Blog

Blog

We are developing GLOBE Weather, an innovative, NGSS-based middle school science unit, to help students engage with GLOBE weather data to make sense of interesting real-world phenomena.

HAO scientists prepare for Solar Eclipse 2017

Scientists at NCAR's High Altitude Observatory (HAO) prepare to study the Sun during the August 2017 solar eclipse... inspired by the eyes of mantis shrimps!

We created a severe storms learning zone at Earth Day Texas in Dallas, featuring a storm chasing vehicle and activities for kids. Nearly everyone that we talked to had actually seen a tornado.

Smoke, Fire and Air Pollution blog post

When a wildfire was burning dangerously close to Boulder, Colorado, we found evidence of the smoke in the data feed that will soon be installed in our new air quality exhibit.

Global average surface temperature in 2016 was 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average. This is the third year in a row that our planet has set a new record for unusual heat.

Snowflakes come in all shapes and sizes. Here are two who like each other just the way they are. Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunny California Hasn't Been Very Sunny, Which Is Good for Stopping Drought

After over five years of parched conditions, January brought lots of rain and snow to California. There’s been so much precipitation that now about half the state is free from drought.

Mountain lion
The American Southwest is becoming more prone to drought as Earth warms. How will the drier conditions affect mountain lions, the biggest cats in North America?
Getting scientific with your new drone

Now that you can fly it, what else can you do with that new drone you received as a holiday gift? We'll help you try some scientific experiments with it!

Arctic sea ice
I know you’re busy this time of year, so I’ll get right to the point. Your jolly workshop is in a pretty vulnerable location as climate changes, so I hope that you, Mrs. Claus, the reindeer, and the elves are doing what you can to stay resilient.
Santa UAV
Did you get a drone as a gift for the holidays? If so, let us share some ideas of fun things to do with it!
Why the Polar Vortex Keeps Breaking out of the Arctic
Why does the Polar Vortex keep breaking out of the Arctic? Surprisingly, warming global temperatures play a role.
In this new cartoon series, Villains in the Air, you’ll get to know air pollutants and see what they have to say for themselves. This first installment takes a look at particulate matter, or aerosols, finding that big hazards can come in small packages.
It all started in 1815 with a huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia. Find out how Earth inspired a monster!
Climate Game Creation Contests - Spring 2016
Two contests for creating games about climate change are up and running in the spring of 2016. Enter your idea - maybe you will win!
All you'll need is a planet, thousands of thermometers, and a million data points.
The dynamic duo of climate change and El Niño are wreaking havoc with strange weather this month.
Last week's hurricane that hit Mexico was small in size, but developed strong winds very quickly.
The Martian
Would a dust storm like the one that starts the movie The Martian happen? The answer is both yes and no.
Blog: Vizualizing the Invisible
With visualizations we can see the entire planet from all angles at once. We can see the invisible – such as water vapor in the atmosphere and the way air flows around the world.
We've learned a lot from the Boulder area ozone gardens this summer, and we're already making plans to continue this project in 2016!
In addition to damaging the leaves of some plants, ozone pollution can impact plant growth, including plants we use as a source of food.
Poor air quality in Colorado from wildfires in the western U.S. has caused an increase in ozone damage on plants in our gardens. In this post we explore how ozone damages plants.
Looking ahead, many skiers and snowboarders are wondering – how much snow will there be this winter? In part, the answer depends on El Niño.
What’s the status of ozone damage on plants in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer? Is it similar to what we’re seeing in our gardens?
Sun Educational Resources for HAO 75th Anniversary
Educational games and other fun resources about the Sun and space weather in honor of HAO's 75th anniversary.
There is no observable ozone damage to the plants in the CU Museum garden, but does this really mean there is no ground level ozone here?
bean plant in ozone garden
Ground-level ozone (a.k.a “bad” ozone) is harmful to humans and plants. See what the ozone garden at the University of Colorado Boulder looks like this week.
A group of middle and high school science teachers visited the ozone gardens at NCAR and tried out our new data collection sheets.
Learn about our newest ozone garden in Colorado! This summer we planted a garden at the University of Colorado Mountain Research Station in order to study ozone pollution at higher elevations.
Not all plants are sensitive to ground-level ozone! The Boulder ozone gardens include four types of plants that are vulnerable to ozone damage and show visible signs of that damage.
Even though the Front Range in Colorado is known to have high levels of ozone, ozone measurements can vary greatly between locations, even within the same city.
Ozone gardens in Boulder, CO are growing fast and showing signs of ozone damage!
Teacher Jeffrey Yuhas and his high school students visited the NCAR Mauna Loa Solar Observatory. Learn about their adventure!
Drip Drop! Music video explores climate change for K-12
Young pop stars groove in Drip Drop!, a new music video that dramatizes climate and water issues. Designed to engage youth audiences, the video is a joint production of UCAR SciEd and Kid Tribe.
Participating in citizen science projects is a great way for people - and children in particular - to learn about the nature of science.
2014 was, quite likely, the warmest in the past 135 years. We know that because we know the uncertainty.
football
If you’re a Patriots fan or a Seahawks loyalist, have a ball getting students involved in some real-world forensic science around Super Bowl XLIX this February!
Only visible at high latitudes, and at certain times, not everyone can see the aurora. However, photographs let us all know what it looks like.
Why was it so dry in California in 2013 and 2014? Why are there torrential downpours now? Here's a cartoon version of the story.
A Tale of the Polar Vortex and Super Typhoon Nori
Extreme cold is making its way across North America this week. Here’s a cartoon version of the global weather drama that caused our temperatures to dive.
Super Science Saturday UCAR/NCAR
Over a thousand children of all ages raced up and down the hallways of the Mesa Lab on Saturday, November 8th for one of the best ever turnouts for Super Science Saturday.
climate voices
Climate Voices is helping people get information about climate science by connecting scientists with communities who want to learn more. Bring a climate scientist to your school!
It is always with a tinge of sadness that I say goodbye to the SOARS protégés at the end of summer. But it is also with pride that I look at how far these vibrant, talented students have come in just eleven short weeks.
The twelve soccer stadiums in Brazil where World Cup matches are happening this month are in many different climates. Some are hot and humid. Some are hot and dry. Others are slightly cooler.
For my first blog entry for UCAR, I would like to share a bit about sundogs (also called mock suns or parhelia). I got a good look at this atmospheric phenomena out the window of a bus on my way to Boulder, CO on a morning in April, 2014.
Cars slipping on ice
Ice is slippery, causing cars and trucks to skid out of control. You can safely explore how cars slip on ice by making a model of an icy road and testing out how well the wheels of toy cars grip onto the ice.
ice
When it’s freezing outside, it can be icy too. People walking down the street find their feet sliding in directions that they didn’t intend. A few unlucky ones slip and fall. But have you ever wondered why we slip?
A guest post by NCAR scientist Peggy Lemone - How do you measure rain? And how accurate are the measurements?
boulder creek
At Boulder's climate station, 14.6 inches of rain fell between September 9, and early morning, September 13, 2013. Most of that rain (more than 9 inches) fell on September 12. That’s a lot, right? Or is it?
Moore Books for Moore Kids
A guest post by SOARS Protege Diamilet Perez Betancourt - I sometimes find it hard to remember the broader impacts of my research – that is, until a tornado hits.
Participate in hurricane research without getting wet! At the Cyclone Center, you evaluate images of tropical storms that occurred over the past 30 years.
Friday, May 31, 2013 is a day that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I didn’t see my first tornado, but this was my first encounter with an Oklahoma supercell thunderstorm. I experienced so many different emotions during the day.
Denver thunderstorm
UCAR Center for Science Education Staffer Becca Hatheway encountered a tornado yesterday on her way to Denver International Airport. Naturally, this made her think about bears.
Moore tornado
Severe thunderstorms needed to happen during the MPEX field campaign for it to be a success. I never had this thought until after several deadly tornadoes tore across central Oklahoma in May while we were studying the storms.
thunderstorm
Logan Dawson, SOARS protégé, is working on a field campaign funded by NSF to investigate whether more weather observations can lead to better predictions of severe thunderstorms.
Equity and access in education are BIG topics, and for good reason. At a time when the achievement gap between rich and poor is close to an all-time high in the United States, it's wise to assess access, opportunity, and will, and ask ourselves as educators, "Are we doing enough?"

We spotted antelope, bison, and snow-capped peaks as our van traveled between Colorado and Wyoming. The area used to be known as the western frontier, but we were there to see something else - one of the fastest computers in the world – a technological frontier.

Last week, ten of us from the UCAR Center for Science Education and NCAR visited a supercomputer housed on the prairie west of Cheyenne at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.

Movie of 3 years of the Sun
Time-lapse movie of three years of the Sun as viewed in ultraviolet "light" by NASA's SDO satellite.
This week I got a message from Kimberley, a 7th grade student working on a science project to teach her classmates about the atmosphere. “I was wondering if you could give me any concepts, ideas, or activities that might interest my classmates,” she wrote. “Also if you know any websites I could look up that would be great.”
snow
Why are some snowflakes small and others big? Why are some shaped like stars while others are shaped like rods or plates? In this cartoon, two snowflakes meet and discuss these questions.
bayou
A couple of weeks ago, Jonathan Foret shared a childhood story that made an excellent point about communicating science to the public. He was speaking at the Education Symposium of the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorology Society in Austin, Texas.
In the scientific sense, climate normal is the average of the past 30 years of data about temperature, precipitation and other aspects of weather. Climate is what’s normal, what’s typical, what you’d expect. Yet, we now have a new normal for climate. If you average the past 30 years of temperature data you will have a higher number of degrees than if you average an earlier 30 years of data. Climate is changing, which means normal is changing, at least in the scientific sense. We have a new baseline.
AMS WeatherFest
Staff head to the American Meteorological Society's 93rd Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas in early January. After a year of weather extremes, there won't be any lulls in the program for scientists and educators in attendance, but the public can take part, too!
Taxis in San Francisco
Earlier this month, after hopping into a cab in San Francisco, the driver asked me what kind of work I do. “Science!” I replied. What followed was a strange yet candid conversation about what this cab driver thought a scientist should look like. He and I did not see eye-to-eye about this, but the short ride was amusing.
Did you see the total solar eclipse on Tuesday? No? Why not? Was it because you weren't in Northern Australia? Yeah, that's where it could be seen. But wait! I saw it and I wasn't in Australia. In fact, I'm looking at it right now. Yes, I am boasting. And, no, it is not still going on. I can look at the eclipse by looking at my computer thanks to oodles of people who took photos and video of the eclipse happening and posted them online.
Colorado Science Conference
Join UCAR Center for Science Education educators and the teachers we work with at the Colorado Science Conference for Professional Development, November 16, 2012 at the Denver Merchandise Mart. We'll be highlighting how weather and climate science from the National Center for Atmospheric Research can make its way into secondary education.
Records set during the Olympics by fast swimmers and runners and all sorts of other athletes were exciting. They made people jump out of seats in living rooms around the world and cheer. But records set by our planet are another story. Those make me uneasy.
Melting sea ice doesn’t cause sea level to rise because the ice is already in the ocean, but it does cause other changes to the planet. When sea ice melts, more sunlight is absorbed by the Earth, which causes more warming. It’s a vicious cycle. And here’s how it works.
In the Arctic Ocean, autumn doesn’t mean colorful leaves or harvesting pumpkins and apples. It means that the ice bobbing atop the sea around the North Pole is at its minimum after melting through the summer. This autumn, new records are being set for the minimum amount of sea ice in the Arctic.
By Annareli Morales, SOARS Protégé It's not every day that you get to tour expensive and advanced research aircraft that fly high and low through hurricanes, winter cyclones, and thunderstorms all around the globe. Last week some fellow SOARS protégés and I toured NCAR’s Research Aviation Facility.
By Monika Wnuk, UCAR Intern. Under the wing of their project mentor, Kristina Peterson, SOARS protégés Sandra Maina and Frances Roberts-Gregory spent their first weeks at late-night dinners, Masses, even shrimping with shrimpers, all for the sake of gaining trust from the community they would rely on for their research.
By Andre Perkins, SOARS Protégé. A curious cloud is visible in the rearview mirror. It’s much lower than any of the other cumulus puffs at the top of daytime thermals. Why is it so low? Is it coming from the mountains? I had never seen the effects of a wildfire in person before June 9th, 2012 when the High Park ignited to the west of Fort Collins, CO.
By Stanley Edwin, SOARS Protégé. I could still see some of the smoke in the hills above Boulder when I returned from a science workshop in New Mexico. This told me how close the fire came to Boulder. As a former forest firefighter in Alaska, I have a little more experience with fires than most college students, so when I first heard about the fire encroaching on Boulder, I decided to reassure my SOARS friends that everything would be fine.
By Curtis Walker, SOARS Protégé. Last winter, much of the U.S. saw above average temperatures and less snowfall than usual. Months later the price is being paid in the form of wildfire, an unpredictable and untamable force of nature.
By Curtis Walker, SOARS Protégé. On Friday, June 1, 2012, I joined my research mentors for a meeting to discuss the details of my SOARS 2012 Project. They mentioned that this summer I would be working with NASCAR, but they didn’t tell me that I would have the opportunity to go to my first race!

It’s easy to underestimate the power of one, but its easier still to forget that each of us has that power, especially in our roles as mentors and educators.

A new episode ("Secrets of the Sun") of the TV series NOVA features scientists from NCAR's High Altitude Observatory.
I spent an afternoon at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, California. Everywhere I looked, kids and adults were playing with things, experimenting, trying one idea or another. I watched a guy spin a small ball on a rotating table and a 3-year-old play with a pendulum. What they weren’t doing, though, was reading – at least, not much.
Imagine someone who is exploring nature. Now imagine someone exploring science. Scientists, naturalist, writers, and artists all look at nature in different ways. What's your lens on nature?
Satellite images of the Southeastern Louisiana coast are mostly dark with green capillaries blossoming into lace strands that branch again and again into the surrounding blackness. The satellite images hint at the history of the land, its slow sinking.
One of my favorite bumper-stickers reads, don’t believe everything you think. Science is built on applying this sentiment. Doing science requires not quite believing things until you test them - over and over again.
We are pleased to host part of a multimedia exhibit called “the invisible connectedness of things” by artist Kim Abeles at the NCAR Mesa Lab. If you are in or near Boulder, Colorado, we hope you visit.
We hope the new name for our science education group hints at our goals. We want to spark interest in science, ignite careers in research and careers that solve real-world problems using research results. And we hope to launch collaborative relationships between communities and scientists.