Over Colorado: A look at Niwot Ridge

Niwot Ridge is where scientists from CU's Alpine Research Center study the environment, which affects everything that happens down below. 9NEWS at 7 a.m. 5/22/17.

NIWOT RIDGE – All this week on the morning shows, we’ll take you “Over Colorado”.  We’ll meet people who work up in the air, and take you to places you’ve probably never been to.

Our first place is in the mountains at about 12,000 feet.  It’s a beautiful place where the sky seems touchable, and the views never seem to end.  It’s where science and nature come together.  It’s Niwot Ridge. It’s where scientists from CU’s Alpine Research Center study the environment, which affects everything that happens down below.


Jennifer Morse is one of those scientists.  A couple of times a week she and her team make their way up to the Ridge.  Sometimes they ski up, sometimes they take snow mobiles. Often they pack up a snow cat with equipment and head on up.  Researchers like Jennifer have been making their way up since the 1940’s. And every Tuesday since 1968, they’ve gone up to measure carbon dioxide in the air. 

It’s the longest continuous record on the continent of what our atmosphere is up to. Over the decades the CO2 level has steadily gone up, from around 330 parts per million 50 years ago, to more than 410 PPM now.  Since more CO2 and other greenhouse gasses warm the earth, that’s not good news.  But Jennifer says it’s important news.

“When people talk about made up science”, she says, “it seems ridiculous that we would have this many people doing their job, working hard, we’re not part of a big joke.”

The day we were on Niwot Ridge, it was beautiful. Blue skies, light winds, about 40 degrees.  But on many days when they are there, the wind is blowing more than 100 miles an hour and the temperature is 20 or 30 below.  It’s dangerous.  

Jennifer has been unable to find her skis after doing her work because of blowing snow. But the work goes on, and they often take shelter at a building there called the Alpine Lab.

There’s an urgency to the work that happens on Niwot Ridge. The measurements, experiments and science tell a story. The story of our future. Jennifer and her crew are thankful they get to work there. We should be too.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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