in summary, the combination of warmer temperatures, fuels, and ignitions have led to an increase in fire activity. Thank you.

Question 3

Robert Olzack: Hi my name is Robert Olzack. I am visiting from California in Denver for the next week or so. Just had a question regarding the bark beetle infestation that you are currently experiencing here in Colorado, and that we’ve experienced recently in California. Just wanting to know if the bark beetles had anything to do with climate change or global warming, or if it has nothing to do with any of those things. Thank you.

Jenny Briggs: Hi, good question. I’m Jenny Briggs, research ecologist with the USGS. And this issue of bark beetles and their increasing impacts has been linked to a number of factors, some of which are related to climate. I study mountain pine beetles here in Colorado’s pine forests, so I will use those species in my example. First, if we think about the trees—just like the suggestion that older people get flu shots—trees are also more susceptible to damage as they age. And right now, most western forests are actually dominated by trees 100 or more years old, often growing in dense, crowded stands that haven’t been logged or thinned or burned for a while. So those trees in those conditions are really ripe for beetles to attack. Secondly, warmer and drier climate patterns decrease the trees’ ability to produce the sap that helps them resist or fight back attacks by beetles. And finally, winter and fall temperatures often haven’t been cold enough for long enough to kill off the beetle larvae as they grow inside the infested trees. So overall, the warmer, drier climate patterns have contributed to weakened trees and exploding beetle populations. Thanks.

Question 4

Brian: Hi my name is Brian and I was just wondering how the ocean changes the climate, and vice versa.

Robert Stallard: Hi, I’m Bob Stallard with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder. And yes, oceans do have a big role in controlling climate. Oceans have a tremendous capacity to absorb and release heat and moisture with the atmosphere. And in this role, they absorb about one-quarter of the carbon dioxide that’s being released into the atmosphere by human activities today. Land absorbs another quarter, and about half remains in the atmosphere. Oceans also move heat around, and the heat and moisture from the ocean drives weather, even well away from the ocean on land. And heat also drives big ocean storms such as hurricanes. And so more heat; more and larger hurricanes can happen. And also if you cover the ocean with sea ice, you break the ocean-atmosphere connection, and you can change regional climate. For example in the Arctic where sea ice is melting, the potential for a changing regional climate is huge. Thank you.

Jessica Robertson: That’s it for this episode. We hope you join us again next time for USGS Climate Connections.



Title: USGS Climate Connections: Questions from Colorado


America has questions about climate change, and the USGS has real answers. In this episode of Climate Connections, USGS scientists answer questions gathered from downtown Denver, Colorado. Questions include:

  • How is Colorado affected by climate change and how can I learn more?
  • Were the wildfires this past summer related to climate change?
  • Do the bark beetles infesting trees have anything to do with climate change?
  • How does the ocean change the climate, and vice versa?
  • Location: Denver, CO, USA

    Date Taken: 4/22/2013

    Length: 7:16

    Video Producer: Jessica Robertson , U.S. Geological Survey

    Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.

    Additional Video Credits:

    Director: Ray Douglas
    Producer: Jessica Robertson
    Additional Video Credits: Jennifer LaVista

    File Details:

    Suggest an update to the information/tags?

    Tags: BarkBeetle ClimateChange DenverColorado Economy Fire Forests Glacier Glaciers GlobalWarming Hurricanes Oceans Storms USGSClimateConnections Weather Wildfire


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