January 14, 2016
Using a new method to sample “hard water” deposits or coatings on buried river gravel from Wyoming’s Wind River Basin, Erik Oerter found that the interior of North America had much wetter, cooler summers during a small ice age 70,000 to 55,000 years ago, with summers 4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than today, and winters also colder. At the time, glacial ice covered an area from the Great Lakes to the Northeast. A persistent, clockwise-rotating, high-pressure area sat over the ice sheet, pushing moist air from the Gulf of Mexico into the North American interior. Oerter defines that area rather vaguely, given the data come only from Wyoming. He says wetter summer conditions didn’t necessarily occur in Utah because it sits on the other side of the Rockies from the Wyoming study site. Oerter did the research for his doctoral dissertation at University of California, Berkeley. He now is a geology postdoctoral fellow in the U’s Global Change and Sustainability Center. His study was published Jan. 11. Oerter and colleagues determined dates, precipitation and temperature data using existing methods to analyze ratios of carbon, oxygen and uranium isotopes in the gravel coatings for the past 120,000 years. But they used new techniques with laser and ion beams to sample minute bits – one-2,500th of an inch in size – of the gravel coatings, providing a record of climate conditions on a more detailed scale of thousands of years, compared with tens of thousands previously. The coatings on the gravel are known as pedothems, soil carbonates or calcium carbonate. “They are basically hard water deposits similar to the ones on your bathroom faucet,” Oerter says.
Erik Oerter, cell: 303-990-1499, email@example.com
December 17, 2015
U metallurgical engineers will celebrate completion of their innovative $5 million Flash Ironmaking Reactor – a project aimed at developing “flash technology” to make iron and steel as an alternative to the traditional blast furnace and coke oven. The new process is expected to significantly reduce energy consumption, save money and reduce water and air pollution, especially climate-warming carbon dioxide gas. The project – funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, American Iron and Steel Institute and the U – is led by metallurgical engineering professor Hong Yong Sohn and project manager Yousef Mohassab. They will lead a tour of the lab, followed by a presentation in the nearby Olpin Union.
Hong Yong Sohn, office: 801-581-5491, cell 801-809-7457 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yousef Mohassab, office: 801-585-5867, cell 801-386-0358 | Email: email@example.com
Ribbon-cutting and tour, Mining Systems Research Lab, Bldg. 59 (onsite signs say Ivor Thomas Lab), 128 Central Campus Drive, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Presentation of Flash Ironmaking Reactor, Panorama East Room, Olpin Union Bldg., 200 Central Campus Drive, 11:30 a.m. – noon.
November 24, 2015
The eyes of the world have been on Paris in recent weeks, and the focus won’t be shifting anytime soon. The city is set to host officials from across the globe on Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 at the United Nations’ COP 21, also knows at the Paris Climate Change Conference 2015.
At the gathering, leaders will work to establish a pact to keep global warming below what most scientists say is a critical threshold.
Professors at the University of Utah will be watching the discussions closely. Many have their own research to add to the debate, and are available for commentary on what’s happening at COP 21 as well as their own academic research on the topic. A few of the many researchers at the U studying issues related to climate change include:
Prospects for the Greatest Snow on Earth in a Warming World
Utah’s climate is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer today than it was in the early 1900s. Scientists expect this warming will continue during the 21st century, with the amount of warming dependent on future greenhouse gas emissions. University of Utah atmospheric scientists Jim Steenburgh and Courtenay Strong project that during coming decades, this warming will exert an increasingly discernible influence on the Greatest Snow on Earth. More winter precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow, especially at lower elevations. Utah’s higher elevations have some insurance against the early stages of global warming due to their cool winter climate. But winter storms will become warmer, the density of snowfalls will increase, and the quality of powder will decline. Eventually, with continued greenhouse gas emissions, the likelihood of significant snowfall and snowpack declines at even upper elevations increases. Ultimately, the future of the Greatest Snow on Earth depends on the decisions we make today.
Jim Steenburgh, office: 801-581-8727, cell 801-230-5715| Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtenay Strong, office: 801-585-0049| Email: email@example.com
The kids aren’t alright: Climate change can lead to lower birth weights
From melting glaciers to increasing wildfires, the consequences of climate change and strategies to mitigate such consequences are often a hotly debated topic. A new study led by the University of Utah adds to the ever-growing list of negative impacts climate change can have on humans—low birth weight. In the first study of its kind, a two-year project led by U geography assistant professor Kathryn Grace examined the relationship among precipitation, temperature and birth weight in 19 African countries. The findings show that a pregnant woman’s exposure to reduced precipitation and an increased number of very hot days results in lower birth weights. Grace is available to discuss her study’s results and implications.
Office 801-581-3610 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment
Over the summer, Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical on the environment drew much attention, and may be discussed again at COP21. The document calls for urgent action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, a trend the pope declares is a result of the burning of fossil fuels and human activity. The document outlines Francis’ viewpoint on the scientific and moral reasons for protecting the environment. It states low-income people in the world suffer the most from air pollution and toxic dumping. Law professor Lincoln Davies can offer a local perspective on these issues. He previously organized a summit on religion, faith and the environment. A recognized expert in energy law and policy, Davies’ research spans a broad array of energy topics, including renewables and alternative energy, carbon capture and sequestration, nuclear power, utility law and regulatory and technology innovation.
Phone: 801-581-7338 | Email: email@example.com
Communicating Climate Change
Scholars have called climate change the most difficult communication challenge of the century. Communication plays a major role at all levels of social change to address the issue and involves far more than simply providing more information. Julia Corbett, professor of communication, teaches both an undergraduate and graduate course exploring the major players in climate communication: the public, mass media, climate scientists and their deniers and institutions. Corbett writes both academic research and creative nonfiction about human relationships with the natural world. She’s available to speak about news coverage, attitude and behavior, social and cultural change, activism and protest in regards to climate change.
Office: 801-581-4557 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
November 13, 2015
Utah meteorologists call it the “dreaded lake effect” because they have trouble forecasting when and where heavy snow will be produced by cold air sweeping over the warmer Great Salt Lake. Such storms tend to be strongest in the morning, often during rush hour, so detailed forecasts of lake-effect snowfall would be ideal if available the previous night. So-called next-generation forecast models simulate the lake effect in unprecedented detail. But a study by Jim Steenburgh, a professor of atmospheric sciences, provides a sobering assessment how well these computer models can make night-before forecasts of the strength and location of lake-effect snowfall. The models raise false alarms, forecasting intense bands of lake-effect snow when actual snowfall is lighter and not banded. Steenburgh says lake-effect snowfall is mathematically chaotic. He says next-generation forecast models can do better if their shortcomings are addressed and enough computing power is provided to take into account the chaotic nature of the lake effect.
Office: 801-581-8727| Email: email@example.com
September 25, 2015
If you’re a Salt Lake City resident and have wondered if it seems a little toasty here, it might be because the city is one of the top “urban heat island” cities in the U.S., according to a new study by the University of Georgia. Urban heat island refers to the fluctuation of temperatures based on the configuration of the city along with other factors such as the materials predominant in the area (like asphalt), how much vegetation is there and the density of people. According to the study, Salt Lake City is in the top three urban heat island cities along with Miami and Louisville, Kentucky. U Civil and Environmental Engineering associate professor Christine Pomeroy is part of a research team that is looking at how green infrastructure could be used in Salt Lake City to possibly lower the urban heat island-related temperatures. She is available to speak about the team’s research and why Salt Lake City may be contributing to these higher temperatures.
Phone: 801-585-7300 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 7, 2015
Bonneville Speed Week organizers cancelled the event this year because of the poor condition of the famous salt flats, and racers are worried about the impact of continued potash mining. Scientist Brenda Bowen is leading an effort to identify all of the processes that shape the thickness and condition of the salt crust at the Bonneville Salt Flats. She can talk about the impact of mining, weather, ground water and other factors. Bowen is an associate professor of geology and geophysics and director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center at the U.
Phone: 801-585-5326 | Email: email@example.com
June 26, 2015
A draft copy of Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical on the environment has been gaining much attention worldwide this week. The document calls for urgent action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, a trend the pope declares is a result of the burning of fossil fuels and human activity. The document outlines Francis’ viewpoint on the scientific and moral reasons for protecting the environment. It states low-income people in the world suffer the most from air pollution and toxic dumping. Law professor Lincoln Davies can offer a local perspective on this developing news story and is available for interview. He previously organized a summit on religion, faith and the environment. A recognized expert in energy law and policy, Davies’ research spans a broad array of energy topics, including renewables and alternative energy, carbon capture and sequestration, nuclear power, utility law and regulatory and technology innovation.
Phone: 801-581-7338 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org