Niwot Ridge sampling site
Niwot Ridge CO2 flask sampling site (January 2017). Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Morse.

Each week, Jennifer Morse of the University of Colorado Mountain Research Station ventures high in the Colorado Rockies to a place called Niwot Ridge. She often makes the trip on skis, and after the first few miles, it can get challenging.

Morse: “There’s days when the winds are so bad that it’s almost knocking you over. So if there’s a lot of new snow, then all that snow is blowing around in a ground blizzard. You’re up there above tree line, so there’s not a lot of landmarks, and so everything is just white everywhere.”

The conditions can be tough, but Morse has an important job. At Niwot Ridge, she pumps air into glass flasks, and then carefully brings them back down the slopes.

Her samples add to a critical, long-term global record of atmospheric carbon pollution. The data helps scientists project future climate change.

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Morse: “Some of the first samples they took in nineteen-sixty-seven and nineteen-sixty-eight were reading around 320 parts per million, and now we’re up in the low four-hundreds.”

Morse hopes seeing a graph of increasing pollution will help people better understand our contribution to global warming. And that helps fuel her arduous trips up the mountain.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...