News and Highlights
May 25, 2017
University of Utah and iUTAH researcher Court Strong has been in the news for his contributions to research on weather patterns.
A media release provided by the University of Utah’s science writer Paul Gabrielsen said, “The frost-free season in North America is approximately 10 days longer now than it was a century ago. In a new study, published in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Utah and the U.S. Geological Survey parse the factors contributing to the timing of frost in the United States. Atmospheric circulation patterns, they found, were the dominant influence on frost timing, although the trend of globally warming temperatures played a part as well.
‘The frost-free season has been lengthening over the past century, and now we understand the changes in atmospheric circulation that are extremely strong in frost timing, even stronger than global warming,’ says University of Utah atmospheric sciences professor Court Strong.
Weather and climate are complex systems, with many factors affecting what the particular weather conditions might be in a certain place at a certain time. Previous research, says Gregory McCabe, of the USGS in Denver has focused on the role of large-scale phenomena like El Niño. ‘I don’t think anyone has broken it down to look at the circulations patterns specific to the timing of frost,’ McCabe says.”
May 24, 2017
Courtney Flint, iUTAH team leader, and a professor of sociology at Utah State University, recently published an op-ed piece in The Salt Lake Tribune. In it, she discusses iUTAH’s collaborations with state agencies, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, and municipalities from Salt Lake, Cache, and Heber Valleys. She starts the piece by pointing out “A recent article and an editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune have cast doubt on the ability of Utah state agencies to accurately measure water use.
Our interactions with state agency staff suggest that they are interested in improving the availability of water use data, but have been limited mostly by state legislative funding allocations and restrictions on their authority to require submission of timely and accurate data.
As water resource researchers with iUTAH, a federally funded water project led by Utah State University researchers in collaboration with partners around the state, we would be the first to join others in saying that the better we know how water is distributed and used, the better we can help our state manage its water resources and achieve future water sustainability. Yet it is often municipalities, water districts and irrigation companies that actually make many of the critical water infrastructure development and distribution decisions.”
May 23, 2017
A name change has been announced for the federal Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research programs, known as EPSCoR. The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA) (S. 3084) passed in January renames the programs as the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and revises program requirements.
Effective immediately, iUTAH EPSCoR now stands for innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-sustainability Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The name change will be reflected on the project’s website, communications, and publications in the near future.
iUTAH EPSCoR is an interdisciplinary research, training, and education program aimed at strengthening science on vital environmental issues facing our state, specifically water sustainability. We partner with the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program to develop and manage strategic projects funded by competitive NSF EPSCoR awards to the state.
May 23, 2017
iUTAH researcher Courtney Flint was at the center of a “barrage of emails and calls from news reporters worldwide seeking her opinion of news that she would no longer be on a scientific board that advises the Environmental Protection Agency.”
A media release provided by Utah State University writer Janelle Hyatt said “Flint, a natural resource sociologist and professor in the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, has been on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the EPA since 2014. In this position, she and her fellow scientists, who are among the top academic experts in the country, review the science upon which EPA regulations are developed and implemented.
Newly appointed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced that it would not be extending terms for some members of the 18-person board because of budget cuts and the fact that the EPA, according to a spokesman, wants to include more input from industry representatives who 'understand the impact of regulations.'
The EPA’s action has garnered wide attention for what the Washington Post calls 'the latest in a series of moves that could benefit industries whose pollution the government regulates.' As one of the five scientists targeted, Flint’s comments have been reported by the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian. She’s given interviews to the Associated Press, Bloomberg, weather.com, ABC, CBC Radio Canada, Frontline, CNN and others.”
For more on Flint’s interviews, covered in over 95 news media outlets across the globe, visit one of the press links below.
May 4, 2017
iUTAH researchers Scott Jones and Simon Wang were asked how much recent snowfalls might contribute to raising the Great Salt Lake. Here’s what they had to say to reporter Leia Larsen, in an excerpt from the April 21 article in the Standard Examiner:
“Snowpack levels in the river basins feeding Utah’s largest terminal lake hit between 157 percent and 172 percent of normal by March. The snowy winter followed four years of drought. Water levels in the Great Salt Lake dropped to near-record lows while raising concerns about impacts on air quality, migrating birds and the future of lake-based businesses. As of last week, the Great Salt Lake’s south arm sat at nearly 4,195 feet, nearly a foot higher than the same time last year. Meanwhile, the top of Logan Canyon — part of the Bear River Basin — had 9.5 feet of snow and the equivalent of around five feet of water, a positive sign that the lake could continue to rise.
‘What does the Great Salt Lake mean? It’s kind of an indicator of what’s going on around it,’ said Scott Jones, a professor of environmental soil physics at Utah State University, during a recent snow survey. ‘We have wet years and dry years, and the Great Salt Lake shows to some degree when those happen.’
USU’s Utah Climate Center has taken historical data of the lake levels along with tree-ring data to model the lake’s fluctuating levels going back hundreds of years. Combing that with historical coral data from the Pacific, they’re able to make predictions on when the lake will rise and fall. That helps water managers prepare for future years of drought and surplus. ‘By predicting lake level, you’re predicting climate,’ said Simon Wang with the Utah Climate Center.”
The article also included Great Salt Lake water level and predictions for the future, and even a photo of iUTAH’s ‘Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions’ GAMUT climate station located in the T.W. Daniel Experimental Forest above Logan Canyon.
May 3, 2017
iUTAH researcher Dan Bedford was featured in a recent news story titled “Weber State professors respond to climate misinformation spun by recent book.” The article appeared in the April 24 edition of the Standard Examiner. Bedford was one of three faculty members asked to respond to a book questioning the scientific consensus on climate change. Here’s a short excerpt below:
“The book, titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” was published by the Heartland Institute. It claims what its title suggests, despite the fact that 90 to 100 percent of climate scientists agree climate change is real, human-caused and warming the planet at an alarming rate. The Heartland Institute is a nonprofit think tank with funding ties to fossil fuel industries…. The book attempts to debunk studies finding consensus among scientists about human-caused climate change and discredit findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.
Dan Bedford, a geography professor at Weber State, also received a copy of the Heartland Institute book. ‘My reaction to seeing this book is rather mixed,’ he said. ‘On the one hand, the whole idea of disseminating misinformation on a large scale about any scientific topic … that’s fundamentally problematic. I was upset about that.’ ”