(Alternative title: How I became a climate scientist). I’m back! After a long hiatus (also known as ‘spring semester’), I’m getting ready to publish a few posts that have been in the works for some time. This post, in fact, has probably been ‘in the works’ for more than 25 years.
I recently gave a talk to a group of faculty at my university. I was asked to speak about my work, but also share a bit about how I got into climate science in the first place. I started with this cover from Time Magazine – January 1989.
The cover of Time Magazine: January 2, 1989
This was the magazine cover that changed my life. Continue reading
The Poudre River in Fort Collins, the day before Thanksgiving (or, rather, the day before Black Friday craziness begins)…Also the day before snow.
A couple of weeks ago the major outdoor retail chain, REI, announced that they would close their doors for Thanksgiving AND Black Friday, pay their employees, and encourage everyone to go out and enjoy the great outdoors. I think this is awesome, and I applaud this move. In fact, it makes me want to do all my Christmas shopping at REI, so maybe that was the point. But how many people really care?
The colorful volcanic landscape of Isla Bartolomé in the Galapagos. The tall spire at the other end of the bay is ‘Pinnacle Rock’.
Imagine cruising into a tiny, protected bay, where the water laps gently on the rocks. Your vision is saturated with shades of blue, from the sky and the water, and shades of red, brown, grey and purple of volcanic cinder cone – you begin to feel like you’re on another planet. This is the small islet of Bartolomé in the Galapagos.
I felt as though I had walked into an episode of National Geographic. There it was, the famous blue-footed booby, less than 5 feet away, contentedly situated atop a small rock, and staring at us with alien eyes. He didn’t even blink as cameras shuttered and beeped. I’m guessing that this particular booby – and every booby on North Seymour Island – is already featured in thousands of photo albums and Facebook pages.
The blue-footed booby, along with the giant tortoise, are the iconic creatures of the Galapagos. Although, iguanas and sea lions are prominently featured. And if you’ve ever studied biology, you’ve heard of Darwin’s finches. Yes – that’s right – the Galapagos Islands is the place that inspired Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution. I’ve met enough people who don’t quite know where the Galapagos are, that this warrants a short geography lesson before I go much further. Continue reading
Imagine a high, windswept, rolling plain, with tall grasses sprouting from spongy soil. This is a place where you can watch the clouds and feel them engulf you before they scurry past, as they race to the next mountain top. The sky here is ever-changing, offering an occasional glimpse of blue, where wispy cirrus cruise by at a leisurely pace high above compared to the ragged cumulus and foggy patches that race by just above your head.
Llamas on the páramo. They were our audience as we hiked to one of the weather stations.
The Ecuadorians have a saying ‘Abril, aguas mil.’ (And lodo=mud.) The direct translation is roughly: April – a thousand waters (and I added the part about the mud). You get the idea – it’s basically the same sentiment as ‘April showers bring May flowers.’ True to form, the atmosphere has delivered us aguas mil this month. For that matter, March was also a month of aguas mil. I have become accustomed to donning rain gear, boots, and marching out of the house with my giant umbrella (mi sombrillo gigante!) that I purchased on a street corner in a moment of soggy desperation sometime back in March. Everyday I wish we could send some of this deluge off to California, where people actually need the water.
A Cuenca city bus about to cross a bridge over the muddy and raging Tomebamba river not far from my office at the satellite campus at the University of Cuenca.
There is something about a windswept, lonely place that draws me in. It’s the escape from the bustling crowds and the diesel. Living in Ecuador’s third largest city is sometimes a challenge simply because it is a city. When I first arrived, I thought I was suffering from culture-shock. I think a lot of the shock was simply adjusting to city life. I’ve adapted, but I still need to escape regularly – to breathe fresh air and wipe the grime from my face.
New Zealand has the Middle Earth claim-to-fame. But the Andes could have easily played a starring role as the Misty Mountains in Lord of the Rings.