Wednesday, December 11, 2013

AGU Poster

Tomorrow I'm giving a poster on Just in Time Teaching, or "Warm-ups" as my students know them by.  Unfortunately I'm not able to drop the file on my server from the hotel wireless, but shoot me an email at if you want a link to the .pdf when I get back to Colorado!

If you are at the conference, I'm Thursday morning, poster 0761 in the Education session.  I'll be at my poster during the second half of the morning session if you want to chat!

Follow my #AGU13 tweets @keah88, or simply follow the #AGU13 hash-tag to find out more about what the 20,000 scientists are learning in San Francisco this week!

A capture of my poster:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

On Friday, what might have been the strongest land falling tropical system in recorded history hit the Philippines with 195 mph sustained winds and 235 mph gusts, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center's satellite estimates three hours before landfall.  Just to put that in perspective, the sustained winds are similar to what you might find in an EF 4 tornado, which we might be a bit more familiar with here in the middle of the country, and there they were in a large super typhoon.  (Of course the EF scale is meant to be more of a damage scale than a wind scale, but it is still an interesting perspective.)

Remember, typhoon is the northern portion of the west Pacific's name for what we call hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and Atlantic.   Super Typhoon Haiyan, aka Yolanda, contained winds 40 mph greater than the threshold for a category 5 storm.  It is hard to fathom!  The strongest winds can be found in the eye wall, which can be seen below, and in this case of a fast, westward moving system, on the north side of the eye due to the vector wind addition of the movement of the storm combined with the rotational winds of the storm.  One of the few highly populated areas on this island was Tacloban City, which got the brunt of the winds from the storm, and obviously, a significant storm surge.  Recovery efforts continue. 

I used to work at the SSEC in Wisconsin and appreciate their disseminating this animated .gif for us to enjoy.
Finally, because I teach our Global Climate Change course, I am familiar with the typical postmortem conversation that exists after all extreme weather events an the relationship to anthropogenic global warming.  The extremely fast paced global warming we have seen in the last 50 years is mostly due to human activities, as was once again spelled out for us in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that came out about a month ago.   (I prefer the Summary for Policymakers.)  Because of this, we now are living in a new normal.  Each storm system has a fingerprint of global warming on it.  I actually really enjoyed Jeff Masters' discussion of this over at Weather Underground:

I've blogged extensively about the links between hurricanes, typhoons, and climate change, most recently in my August 2013 post, Hurricanes and Climate Change: Huge Dangers, Huge Unknowns. Since hurricanes are heat engines that take heat energy from the oceans and convert it to the energy of their winds, rising ocean temperatures due to global warming should make the strongest storms stronger, though the poor quality and relatively short length of the global database of hurricanes and typhoons make it difficult to tell if this has already begun to occur. Hurricane scientists expect to see a 2% - 11% increase in the intensity of hurricanes and typhoons (aka tropical cyclones) by 2100. 
In fact this drove the climate delegate from the Philippines who is attending the policy discussions in Warsaw to proclaim he will fast until we come up with a binding international agreement to reduce global warming.  The Kyoto Protocol expired on January 1st, 2013 and there is currently no binding agreement, just a bunch of good intentions.  (Note that the United States never participated in the original protocol or came up with an equivalent U.S. policy.)  In fact we discussed the graph below in class today.  Although everyone and all countries pollute carbon emissions, some are more responsible for the problem than others.  Without the U.S. and China on board to make some big changes, the global warming will surpass safe levels of warming.  Although given the recent events, maybe we already have? 

Fossil Fuel Emissions

Monday, October 28, 2013

Women in Earth Science

One of my best friends, Yolanda Roberts, is a new NASA scientist in Virginia!  We went to graduate school together at the University of Colorado for Atmospheric and Oceanic Science.  This month she is featured on the Women@NASA page, "Women Celebrating Earth Science."  She truly is an inspiration.  She discusses her story and advice for young women scientists in an awesome interview here:

NASA Scientist, Dr. Yolanda Roberts
 Hurray for women in science!!! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Boulder Flood

This post is to share my personal story of the Boulder Flooding event with you.  The flood ended up covering much more than Boulder, but this is simply my perspective of the event.  Scroll to the bottom for links to meteorology articles on the flood.

After a Labor Day trip to New York City, I returned to Colorado to find highs in the upper 90's and sweltering heat, not that the east coast was cool either.  I spent Sunday at Rocky Flats Lounge watching the first Packer game of the season in what felt like a sweaty, stinky sauna.  The week started horribly for me, with two broken RTD buses in one day, and a spider bite that caused my leg to swell, and rain that started on Monday.  I welcomed it originally as a break from the heat.  Tuesday I walked to the bus home in street flooding in Denver and returned home soaked to the bone.  I complained to friends about some sort of bad luck streak.  Little did I know, things would get much worse, and that in the end I would be one of the lucky ones. 

Wednesday 9/11/13 
I live on a ridge in South Boulder but am a meteorology professor in downtown Denver.  Wednesday night I got back to Boulder around 8:00pm and had to stop at the pharmacy to get advice and supplies to deal with a spider bite I had gotten the night before.  Dr. Hancock, the entomologist in the biology department down the hall had assured me that it wasn't necrotic, so I was just treating swelling.  The pharmacist set me up with some benadryl and calamine lotion.  I grabbed some food, and left the King Soopers store at the corner of Table Mesa and Broadway around 8:15pm.  As I approached the doors to the parking lot, rain was coming down harder than I have ever seen.  It reminded me of something you might see in the tropics.  The parking lot was full of water.  The umbrella helped keep my head dry, but that was about it.  The parking lot was 3-4" deep with water and as I got into the car and approached Table Mesa, a river of water was running down the right lane towards Broadway.  The southwest corner of Broadway and Table Mesa was like a small pond, but my Subaru Outback made it through and I carefully headed up the hill to my house in the pouring rain. 

I returned to find that a beam that runs through my condo had water seeping along it and dripping onto the ground.  I set up a bucket and some towels and went online to follow the flash flooding situation that was unfolding while I ate my dinner and took my Benadryl.  Twitter, the Boulder Sheriff scanner, and local friends on Facebook who are also meteorologists were my best resources. 

Jamestown, Fourmile, and Lyons news were very, very concerning to me.  

I finally went to bed at 3:30am after realizing I needed to be functional on Thursday.  The whole night before and after I went to bed consisted of CU alert text messages as well as Emergency Alerts. It was not a good sleep.

Thursday morning, 6:30am on 9/12/13
My mom called at 6:30 (she forgets sometimes that we live in different time zones).  I explained to her that people were cut off by mudslides, that Boulder was probably ruined, and I was very upset.  I went to work on Thursday after considering staying home.  A fellow professor texted that he made it in from my neighborhood and I followed shortly behind him on the bus in full rain gear.  I had two classes and decided it was best to leave Denver afterwards ASAP or get stranded there for the weekend and not be able to protect my property in Boulder.  Cherry creek looked crazy.

Cherry Creek, Speer near Larimer, Denver
I took the 2:30 bus home and this is when things got real for me.

The rain was really coming down.  I opened my garage door and a river of water poured out.  It had been pushing on the door.  The back of the garage is about 4 feet underground, and is very, very poorly constructed.  There is a hole in the corner and the river of water draining down from the mountains was finding its way into this hole and into my garage.  Water in my garage is not new.  Every time it rains we get a few inches of rain in the back and I own a shop vac that I use to suck it up.  Honestly, my HOA is too poorly run to fix the problem, despite my five years of nagging them about it.  I am only a renter, so nothing gets done.  Thanks, HOA.  This was the first time the entire garage was inundated, and that the water was actually flowing through the garage.  This video was taken late Thursday afternoon by my condo, car, and garage, which is the open one on the right near the end.  Things got worse than this, but rather than thinking to capture it with video, I Facetimed with my parents to show them and have no record of it.  

While I was dealing with my garage, I took a walk around the neighborhood.  My condo neighborhood consists of several buildings with eight units each.  Four units at ground level and four on the second/third floors.  90% of the ground units are actually garden level units about 3-6 feet below the level of the grass.  You enter their homes by taking 3-4 stairs down into their porch area where their front door and patio door open to a porch area.  In our backyard is a drainage area and across the street are the mountains (Green Mountain, South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, location of the "Flagstaff Fire" of 2012).  My condo is a ground unit that is above ground on a little hill and is east-facing. The neighborhood contains a mix of professionals, retirees, second homes/vacation homes and vacant units that have been on the market for ages. 

On my first walk around, I found several units whose gutters were draining about 6 inches from the edge of the foundation.  Yet another example of the fabulous work of our HOA, right?  I went in my garage and found some long pieces of metal and placed them strategically for two neighbors who were closest to a developing river in our backyard.  I was able to extend the gutters about 4 feet each so the water was no longer contributing to the puddles in their low porch areas.

I noticed a woman who had just gotten back from the store, perhaps in superior, and had eight bags of mulch that she was planning to use as sand bags.  I followed her to her unit and realized she was flooding.  Her neighbors set up the mulch bags against her patio door while I grabbed my shop vac from the garage and had her start sucking water up from her living room floor, then dumping the water in her bathtub.  I started bailing water from her porch, which is a tiled surface with a hole where a sump pump existed, but was no longer working.  The water was at worst 6" deep and against her patio door, and at best, just at the level of the tile at the top of the hole.  I bailed water from the hole using a 3 gallon bucket and walked each bucket-full up her stairs and across the sidewalk to the drainage ditch where I dumped it into standing water.  I probably did this for an hour.  I was wearing a baseball cap to keep water out of my face, my rain jacket, yoga pants, and croc galoshes with wool socks.  I quickly became soaked to the bone despite my gear, my spider bite taunting me under my boots.  The woman, who is probably my age, had a fabulous condo with wood floors and a beautiful kitchen.  She was panicked and just kept doing what she could do.  I left for a bit.

I walked by her neighbors who had more water in their porch.  They had about 6" of water against their patio door and it was pouring into their condo.  They had three people bailing water and getting nowhere.  Another woman in the same building had given up.  None of them had working sump pumps.

I went home and called my dad who is a pipeline engineer and just a really smart guy.  Several years ago our home town had a flash flood and he famously saved my cousin's basement that lacked a drain plug by taking a nerf football and stuffing it in the hole.  I explained the situation this woman was in.  I could not keep up with bailing water.  The sump pump was broken, I didn't know what was in that hole.  He had several ideas and warnings.  #1  Water was coming into the porch areas via the drain that conceivable lead to the drainage area behind our condos.  Could we plug the drain?  #2  Sump pumps were likely broken because they had been working too hard for too long.  #3  We could try to stop water from pumping into the condos by setting up a tarp and trying to get it as tight as possible across the patio door using a 2X4 and #4  The minute you find yourself standing in a puddle of water using an electronic device, you are at risk of death.  Be careful.  I hung up with my dad and ran to the garage for supplies.

I found zero things that could plug the drain.  I found a tarp and a 2X4 and took that to the bailers whose patio window had water against it.  It didn't help.  I talked to the woman about her drain and we had no drain plug.  We couldn't keep it from coming up.  She had unplugged the sump pump for a bit and when she plugged it back in, it started working again.  I left her and went home again.

The waterfall by the stairs in the video above is coming from a newly-formed creek that had formed behind my condo building.  I found the closest person to this intense flooding and offered them a pump I had in my garage.  They decided they didn't need it yet, but told me about two older men who were in deep trouble closer to the main road.  I walked over and found them with a foot of water in their deep porch and offered the pump.  Yes, they wanted it.  We got all of the hoses connected and couldn't get the pump to work.  Their pump was already broken.  Could we try a siphon?   We tried.  It didn't work, the porch was too deep.  I bailed water for them to try to catch them up from the distraction of the pump while one of the men was on the phone begging his ex wife to bring him sand bags.  I eventually went home in the darkness.  It was probably 9:00.  They were in big trouble, but there was nothing more I could do.

I showered quickly, starting to wonder what was in the water I had been standing in for the last 5 hours with my spider wound on my leg exposed.  I never ate dinner.  Before I got on the 2:30 bus, my colleague and I split up to find food and water to bring home, then met on the bus fully stocked for the unknown.  My "lunch" was still sitting on my coffee table uneaten.  I took a few bites, but it was apparent that adrenaline could get me further, while usually I suffer from sensitive blood sugar levels.

I found my bed covered in water from the leakage from the beam.  It was sandy and brown water, very gross.  I'll probably have to throw away my feather-topper.  I stripped the bed and moved the bed to the other side of the small room where it still sits.  I set up more buckets and towels.  I found some clean sheets and prepared my bed for some much needed sleep, then went to catch up on the news.

Lots of confusing information.  Bear Creek is down the hill from my house, right next to my grocery store.  The wall of water was supposed to hit at midnight. 
I went to graduate school at CU, so I get their emergency alert text messages.  Messages started to pour in about a wall of water (this is probably the third time they warned us of this) coming down Boulder Creek to hit at midnight and evacuations at the mouth of the canyon began.  Channel 7 had a reporter on the Broadway bridge, so I tuned in to see him get wiped out by this "tsunami."  Boulder is known nationwide as one of the most highly educated populations in the world.  Let's just say that the educated among us did not show their faces on camera that night and it was the not-so-bright who, upon receiving a text that a wall of debris was coming down Boulder canyon, walked down to the creek to "Check it out, man."  Luckily, the surge discussed above dissipated and flattened out by the time it came to the creek, as much as I would have loved to see those idiots learn their lesson to heed the warnings of officials, I'm glad that life and property was safe. 

I slept very well after running on 3 hours of sleep and adrenaline for 48 hours.

Friday the sun came out briefly.  9/13/13  Friday the 13th. 
I woke up on Friday and could barely move.  Bailing water is hard work!  I went for a 4 mile walk to see some damage, loosen up my muscles, and see if the road closure map was correct in indicating that I was stuck in my neighborhood.  My neighbors were busy pumping out water, cutting out carpet, and removing all flooring from the units.  I checked out the damage at Bear Creek, which runs along Table Mesa between Lehigh and Broadway.  I found lots of damage along the creek and evidence that it was running down the street on both sides during the night. 

Bear Creek:  Table Mesa and Gillespie.
Where Bear Creek crosses under(?) Lehigh to start down Table Mesa, looking north-ish.  This creek is usually tiny.   Wasn't so tiny Thursday evening. 
Photo courtesy of Jason English.  Photo looking towards the Southern Sun from Table Mesa in front of King Soopers.  This is Bear Creek.
On my walk back up the hill it started thunderstorming, but nothing too heavy.

Saturday 9/14/13
Saturday is a blur of boring isolation.  I went to my neighbor's house to get back my shop vac.  Her house was void of flooring and smelled like raw fish.  They had come in and ripped it all out for her that morning.  It was too wet under the floor to keep it in.  Her once perfect apartment was now a slab of dirty concrete and heavy duty fans.  Neighbors were also removing flooring and some had moving trucks for all of their furniture.  I sucked what was left of the water in my garage into my shop vac and poured it outside before it started raining again.

At one point I finally went to the grocery store to grab ingredients for chili.  Upon my return I lost power.  It came back on long enough for me to make my chili and get out candles and flashlights.  Around 8:00pm it was off for the night.  I sat around and watched a movie on my ipad until I was tired enough to go to sleep.  At 2:00am the power came back on and I had to go around turning everything off.  (I would continue to lose power for several months after this.)

Sunday 9/15/13
It started pouring again around 9:30am.  I got a message from a pregnant friend that she needed help getting her things out of her basement, but another group of friends was able to get to her.  We were told that South Boulder was having sewage backup in people's basements, so we shouldn't flush, do laundry, or send anything down the drain.  Later we found that while cleaning the pipes, baseball sized rocks were found inside.  I'm still obeying the no-flush rule until tomorrow.

The Packer game wasn't on TV so I started to write this blog post while I watched live channel 7 coverage of the flooding.  I lost power again and began prepping for class as long as my laptop battery would last.

Another friend called.  She lives in my neighborhood but is gone for the semester and had a friend staying at her place.  The friend was no where to be found, the power had been out all weekend, and she heard there was water in her basement.  I drove over and helped a neighbor set up a generator for her sump pump.  It was too late, really.  2" of water in her basement is enough to require a full flooring makeover and probably drywall.  I ran home, grabbed a gas can (plenty of those around considering we used to own a VW van) and ran to the gas station to fill up my gas can for the generator and dropped it off for the neighbor to refill the generator throughout the night.  I returned home to find my electricity was back on.  It was still raining. 

School is back on for Monday, despite the continuing devastation.  I guess this is where my story ends.  16"+ of rain since last Monday.  It's raining as I post this.  I'll leave you with a few links to interesting information, meteorologically. 

Boulder Canyon Mudslide video
Flooding Rains in the Front Range of Colorado, a CIMSS blog from the University of Wisconsin
Inside the Colorado Deluge, a UCAR article
Floods Wreak Havoc Along Colorado Front Range, an AGU blog
Everything that lead to Colorado's record-breaking flood and why it will only get worse,  an article by a friend of mine discussing climate change. 

A hilarious video taken near my condo on Thursday. 

Rainfall Records Smashed in Boulder from September 9th -14th

• Record rainfall for a 24 hour period for the City of Boulder 9.08" from 5PM Wednesday September 11th - 5PM Thursday September 12th. Previous record 4.80" 7/31/1919

• Record rainfall for the month of September for Boulder 17.18" Previous record 5.50" 09/30/1940

• Monthly rainfall record in Boulder 17.18" so far for September 2013. Previous record 9.60" May 1995

• New Annual precipitation Record Established for Boulder 30.14" through September 16th 2013...Previous record 29.47" 1995

• Nearly one year’s worth of rain in less than one week

My analysis of the meteorology and climatology of it all will just have to wait until I can concentrate on that type of thing.  Considering I have four classes tomorrow, I have a feeling that won't be for a while.

Until then,
stay dry. 


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Summer Online Course Global Climate Change

Take my summer online course!  It's my first online course and I've been attending workshops all semester to learn how to make it fun, efficient, and worth taking!  I'm working on some really fun videos for the course.

MTR 1600 Global Climate Change.  It fulfills the Natural and Physical Science requirement as well as the Global Diversity Requirement, so it is a true double-dipper!
It meets online from May 28-August 2nd. 

A new textbook!  Hot off the press for 2013, up to date with even last September's sea ice minimum!  I can't wait to switch over, it is going to be so much fun!  It is a very easy to read book with tons of color figures.  There's also lots of awesome videos in each chapter to help present the material in a fun way. 
Description:  This course presents the science behind global climate change from an Earth systems and atmospheric science perspective. These concepts then provide the basis to explore the effect of global warming on regions throughout the world. This leads to the analysis of the observed and predicted impacts of climate change on these regions; the effect of these changes on each region's society, culture, and economy; and the efforts of these regions to mitigate or adapt to climate change. The interdependence of all nations will be discussed in regards to fossil fuel-rich regions, regions responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, and regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  3 credits. (General Studies:  Natural and Physical Science, Global Diversity requirements)

Sign up today!  
CRN:  41409

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On TV and Time Management

I found a neat article on time management from my alma mater and a funny presentation.  I spend a lot of time thinking about how to manage my time better so that I am not always just accomplishing day-to-day goals, but medium- and long-term goals as well.  I am looking forward to exploring some of these ideas. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Prepared to Learn

Professor Terry Doyle spoke to a packed auditorium of Colorado professors at the Teacher Scholar Forum.  He taught us about the neuroscience behind learning, which focused on the things students need to be prepared to learn.  

Here's a link to Dr. Doyle's PowerPoint on his blog, which is probably worth subscribing to!

"It is the one who does the work that does the learning."  Passive absorption of lecture material is so old fashioned!  Time to have active learning take place in the classroom!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dr. Avila speaks to Metro students on hurricane forecasting

Professors Ng and Landolt and the SCAMS officers organized a lovely evening for us on Thursday!  They invited Dr. Lixion Avila to come speak.  He is a senior hurricane specialist from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.  He gave a lively talk about his job as a forecaster and about 50 of our meteorology students and several National Weather Service guests joined us for the talk.  I have never seen a room so animated with questions!  Several of the students and myself made goodies for the talk.  I made two dozen hurricane cupcakes, which were a big hit.  Thanks to all who came out! 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Teacher Scholar Forum

My science literacy faculty learning community is giving two presentations at the MSU Denver Teacher Scholar Forum on Friday, February 22 at 2:30.

Techniques for enhancing science literacy in introductory science courses
Workshop participants will be exposed to several teaching techniques for enhancing science literacy in their classrooms.  An introductory science course might be the last science course a student ever takes.  What should they take away from that course about science itself?  We will explore the following five teaching techniques during the interactive workshop:  using primary sources in the classroom, understanding subjectivity and objectivity, enhancing engagement in introductory classes, analyzing graphical data, and the science writing heuristic.  Participants will take away concrete examples of these techniques and have the opportunity to formulate and discuss ideas for implementing these techniques in their classrooms.  

In NC 1515 half of my group will be covering teaching techniques on the following:
  • understanding subjectivity and objectivity using a hands-on classification activity
  • analyzing graphical data in the introductory classroom
In NC 1311, myself and the other half of my group will be covering the following techniques:
  • using primary sources in the classroom
  • enhancing engagement in introductory classes using iClickers
  • using a science writing heuristic technique for guiding inquiry-based laboratory experiments
It sounds like the whole day will be filled with great presentations!  I'm particularly excited for the keynote speaker Terry Doyle, as well as the Just in time teaching presentation at 3:30.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Conferences and Graph-Making Tutorial Video

I attended AGU's fall meeting in December with 20,000 other geoscientists.  I gave my first talk at this conference in an education session on climate literacy.  It was very exciting!   I spent the week attending talks on climate change communication and cryosphere talks.  I'm still processing all of the great links, articles, and book recommendations (one that I got for Christmas!) and will be sure to share my favorites with you as I go. 

I also had the opportunity to attend a STEM conference back on October in Kansas City.  I got a few ideas from this conference and one was to use screen-capture software to create video tutorials.  I got the software "SnagIt" and am using it to create tutorials on graph making and other computer stuff that I use in class.  My audience is students who have come to the computer lab and gone through this process with me very slowly, went home later, and forgot how to do something.  Therefore, I go through things rather quickly in the video to keep it efficient. 

Graphing in Excel: