The University of Utah’s Wilkes Climate Center has awarded its first $1.5 million climate prize to a Seattle biotech firm, Lumen Bioscience, that has developed and patented enzymes that could potentially halve the climate-damaging methane that cows belch all day.
A recent recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Research Award, Fang has developed a breakthrough technology that can produce high-quality, low-carbon emitting titanium powder at a significantly reduced cost.
How Earth’s inner core formed, grew, and evolved over time remains a mystery, one that a team of University of Utah-led researchers is seeking to plumb with the help of seismic waves from naturally occurring earthquakes.
Subbu Pathapati's groundbreaking paper on various separation technologies for rare earths, done under the supervision of Dr. Prashant Sarswat and Dr. Mike Free, has been featured in the latest edition of the REIA Global Rare Earth Industry Weekly Newsletter! Don't miss out on this insightful research that explores strategies such as precipitation and crystallization, oxidation and reduction, ion exchange, adsorption, solvent extraction, and membrane separation.
"We're all worried about the Wasatch Front, but the other thing to know is we have earthquakes all over Utah," said Pankow. "We recorded a certain level, but in some of these places there's probably earthquakes happening all the time that we just don't see. That's something that's really important to get an understanding of." -Kristine Pankow, research professor of geology
Congratulations to Professor Brenda Bowen on being elected a @geosociety Fellow, nominated for outstanding contributions in public awareness of geology, educating various communities about environmental change due to both natural and anthropogenic causes in salt lakes and desert landscapes, with the aim of understanding geological processes and achieving sustainable land management.
The College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences (CMES) are pleased to announce that Professor Brenda Bowen has agreed to serve as the next chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences (ATMOS).
Titanium (Ti) metal, prized for its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility is a critical material in aerospace, defense, and medical applications, but its wider use is obstructed by excessively high costs.
Where does an outgoing dean of the College of Mines & Earth Sciences (CSME) go? In the case of Darryl Butt, he becomes the dean of the graduate school. University of Utah Provost Mitzi M. Montoya announced in March that Butt has accepted the offer and will begin his new role June 1.
Two scholarships are available called Teach for Utah and Noyce that award up to $10,000 per year! There is no deadline as the STEM Initiatives award on a rolling basis, but students are encouraged to apply as soon as they are able. Additionally, students will receive personalized advising, mentoring, and career guidance. They also participate in career-enhancing monthly seminars with a supportive group of peers. Students who are interested in teaching science or math at the high school or middle school levels can contact Ally Rocks (email@example.com) for more information.
Congratulations Kevin Mendoza for being recognized with the Thomas G. Stockham Medal for his contributions to undergraduate education in Geology & Geophysics. The Thomas G. Stockham, Jr. Medal is awarded to one graduate student each year for “conspicuously effective teaching.” Candidates for the medal are nominated by their faculty advisors and mentors. The recipient of the Stockham Medal will also receive a $1,000 cash prize.
On the shore of Great Salt Lake, Utah
Like the rest of the West, Utah has a water problem. But megadrought and overconsumption aren’t just threats to wildlife, agriculture and industry here. A disappearing Great Salt Lake could poison the lungs of more than 2.5 million people.
When lake levels hit historic lows in recent months, 800 square miles of lakebed were exposed – soil that holds centuries of natural and manmade toxins like mercury, arsenic and selenium. As that mud turns to dust and swirls to join some of the worst winter air pollution in the nation, scientists warn that the massive body of water could evaporate into a system of lifeless finger lakes within five years, on its way to becoming the Great Toxic Dustbowl.
“This is an ecological disaster that will become a human health disaster,” warned Bonnie Baxter, director of the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. “We know about dust storms, we know about particulate pollution, we know about heavy metals and how they’re bad for humans,” she told CNN. “We see a crisis that is imminent.”
Atmospheric Science Ph.D. student, Chengfeng Feng, advised by Professor Zhaoxia Pu, won a first-place Best Student Oral Presentation award at the 103rd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in January 2023.
Feng’s presentation, “A bias correction scheme with the symmetric cloud proxy variable and its influence on assimilating all-sky GOES-16 brightness temperatures” examined an effective bias correction scheme for better assimilating all-sky NOAA geostationary satellite data into numerical weather prediction model for improved weather prediction.
“I feel honored to receive this award,” Feng said. “I am very grateful to Dr. Zhaoxia Pu for supporting me in this innovative research and giving me opportunities to present my work at professional conferences.”
A University of Utah atmospheric scientist, Gerald “Jay” Mace, is heading back to Tasmania to study clouds in a special part of Earth’s atmosphere: the Southern Ocean, which contains some of the cleanest air on Earth. Mace is the lead scientist of the Cloud And Precipitation Experiment at Kennaook (CAPE-K) is scheduled to run from April 2024 to September 2025 in northwestern Tasmania.
The experiment, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, will fill in knowledge gaps about the seasonal cycle of clouds and precipitation over the Southern Ocean. As a result, these data are expected to have big impacts on regional and global climate modeling.
Climate projections for the entire Earth are sensitive to interactions of aerosols, clouds and precipitation in the atmosphere over the Southern Ocean. Seasonal variations in Southern Ocean aerosol properties are well documented, but to improve the accuracy of climate models, scientists need more information about the properties of low clouds and precipitation in the region.
Human activity is changing atmospheric chemistry—even in remote places—that could alter how and when clouds form.
That’s the conclusion of a new study from University of Utah scientists and colleagues, which finds that measurements at a laboratory on a mountaintop in Colorado show new aerosol particles forming in the air on average every other day and that those particles, likely formed from gases emitted by nearby power plants, can grow until they’re big enough for water to condense around, forming clouds.
UTA Trax cars zip from University hills to west-side valleys, past schools, shops and churches. Carrying more than just passengers, these cars hold research-grade air quality sensors. Soon they’ll carry something else: segments of public art piece In Search of Blue Sky, decorating Trax car interiors and the sides of public buses. The installation seeks both to raise community awareness of the air quality data and embed it with personal meaning. “Just putting data out there doesn’t move people, doesn’t change people,” says Wendy Wischer, the project’s artist. “Artwork can pull at emotions, and to act, we need to be moved emotionally.”
Today's marine giants -- such as blue and humpback whales -- routinely make massive migrations across the ocean to breed and give birth. Now, new research suggests that nearly 200 million years before giant whales evolved, school bus-sized marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs may have been making similar migrations to breed and give birth together in relative safety. The findings examine a rich fossil bed in the renowned Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, where many 50-foot-long ichthyosaurs (Shonisaurus popularis) lay petrified in stone.
One of the keys to bringing home unidentified military remains, including POW/MIAs and the more than 81,500 soldiers unaccounted for in conflicts dating back to World War II, is using science to determine where home might be.
The Forensic Identification of our Nation’s Deceased with Element Mapping, or FIND-EM, project, Gabriel Bowen, professor of geology and geophysics, and colleagues are engaged in an effort, in support of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, to develop methods that can trace the geographic origin of remains, particularly teeth.
The University of Utah announced today that it has been selected to receive $1.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The funding is part of the ARPA-E Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE) program, which aims to develop technologies to advance used nuclear fuel (UNF) recycling, to reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal, and to provide safe domestic advanced reactor fuel stocks. The University of Utah will develop a pyrochemical process for efficiently converting UNF into a fuel feedstock suitable for sodium-cooled fast reactors or molten-salt-fueled reactors.
The University of Utah announced the creation of the interdisciplinary Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy to promote research, study effective public policies and propose entrepreneurial business solutions to curb and combat the threats that climate change poses to human and environmental health.
Have you wondered why Utah skies are so smoky?
Check out the latest KSL article that interviews Atmospheric Science assistant professor, Derek Mallia, as he explains how wildfire smoke from the west coast has caused air quality pollution.
The next few days are said to bring relief from smoke but we may be in store for a smoky fall in Utah.
The heat wave is on its way out, but a new culprit has descended on Utah in its wake: wildfire smoke.Some pretty active wildfires in Idaho are to blame and the airnow.gov interactive map allows folks to see where the fires are burning that are pushing pollution levels to the extreme.While it is hazy and unhealthy out there, this bout of wildfire smoke is nothing like what descended on northern Utah last year, which logged the most unhealthy air on the planet.
Air quality concerns have stuck around for longer than Utah’s been a state, shifting as industrial technology, and the climate, has changed. Research by atmospheric sciences research assistant professor Logan Mitchell traces the history of air quality in Utah from the mid-19th century to the future.
A broadcast meteorologist does much more than stand between a green screen and a camera. They stand between the data-driven world of meteorological science and the public. AtTheU spoke with Matt Johnson, an atmospheric sciences alum and meteorologist for KSL, to hear how his studies at the U prepared him for his current role.
Like 25 million other Americans, Daniel Mendoza, a research assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, suffers from asthma. As part of his research, Mendoza focuses on the air quality of office buildings, schools, and homes. His work shows decrease in air quality indoors as air quality worsens outside; read more about his work, and how you can improve the air in your home, on this article featured on KSL!
In recent years, the plumes of smoke crawling upward from Western wildfires have trended taller, impacting air quality over a wider area; the likely cause is climate change. Atmospheric sciences researchers Kai Wilmot, Derek Mallia, Gannet Hallar, and John Lin modeled plume activity for around 4.6 million smoke plumes to assess trends in smoke plume height.
Titanium is a strong, lightweight material resistant to corrosion and high temperatures — but it’s expensive to make and therefore rare in consumer products. Professor of metallurgical engineering Z. Zak Fang has developed a process that drastically decreases the time, cost, and environmental impact of titanium production under the sponsorship of the DOE.
Gannet Hallar, professor of atmospheric sciences, is the principal investigator on a new research project using U.S. Department of Energy measurements to learn about how some of the cloud-forming aerosol particles in the atmosphere form. The study is funded by a $720,000 grant from the DOE.
In a university swimming pool, atmospheric scientists Kathleen Ritterbush and David Peterman watch carefully as a coiled shell, a robotic ammonite, is released from a pair of metal tongs. The shell begins to move under its own power, giving the researchers a glimpse into what the oceans might have looked like millions of years ago when they were full of these animals. Read more about their research here!
After two years of prep work, a team of international scientists, including U research associate professor of atmospheric sciences Sebastian Hoch, are deploying instruments on Sable Island, CA for an intensive study of marine fog. Home to feral horses and the world’s biggest breeding colony of grey seals, Sable Island is the foggiest place on Earth in the summer. Read more here!
University of Utah president Taylor Randall and Brad Wilson, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, met with legislators, Great Salt Lake advocates, and scientists, including Chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences Kevin Perry, to discuss how to help save the lake, which reached its lowest recorded level last year.
Did you know that the Tour de France takes bicyclists past dead volcanoes and dinosaur fossils? The website Geo-Tour de France is now live to serve sports editors, cycling commentators, and bicycle racing fans. It describes the natural décor of each stage of the Tour de France, with contributors from across the globe, including Peter Lippert, associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.
One of the latest University of Utah researchers to head to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., to join in the policymaking process isn’t a political scientist or lawyer — he’s a geoscientist. Sudeep Kanungo, an adjunct associate professor of geology and geophysics and a research associate in the U’s Energy & Geoscience Institute, is one of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science & Technology Policy Fellows this year.
On June 13, 2022, the Environmental Defense Fund unveiled Air Tracker, a first-of-its-kind web-based tool that allows users to plot the likely path of air pollution. Run on real-time, trusted scientific models and developed in partnership with the University of Utah and the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, Air Tracker helps users learn more about the air they’re breathing, including pollution concentrations and its potential sources.
How realistic are Hollywood’s dinosaurs? Associate professor of geology and geophysics Mark Loewen sat down with Vanity Fair to discuss the accuracy (and inaccuracy) of dinosaur depictions in movies ranging from Fantasia (1940) to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). For example, the Spinosaurus that battles with T. Rex in Jurassic Park 3 actually lived in aquatic environments and never would have encountered the dinosaur!
Distinguished professor of geology and geophysics Kip Solomon has been appointed to be the next Francis Brown Presidential Endowed Chair, July 1, 2022-25. This position is one of the University of Utah’s most meaningful and prestigious honors given its legacy and connection to Dean Francis Brown. Congratulations, Kip!
Professor emeritus of geology and geophysics Robert “Bob” Smith has been awarded in appreciation for his dedicated geologic work and research on Yellowstone National Park for 65 years. He was awarded on May 15th, 2022 by the Program Committee of the 15th biennial scientific conference on the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
The University of Utah College of Mines and Earth Sciences will merge with the College of Science beginning July 1, 2022, a move that will unite well-funded programs, build synergy and cooperation between faculty and create a much stronger base for science and mathematics education at the U.
Deans Darryl Butt of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences and Peter Trapa of the College of Science have worked with university administration and members of both colleges to plan the details of the merger. The College of Mines and Earth Sciences will retain its name and identify as a unit of the College of Science and all faculty, students, buildings and research programs in both colleges will continue in the combined unit.
“Both of these colleges are leaders in student enrollment and research, providing valuable direction on some of the most important issues we face today,” said U president Taylor Randall. “I am confident this union will elevate both programs and provide more opportunities for collaboration and student access to classes.”
“Given the incredibly strong connections and research collaborations between the two colleges already, this proposed merger brings a huge number of opportunities for students and faculty,” said William Anderegg, associate professor in the College of Science’s School of Biological Sciences. “The merger opens doors to new educational programs, student research opportunities and research avenues that should elevate the U’s prominence and impact.”
Thure E. Cerling, department chair of the Department of Geology & Geophysics, Francis H. Brown Presidential Chair, Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geophysics and Distinguished Professor of Biology is the 2022 recipient of the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence. The Rosenblatt Prize is the University of Utah’s highest faculty accolade and is presented annually to a faculty member who transcends ordinary teaching, research, and administrative efforts. Congratulations to Dr. Cerling!
An anti-idling campaign at two Salt Lake County elementary schools was effective in reducing idling time by 38%, and an air monitoring experiment found that air quality around schools can vary over short distances. These findings, published in the journal Atmosphere, can help schools and school districts along the Wasatch Front plan to protect students, staff and the community from idling-related air pollution.
The digital exhibit at the Marriott Library, "Mining the West: Primary Elements," features Rajive Ganguli and Michael Nelson, both professors of mining engineering, in "Voices of the Field." Their "Profile of Bingham Canyon Miners" highlights statistical data that examines different aspects of the miners that work and have worked in Bingham Canyon Mine.
The “Here and Elsewhere” exhibition, located at the Institut d’ art contemporain, Villeurbanne, France, was created in collaboration with artist Irene Kopelman and University of Utah Professor Marjorie Chan. The purpose of this exhibit was to draw a connection between a European contemporary art museum with the wilderness of Utah by using fired clay rocks, also called Moqui marbles.
The Cover of SEG Discovery 129 (Spring 2022) featured Wesley Hall, one of the students that participated in one of the SEG Foundations International Field Course Series in Chile, led by University of Utah Professor Erich Petersen and New Mexico School of Mines Professor William Chávez. The photo was taken by Nick Kerr, one of our undergraduates in Geology in 2010, who also participated in the trip. We are thankful to have them in our college!
The transition zone between flowing river and reservoir is what scientists refer to as the delta, and it’s migrating toward the Glen Canyon Dam as Lake Powell has dropped to record low levels. Professor Cari Johnson, her students, and master’s student Hannah Hartley are studying how deltas of sediments are impacting the reservoir. Lake Powell’s level has dropped from its full capacity in 1999 to 23% of its original capacity.
Congratulations to Dr. Kip Solomon. He has been named a recipient of the U of U 2021-2022 Distinguished Research Award! Dr. Solomon’s research includes the use of environmental tracers to evaluate groundwater flow with the aim of sustainable management of fresh-water resources. He constructed and currently operates one of only a few labs in the world that measures noble gases in groundwater. His research results have been documented in more than 150 journal articles, book chapters, and technical reports. We are so grateful to have Dr. Solomon part of our college.
Usually when a geologist walks up to a sedimentary rock outcrop and starts scanning the layers of sand, mud, and silt now turned to rock, they’re looking through millions of years of deep time to deduce what happened in that place in the world over many thousands of years to create that particular rock. But when United States Geological Survey scientist Scott Hynek walked up to an outcrop of sediment in Calf Canyon, near Utah’s Lake Powell, he saw a thick layer of sand and thought “Crikey! That’s 1983!” For Cari Johnson, U professor of geology and geophysics, USGS scientists Hynek and Casey Root, and Jack Schmidt of Utah State University, the exposed formations in Calf Canyon provide an incredible opportunity.
A major environmental concern about the use of nuclear reactors is what’s left behind — the nuclear waste from spent fuel rods. Where to dispose of this waste has been the source of much controversy. But instead of just burying the spent fuel rods, what if you could somehow recycle them to be used again? University of Utah engineering researchers will be working with a team from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to develop an innovative yet simple process of recycling metal fuels for future advanced nuclear reactors. Leading the University of Utah team is Michael Simpson, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Congratulations to Geology and Geophysics PhD alum Jory Lerback and Professor Brenda Bowen on their publication in Sustainability Science, "Development of a graphical resilience framework to understand a coupled human-natural system in a remote arid highland of Baja California."
Here on the Earth’s crust, we’re part of a conveyor belt system called plate tectonics where old crust at the margins of oceans is shoved back underground beneath continents, into the mantle. As that crust goes deeper into the Earth, some of the minerals in the rocks change under the high temperatures and pressures of the mantle. New research from Department of Geology and Geophysics Associate Professor Lowell Miyagi and colleagues finds that one of these mantle minerals, davemaoite, is among the weakest in the Earth’s interior.
Erich Petersen, professor in Geology and Geophysics, helped teach twelve students and young professionals during the second Michael J. Fitzgerald Student Mapping Course for the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) November 6-13, 2021. The field course occurred at the Late Cretaceousage Copper Flat porphyry-breccia system in New Mexico and involved mapping rock types associated with the system.
New research conducted by geology and geophysics associate professor Jeffrey Moore and doctoral student Riley Finnegan shows that the red rock towers found in Southern Utah and throughout the Colorado Plateau are in constant motion, vibrating with their own signature rhythms as unique as their dramatic profiles against the depth of the blue desert sky.
Kevin Mendoza, a PhD student in geology and geophysics, was recently recognized as a National Association for Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Outstanding Teaching Assistant. The award honors his dedicated and innovative teaching contributions in geology. Kevin is the first student from Utah to receive this award. Congratulations to Kevin!
Pilot whales, northern lights, breakfast every day overlooking the ocean — it sounds like a dream Scandinavian cruise, but not one you’ll find on any travel site. In 2021, geoscientist Sarah Lambart embarked on a scientific mission to explore the geologic history that shaped the continents as we see them today. That mission took her past the Arctic Circle aboard a research vessel equipped with a drill rig that pulled up sediment and rock cores from the deep ocean floor, giving Lambart and her colleagues an insight into volcanic activity on Earth 60 million years ago. Read the full story here!
Let’s take a journey into the depths of the Earth, down through the crust and mantle nearly to the core. We’ll use seismic waves to show the way, since they echo through the planet following an earthquake and reveal its internal structure like radar waves.
Down near the core, there are zones where seismic waves slow to a crawl. New research from the University of Utah finds that these enigmatic and descriptively-named ultra-low velocity zones are surprisingly layered. Modeling suggests that it’s possible some of these zones are leftovers from the processes that shaped the early Earth—remnants of incomplete mixing like clumps of flour in the bottom of a bowl of batter.
“Of all of the features we know about in the deep mantle, ultra-low velocity zones represent what are probably the most extreme,” says Michael S. Thorne, associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. “Indeed, these are some of the most extreme features found anywhere in the planet.”
Congratulations to professor emeritus of geology and geophysics Bob Smith! He has been chosen as the 2021 recipient of the Colorado Scientific Society’s Past Presidents’ Award for Best Paper of the Year, honoring his work studying the anatomy of Old Faithful and the Yellowstone volcanic system.
University of Utah alumnus Dr. Jose Parga has been recognized in Mexico with the National Award in Education from the Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists, and Geologists of Mexico! Dr. Parga received his Ph.D in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah in 1987 and is on the faculty of the Technological Institute of Saltillo, where he and his students have been recognized for numerous achievements. The National Award in Education celebrates excellence in mining engineering and metallurgy teaching. Congratulations to Dr. Parga!
As important as emissions of the greenhouse gas methane are in the climate conversation, factoring prominently in the recent COP26 conference in Glasgow, researchers have painfully little long-term data on emissions from wells and other oil and gas infrastructure. That makes answering questions about the sources and magnitudes of emissions, as well as year-to-year trends across an entire production region, difficult.
Answers are starting to come from Utah’s Uinta Basin, home to possibly the longest continuous methane monitoring site in an oil and gas-producing region. Since 2015, researchers have been tracking emissions from oil and gas wells and report that, over that time, emissions from the region have fallen by half.
But more analysis of leak rates shows that the oil and gas industry has a ways to go in stopping methane leaks, which impact the climate and human health and can impose costs on Utah’s economy.
“Our work in the Uinta Basin shows that the methane emissions can change over multiple years,” says John Lin, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Utah, “and it is important to bring a long-term perspective and monitor these emissions over multiple years as well.”
“The earth has only one atmosphere,” says research associate professor Seth Lyman, director of the Bingham Research Center at Utah State University’s Uintah Basin campus, “and emissions in one area can impact air quality and climate across the globe. Oil and natural gas facilities are not evenly distributed around the state or around the world, but climate impacts from fossil fuels are not dependent on the location of emissions.”
The study is published in Scientific Reports and is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a subcontract from the University of Arizona.
Monitoring in the Uinta Basin
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with around 85 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere. Methane has a tremendous potential to absorb infrared energy, which it then re-directs back to the Earth’s surface, thereby trapping the heat and warming the planet.
Methane is the “gas” part of oil and gas production. Because it’s hard to keep every component of the gas production process airtight, methane can leak from wells, pipelines—anywhere along the way.
It can also react in the atmosphere to form ozone, which is where Lin and his colleagues from the University of Utah, Utah State University and West Texas A&M University come into the story. In the early 2010s, researchers were studying high levels of wintertime ozone pollution in the Uinta Basin. One study involved flying an aircraft-based sensor over the basin, home to around 10,000 oil and gas wells. Aircraft-based measurements are good, but they’re only a snapshot of a moment in time.
“I wanted to compare estimates from ground-based observations against the aircraft estimates and see how the emissions change over multiple years,” Lin says.
In 2015, with funding from NOAA, the team installed the first of what would become three sensors in the basin. It was good timing—after years of booming oil and gas production, oil prices began to fluctuate and fell off by the 2020s, affecting production in the region and giving the researchers a glimpse into how economic forces and methane emissions were related.
How and why emissions fell
Between 2015 and 2020, the researchers observed, methane emissions in the Uinta Basin approximately halved. Natural gas production also fell to around half of its peak, as fossil fuel prices collapsed after 2014. This initial result is good news—less methane in the air is good for the climate and for human health.
But the researchers also noted that the amount of methane still leaking from the remaining wells in 2020 was about six to eight percent of the produced natural gas, about the same as it was in 2015.
“This means that the leak rate has stayed at a constant—albeit high—rate, even with decreases in natural gas production,” Lin says. This result was surprising because previous research had suggested that lower-production wells would leak a higher proportion of methane. “This may account for the high leak rate in general in the Uinta Basin since the average Uinta well produces less gas compared to many other counterparts around the U.S.,” he says. “However, it was nonetheless surprising that the leak rate did not increase as the Uinta wells decreased in production.”
The researchers ruled out regulation as contributing to the emissions decline since Environmental Protection Agency regulations in the past few years applied only to new wells. Surveys of some of the companies in the Uinta Basin did show that one company voluntarily took action to detect and repair leaks, but the extent of such voluntary action is unknown.
What methane leaks cost us
So if methane emissions decreased with a drop in gas production, does that mean emissions might go up if production rebounds? Maybe, Lin says, but he adds that leak detection and repair technologies have been improving in recent years, so the methane emissions could even decrease in the future as production increases.
“This will depend on decisions made by individual companies, as well as on changes that have occurred or that may occur in the regulatory landscape,” says Lyman.
Just as economic forces impacted oil and gas production and methane emissions in recent years, continued leaks can impose their own expenses, particularly on Utah’s economy. Lyman says that the majority of crude oil processed in Utah’s refineries comes from the Uinta Basin. Beyond the climate implications, leaking methane is wasted energy (about three to five percent of all energy produced in the basin, the study estimates), which increases costs for companies.
Also, leaking methane impacts Uinta Basin air quality. “Besides the obvious (and more important) health impacts to residents of the Basin, air quality problems lead to increased regulation of oil and gas development, which increases costs, and those costs are passed on to consumers,” Lyman says.
Hopefully, this study inspires other oil and gas regions in the U.S. and around the world to conduct their own continuous monitoring, says Erik Crosman, assistant professor at West Texas A&M University. “We need a more detailed understanding of how methane emissions are evolving,” he says, “and observations like those we conducted in the Uinta Basin help toward filling in those gaps.”
Find the full study here.
Ryan Bares, Benjamin Fasoli and Maria Garcia of the U’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, were also co-authors on the study.
Methane emissions: falling, but leaking
by Paul Gabrielsen, science writer, University Marketing and Communications
The goal of the Being Human in STEM class is to create a space for dialogue between STEM students and STEM faculty to investigate together the theme of diversity and climate within STEM. The course combines academic inquiry and individual stories to understand how students’ identities shape their experience in STEM.
Congratulations to metallurgical engineering Distinguished Professor Jan D. Miller, who was chosen to receive The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) Fellow Award for the Class of 2022 for “outstanding contributions to the practice of metallurgy, materials science, and technology.” The award includes a lifetime membership to the society and is its top honor.
“After a long quarantine, we’re finally attending in-person classes. For international students who moved here during the pandemic, as I did, it’s been challenging learning to adjust to American culture. For South Asians, our culture is so different from westerners. Our values are the same, but our thought processes are so different. Immigrant students are a big reason why America has such a versatile culture—people from different countries can learn a lot from each other. That’s been true for me, a Bangladeshi girl. That’s why the last two years of grad school were memorable—I learned so much from every person I met.
Dr. Brenda Bowen, a professor of geology and geophysics and the director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center at the U, and Dr. Cari Johnson, a professor of geology and geophysics, are part of the ongoing Returning Rapids Project studying the rapidly changing Colorado River.
As Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the United States, reaches record-low water levels, it is revealing previously hidden ecological, archaeological, and historical resources in Cataract Canyon, from renewed plant growth to prehistoric rock art.
Dr. Bowen is analyzing the chemical makeup of reservoir deposits; last year, Dr. Johnson analyzed reservoir sediment in Waterhole Canyon.
Research professor of metallurgical engineering Xuming Wang and research assistant professor of atmospheric sciences Daniel Mendoza will participate in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) in 2022! SPUR is an intensive 10-week research experience through the Office of Undergraduate Research at the U. Students work with a faculty mentor over the summer on a specific research topic, gaining experience in their field and forming lasting relationships with faculty and peers. Dr. Wang will serve as a faculty mentor focusing on the production of calcium carbonate through carbon dioxide mineralization. Dr. Mendoza will serve as a faculty mentor through Project HAPPIEST (Health, Air Pollution and Population Initiative in Education and Science Training), a program that runs in collaboration with SPUR with an added focus on environmental health, particularly as it impacts underrepresented groups and low-income communities. His focus will be on the findings and implications of air quality monitoring platforms on TRAX.
Over time, concrete cracks and crumbles. Well, most concrete cracks and crumbles. Structures built in ancient Rome are still standing, exhibiting remarkable durability despite conditions that would devastate modern concrete.
One of these structures is the large cylindrical tomb of first-century noblewoman Caecilia Metella. New research shows that the quality of the concrete of her tomb may exceed that of her male contemporaries’ monuments because of the volcanic aggregate the builders chose and the unusual chemical interactions that aggregate had with rain and groundwater over two millennia.
University of Utah alum Dr. Satyam Sahay has been elected as a 2021 Fellow of The Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) in recognition of his distinguished contributions to engineering and technology. The Fellowship, effective from Nov. 1, 2021, will be virtually conferred to him during the INAE Annual Convention in Dec. 2021.
Congratulations to professor of geology and geophysics Paul Brooks, who has been elected a 2021 Fellow of the American Geophysical Union! AGU is an international, nonprofit organization of scientists dedicated to sustainable and innovative discoveries across the earth sciences. Less than 0.1% of AGU members are elected as Fellows, a group recognized for their outstanding achievements and leadership in the geosciences.
The United States Department of Energy has awarded the University of Utah $1.5 million to study the potential of transforming coal-associated mineral resources in Utah and western Colorado’s Uinta Basin region into high-value metal, mineral and non-fuel carbon-based products. Coal has historically been used for combustion and energy generation, but may additionally host critical minerals and rare earth elements that have been overlooked and are valuable non-fuel products in our modern society.
Nothing is impossible. Perhaps no one exemplifies this timeless adage more than Rahul Kumar, the son of a migrant worker from Bihar, who went on to become a Gold Medalist from IIT Roorkee and is now on his way to the USA to do his PhD at the University of Utah. The road starting from the humblest of beginnings to becoming one of India’s brightest young scholars has not been easy. Rahul has faced financial, medical and countless social hardships to be where he is today. What is most admirable is that even after achieving so much in such a short time, he hasn’t lost his humility. Corporate Citizen had a heartfelt conversation with Rahul, where he opened up about his inspirational journey to the top, the lessons he learnt on the way, and his plans to give back to society. This is the inspiring story of how a migrant labourer’s son went from abject poverty to becoming an IIT Gold Medalist and a research fellow at the University of Utah, USA.
It is with deep sadness we share with you the news of the sudden passing away of our beloved and distinguished colleague and friend, Professor Raj K. Rajamani in the late evening of Thursday, August 12, 2021. Raj, as he was affectionately called, was an outstanding intellectual mind. He was a highly skilled scientist, an excellent engineer, a dedicated philanthropist, and above all, one of the nicest, compassionate, thoughtful, and humble persons you would ever meet.
On a cloudless night, how much of the sky can you see?
For Utahns and tourists who seek out the state’s designated “dark sky” locations, quite a lot.
“It never ceases to amaze me, when I’m down in Canyonlands or Capitol Reef, when you can see the Milky Way and you really see just the incredible majesty of space and the sky,” said Lindsie Smith, director of the Salt Lake County-operated Clark Planetarium.
Thanks to a $526,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, University of Utah atmospheric scientists Jay Mace and Gannet Hallar will study data from the Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica, as part of ongoing efforts to understand how ocean processes impact clouds in that relatively untouched part of the planet.
Hazy skies during the summer months should be as concerning as they look. The lingering hue could be heat, elevated ozone air pollution, or particulate pollution related to wildfire smoke, which can cause potentially severe health effects. In Utah, the combination of all three is plaguing the air.
Geoscience is a three-dimensional discipline. So 3-D modeling, in the form of virtual and 3-D printed real-world models, has found a home in the U’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, instructors expanded their 3-D modeling efforts to continue to provide students a hands-on experience, while minimizing the number of hands on any one object.
Great Salt Lake is also known as America's Dead Sea -- owing to a likeness to its much smaller Middle Eastern counterpart -- but scientists worry the moniker could soon take new meaning.
Human water consumption and diversion have long depleted the Utah lake. Its level today is inches away from a 58-year low, state officials say, and Western drought conditions fueled by the climate crisis have exacerbated conditions.
The worst part? It's only July, and the lake historically doesn't reach its annual low until October.
Sarah Lambart, assistant professor of geology and geophysics, has been invited to sail as a petrologist on the next expedition of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). The world-famous research vessel JOIDES Resolution (JR) will leave the port of Reykjavik, Iceland on August 6th and sail for two full months on the coast of Norway. During the expedition, the team will drill rock cores in the ocean floor along the continental margin. As part of the Core Description Lab, Lambart will be responsible for describing the textures and mineralogical assemblages of the collected igneous rocks.
University of Utah paleontologists David Peterman and Kathleen Ritterbush know that it’s one thing to use math and physics to understand how ancient marine creatures moved through the water. It’s another thing to actually put replicas of those creatures into the water and see for themselves. They’re among the scientists who are, through a range of methods including digital models and 3-D printed replicas, “de-fossilizing” animals of the past to learn how they lived.
The U’s lawns have a new look – and it comes with a purpose.
Green grass is giving way to a brownish-yellow hue as the University plays its part to conserve water amidst our current severe drought. This shift in the appearance of campus is an intentional change, with limited water being prioritized away from grass and towards trees, shrubs, and planters.
As luck would have it, the air quality sensors that University of Utah researcher Daniel Mendoza and his colleagues installed in Park City, Utah in September 2019, hoping to observe how pollution rose and fell through the ski season and the Sundance Film Festival, captured a far more impactful natural experiment: the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are living in an era of extreme climate change. Human activities, such as dumping immense amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, are driving a sharp rise in global temperatures—by 2050, temperatures in Salt Lake City may be over 3°F hotter than they are today. How will ecology respond? While it’s impossible to predict the future, paleontologists can still give us some idea of what to expect by looking to the past. There was a time when natural causes, rather than human ones, altered the global climate in a similar way, and studying the clues within those rocks can help us get some idea of what’s in store over the coming decades and centuries.
Nearly everything around you—from the mountains out your window to the cell phone in your hand to the water from your tap—is connected to geoscience. Encompassing geology, geophysics, hydrogeology, mineral engineering and many other fields, geoscience is a study of the entire Earth and the systems and forces that shape and reshape it. Geoscientists study the things that fascinate us, like minerals and fossils, and are at the forefront of addressing complex problems that will impact our future, like climate change, natural resource use, environmental degradation and energy sustainability.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has selected Atmospheric sciences professor Zhaoxia Pu to join their Science Advisory Board. Pu is one of four university professors nationwide newly selected for the board.
In the Southern Hemisphere spring of 2019 the usually very strong winds in the stratosphere, about 186 mph (300 km/h) at a height of 18.6 miles (30 km) almost completely collapsed within a matter of days —a so-called Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) was underway. These events high in the atmosphere are known to influence the wind structure at the surface and cause anomalous weather conditions at the ground. The stratosphere affects surface weather and climate on a global scale, and ongoing global warming leads to major changes of this influence.
This past semester, Dean Butt underwent a formal review, including a self-assessment and feedback by email; surveys of faculty, staff, students, and the Council of Academic Deans; and in-person meetings with College of Mines and Earth Sciences staff, faculty members, and department chairs.
It is clear from the surveys and in-person meetings that Dean Butt has excelled in many areas as Dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences. He was praised for his commitment to the success of others, his work
on creating a culture of inclusion and support for individuals from all backgrounds, and his vision of the college as a vibrant partner in campus initiatives.
Concrete accomplishments include a focus on safety, the
creation of the joint Materials Science department, and strategic investments in faculty hiring and student programs, as well fundraising and advancement. Clearly, Dean Butt has elevated the college in many different ways.
Based on this review, there is strong support for Dean Butt to continue as Dean. Hence, he has been recommended a reappointment for a five-year term, and he has agreed. Dean Butt has reviewed and developed goals for his next term of service, with a focus on resolving the remaining issues surrounding the joint Materials Science department and executing against a strategic plan for the college and its constituent departments.
Please join us in thanking Dean Butt for all he has done and for his many efforts that have advanced both the College of Mines and Earth Sciences and the University. We look forward to continuing to work with Dean Butt
and all of you to advance your unit and achieve our shared goals.
What could be better than attending the University of Utah and learning about the Greatest Snow on Earth? Covering everything from the physics of powder to the challenges of climate change, Professor Steenburgh’s new online course is a huge hit with students. As one student said, “The best class I have ever taken! Anyone who enjoys recreating in the mountains in the winter should take this class.”
This year, Utah’s students are entering revolutionary science classes. It’s not just about COVID-19—the Utah State Board of Education approved new science standards that shift the learning framework from a lecture-based model to one where students think and act like scientists as they explore real-world phenomena. Graduates of the University of Utah Master’s of Science for Secondary School Teachers (MSSST) program are uniquely prepared to meet the challenge.
Today, the rocks of the Hanna Formation in south-central Wyoming are hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean. But around 58 million years ago, Wyoming was oceanfront property, with large hippo-like mammals traipsing through nearshore lagoons.
From the Pacific Northwest to the Rocky Mountains, summers in the West are marked by wildfires and smoke. New research from the University of Utah ties the worsening trend of extreme poor air quality events in Western regions to wildfire activity, with growing trends of smoke impacting air quality clear into September. The work is published in Environmental Research Letters.
The University of Utah’s Department of Art & Art History and College of Mines & Earth Sciences joined in a collaborative process to create a community-based mural that combines reflections of both the hard sciences and human nature of art.
The art-making approach we take in my Painting Special Topics- Murals course is multifaceted with shared goals of the medium of murals and working together to form the message.
Can we slow the effects of climate change? Can we adapt to create a more resilient planet for humans and nature? Can we protect communities that are disadvantaged and most at risk? What kind of future do we want to leave for the next generation? These questions stir powerful emotions. Science can help us measure and predict climate change effects, but it can be challenging to communicate and understand what the data tell us.
Ammonoids, ancestors of today’s octopus, squid and cuttlefish, bobbed and jetted their way through the oceans for around 340 million years beginning long before the age of the dinosaurs. If you look at the fossil shells of ammonoids over the course of that 340 million years, you’ll notice something striking—as time goes on, the wavy lines inside the shell become more and more complex, eventually becoming frilled almost like the edges of kale leaves.
When Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest, started erupting again in 2018 in Yellowstone National Park after decades of relative silence, it raised a few tantalizing scientific questions. Why is it so tall? Why is it erupting again now? And what can we learn about it before it goes quiet again?
The University of Utah has been studying the geology and seismology of Yellowstone and its unique features for decades, so U scientists were ready to jump at the opportunity to get an unprecedented look at the workings of Steamboat Geyser. Their findings provide a picture of the depth of the geyser as well as a redefinition of a long-assumed relationship between the geyser and a nearby spring. The findings are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
John Lin, professor of atmospheric sciences, is among the newest class of fellows of the Earth Leadership Program. Along with 20 other researchers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Lin will embark on a year-long training program that, according to the program, “prepares researchers to work together as effective agents of change by providing tools and perspectives to help participants cross traditional disciplinary and sector boundaries.”
“The Earth Leadership Program enables me to tap into a network of fantastic scientists who are also passionate about making use of their expertise to tackle environmental issues,” Lin says.
Interdepartmental cooperation has always been a hallmark of success for the University of Utah. Two examples of this type of collaboration are found in the partnerships between Utah FORGE, a geothermal energy research project, and the University of Utah’s College of Education and the Department of Communication, within the College of Humanities.
The research being conducted by Utah FORGE near the town of Milford, Utah, is focused on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technologies. The project is testing the tools and technologies to develop a geothermal resource where none exists naturally. If successful, these methods can be applied virtually anywhere in the world, providing a clean, inexhaustible energy source.
As data improve in resolution, researchers can start asking new questions. In an urban area, for example, how do meter-by-meter patterns in land use correlate with zip code-level variations in air quality? And how do both of those dimensions tie into socioeconomic disparities?
That’s exactly the question University of Utah researcher Daniel Mendoza asked as he explored the correlations between land, air and society in Salt Lake County. His results are published in Urban Science.
Research-grade air quality sensors are costly—around $40,000. For cities trying to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions, the cost may limit the number of sensors they can install and the data they can collect.
Unless. . .
Since 2014, the University of Utah has maintained research-grade suites of air quality instruments installed on light rail trains that move throughout the Salt Lake Valley every day. These mobile sensors, researchers estimate in a new study, cover the same area as 30 stationary sensors, providing the Salt Lake Valley with a highly cost-effective way to monitor its greenhouse emissions and fill in gaps in emissions estimates. The study is published in Environmental Science & Technology.
Tonie van Dam, a professor in the Department of Geology & Geophysics, is among the 62 earth scientists named fellows of the American Geophysical Union.
Van Dam is the newest faculty member in the department, coming to the U from the University of Luxembourg. Her research is in geodesy, the science of the geometry of the Earth and its gravitational field.
On the morning of Sept. 8, 2020, as the Wasatch Front braced for a catastrophic windstorm, three University of Utah seniors lofted a small scientific instrument from a parking lot near Red Butte Canyon, tied to a balloon, that would ride through the storm and collect data that would help the student-researchers learn from a severe weather event.
Got any spaces left on that 2020 bingo card? Pencil in “another Dust Bowl in the Great Plains.” A study from University of Utah researchers and their colleagues finds that atmospheric dust levels are rising across the Great Plains at a rate of up to 5% per year.
The trend of rising dust parallels expansion of cropland and seasonal crop cycles, suggesting that farming practices are exposing more soil to wind erosion. And if the Great Plains becomes drier, a possibility under climate change scenarios, then all the pieces are in place for a repeat of the Dust Bowl that devastated the Midwest in the 1930s.
“We can’t make changes to the earth surface without some kind of consequence just as we can’t burn fossil fuels without consequences,” says Andy Lambert, lead author of the study and a recent U graduate. “So while the agriculture industry is absolutely important, we need to think more carefully about where and how we plant.”
This year, Utah’s students are entering revolutionary science classes. It’s not just about COVID-19—the Utah State Board of Education approved new science standards that shift the learning framework from a lecture-based model to one where students think and act like scientists as they explore real-world phenomena. Graduates of the University of Utah Master’s of Science for Secondary School Teachers (MSSST) program are uniquely prepared to meet the challenge.
The program supports teachers who want to earn a master’s of science while still actively teaching in their classrooms. Every other summer, participants enroll to earn their project-based Master’s of Science with an emphasis in teaching. The scientific disciplines vary between cohorts, but the aim remains consistent—to master in-depth content knowledge, learn pedagogical techniques, and develop leadership skills. The program culminates in an intensive 8-week research experience with a U scientist and presents their findings to a committee. The students will graduate with their M.S. in December.
Utah still sometimes has hazy, smoggy and even hazardous air days, but the air today is significantly cleaner than it was in the early 1970s. Back then, car tailpipes blurted out exhaust practically straight from the engine, clogging the skies. But environmental legislation in the 1970s led to the requirement that cars come equipped with a catalytic converter, a device that routes exhaust through a ceramic substrate coated with a catalytic washcoat that can contain platinum, palladium and/or rhodium. These elements act as chemical catalysts to convert toxic gases in exhaust to carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water. The catalytic converter has saved around 40 billion tons of carbon monoxide and around 4 billion tons of nitrogen oxides and 4 billion tons of hydrocarbons from entering the air we breathe.
The promise of flexible, reliable, emissions-free power has inspired dozens of U.S. companies and universities to design the next generation of nuclear power reactors. Many of these advanced reactors feature safety systems that rely on the laws of physics to automatically shut down a reactor in case of an accident. Some would also reach temperatures high enough to power industrial processes such as hydrogen production, and most would work in tandem with intermittent renewables to balance power generation with loads on the electrical grid. To make these technologies a reality, U.S. reactor developers and Congress have asked for a scientific machine to test the fuels, materials and sensors.
That machine, the U.S. Department of Energy’s proposed Versatile Test Reactor, will produce high levels of fast-neutron radiation to mimic, in weeks or months, the effects sustained over years or decades in a power reactor core.
The accelerated experimental results achieved with VTR will benefit materials development for today’s water reactors as well.
Even as the Versatile Test Reactor makes its way through the federal approval process, the VTR team has already begun collaborating with industry and academia to prepare experiments in anticipation of the VTR’s construction.
One such collaboration—among researchers from the University of Utah, the University of Michigan, and Virginia Commonwealth University — is designing experiments to test various molten salt reactor technologies.
Every tree, even an evergreen, can be an air quality monitor. That’s the conclusion of researchers at the University of Utah who measured the magnetism of particulate matter on the needles of evergreen trees on the U campus. That measurement, they found, correlated to general air quality, suggesting that analysis of the needles—a relatively simple and low-cost process—could provide a high-resolution, year-round picture of air quality.
“Wherever you have a tree you have a data point,” says Grant Rea-Downing, a doctoral student in geology and geophysics. “A tree doesn’t cost $250 to deploy. We’ll be able to map particulate matter distributions at a very high resolution for very little cost.”
If the words in a weather forecast, such as “cool,” “sunny” or “windy,” can influence the way you dress for the day—can they also influence whether or not you take public transit?
In new research published in Vehicles, U researchers found a correlation between words used in media coverage related to weather or air quality, and transit ridership. It’s not enough yet to say that media coverage causes changes in ridership, say authors Tabitha Benney and Daniel Mendoza. But it’s enough to explore what factors in to a person’s decision to ride transit and whether that decision can be nudged.
Just as a living organism continually needs food to maintain itself, an economy consumes energy to do work and keep things going. That consumption comes with the cost of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, though. So, how can we use energy to keep the economy alive without burning out the planet in the process?
In a paper in PLOS ONE, University of Utah professor of atmospheric sciences Tim Garrett, with mathematician Matheus Grasselli of McMaster University and economist Stephen Keen of University College London, report that current world energy consumption is tied to unchangeable past economic production. And the way out of an ever-increasing rate of carbon emissions may not necessarily be ever-increasing energy efficiency—in fact it may be the opposite.
Anyone who’s lived or worked in old buildings knows that their heating and cooling systems can’t compare to the efficiency, insulation and consistency of those in new buildings. But the quirks of old buildings’ climate control systems aren’t just seasonal annoyances—they could shape the future of cities’ energy use in a warming climate.
The Triassic Period, about 252 to 201 million years ago, was a time of volatile change, particularly during an interval known as the Carnian (about 237 to 227 million years ago). Three dramatic events occurred on Earth: the first dinosaurs appeared, gigantic volcanic eruptions called the Wrangellia large igneous province spewed out greenhouse gasses and the climate suddenly shifted to warmer, more humid conditions that scientists call the Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE).
The University of Utah’s first-ever mining engineering mine rescue team won big at the 2020 Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration Engineers (SME) annual conference in late February. The U led in the first aid and breathing apparatus categories, and took the overall competition. Four other more experienced mining schools participated in the event, so the U’s win took SME attendees by surprise. For the competitors, the victory was the result of lots of hard work and tenacity. The winners were Victor Harrell (trainer), Travis Brammer, Rebecca Ray, Stephen Hall, Jack Peterson, Paige Epsten, and Amy Richens.
For many students, the University of Utah is a second home. They eat, sleep, study, and even work here. In fact, one in four undergraduates (about 6,000 students) are employed in one way or another by the U. These jobs not only help students pay the bills but also help get them on a faster track to graduation. Compared to their counterparts, students who are employed through campus jobs are about 12 percent more likely to graduate within six years or less. From fish feeders to salt enthusiasts, meet some of our students with the most unusual, interesting, and rewarding jobs that leave them remarking, “Wow, they pay me to do this!”
Soon after Salt Lake City stopped shaking March 18 from its strongest earthquake on record, Amir Allam, a University of Utah seismologist, knew he had to get busy if he hoped to closely study the hundreds of aftershocks he knew would follow the 7:09 a.m. jolt.
For more than five years, University of Utah air quality sensors have hitched rides on TRAX light rail trains, scanning air pollution along the train’s Red and Green Lines. Now the study, once a passion project of U researchers, has become a state-funded long-term observatory, with an additional sensor on the Blue Line into Sandy and Draper and additional insights into the events that impact the Salt Lake Valley’s air, including summer fireworks and winter inversions.
A remarkable new species of meat-eating dinosaur has been unveiled at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Paleontologists unearthed the first specimen in early 1990s in Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah. The huge carnivore inhabited the flood plains of western North America during the Late Jurassic Period, between 157-152 million years ago, making it the geologically oldest species of Allosaurus, predating the more well-known state fossil of Utah, Allosaurus fragilis. The newly named dinosaur Allosaurus jimmadseni, was announced today in the open-access scientific journal PeerJ.
At the request of the Utah Legislature, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute – with the assistance of a 37-person Technical Advisory Committee – prepared this Utah Roadmap to assist with legislative policymaking to improve air quality and address causes and impacts of a changing climate. The Utah Roadmap identifies areas of opportunity to further reduce air emissions and ensure a healthy, productive, and prosperous future for all Utahns.
The flat dry lakebed (also called a playa) surrounding Utah’s Great Salt Lake is more than 750 square miles—an area bigger than Houston. The wide-open landscape is surprisingly varied and is the realm of coyotes, bison, and a few hardy plants. It’s probably safe to say that no one knows the Great Salt Lake playa better than University of Utah atmospheric scientist Kevin Perry.
Thure Cerling, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, has been awarded the Émile Argand Award from the International Union of Geological Sciences. This is the organization’s highest honor, and is awarded “to honor an active senior geoscientist of high international recognition and outstanding scientific record.”
The Salt Lake City area has made strides in cleaning up the airborne particulate matter that cloaks the valley during winter inversions and has kept these pollution levels within federal limits in recent years.
At the same time, ozone, an invisible gas that irritates the lungs and airways, has continued to plague the region. U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams is trying to figure out why and what to do about it.
Dr. Lauren Birgenhier and Dr. Cari Johnson have won a 2019 GRIT Award for She Persisted.
The GRIT Awards℠ & Best Energy Workplaces℠, sponsored by Medallia, were created to recognize women leaders in energy and the male allies who advocate for their advancement. Nearly 300 nominations poured in from across the world from oil and gas, utilities, and alternative energy companies, academia, and non-government organizations (NGOs).
In a paper published as part of an upcoming focus section on regional seismic networks in Seismological Research Letters, University of Utah seismologist Keith Koper explains how the work of regional seismic networks in North America is contributing to nuclear test monitoring, particularly in the case of low-yield explosions. Koper is the director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations.
The new meteorites were found by the 2018-19 U.S. Antarctic Search for Meteorites program (ANSMET) field team, led by Jim Karner at the University of Utah and Ralph Harvey at Case Western Reserve University. The lunar meteorites were recovered from icefields near the Dominion Range (DOM) of the Transantarctic Mountains, roughly 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the South Pole.
Smoke from a summer wildfire is more than just an eye-stinging plume of nuisance. It’s a poison to the lungs and hearts of the people who breathe it in and a dense blanket that hampers firefighting operations.
There’s an atmospheric feedback loop, says University of Utah atmospheric scientist Adam Kochanski, that can lock smoke in valleys in much the same way that temperature inversions lock the smog and gunk in the Salt Lake Valley each winter. But understanding this loop, Kochanski says, can help scientists predict how smoke will impact air quality in valleys, hopefully helping both residents and firefighters alike.
The exposed, encrusted bed of the depleted Great Salt Lake stretches for miles and miles, merging with Utah’s West Desert somewhere off in a distance defined by mountain ridgelines rising above the horizon like jagged clouds.
Few know this rarely visited terrain better than Kevin Perry, an atmospheric sciences professor with the University of Utah who spent more than 125 days pedaling 2,300 miles of playa on a one-man data-gathering mission.
Peter Veals and Trey Alvey, both recent atmospheric sciences PhD graduates, were recently mentioned in an article from the Deseret News entitled, “8 Start-ups Transforming the Face of Entrepreneurship in Utah.” The article states, “One of the eight most exciting to come from the University of Utah this year is Quantum Snow.” Veals and Alvey founded Quantum Snow to bring what skiers in Utah crave: fresh powder on demand, without having to wait for Mother Nature to deliver it.
Public transit has long been an answer for people looking to leave their car at home and reduce their air pollution emissions. But now, with better rider tracking tools, the University of Utah and the Utah Transit Authority can better answer the question: How much does public transit reduce pollution emissions?
At about the same rate that your heart beats, a Utah rock formation called Castleton Tower gently vibrates, keeping time and keeping watch over the sandstone desert. Swaying like a skyscraper, the red rock tower taps into the deep vibrations in the earth—wind, waves and far-off earthquakes.
New research from University of Utah geologists details the natural vibration of the tower, measured with the help of two skilled rock climbers. Understanding how this and other natural rock forms vibrate, they say, helps us keep an eye (or ear) on their structural health and helps us understand how human-made vibrations affect seemingly unmovable rocks. The results are published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
Climate change is often framed as a partisan issue, but it doesn’t have to be that way. That was the message agreed upon by a group of Summit and Wasatch County leaders, local academics and students who discussed climate change at a panel at the Park City Library on Wednesday.
Based on careful study of fossilized teeth, scientists Keegan Melstom and Randall Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah have found that multiple ancient groups of crocodyliforms—the group including living and extinct relatives of crocodiles and alligators—were not the carnivores we know today, as reported in the journal Current Biology on June 27, 2019. In fact, the evidence suggests that a veggie diet arose in the distant cousins of modern crocodylians at least three times.
In August 2018, University of Utah president Ruth Watkins and United States Geological Survey director James Reilly signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a partnership between the two institutions that will enable both to draw on the facilities and expertise of the other.
Effective July 1, the University of Utah’s departments of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and Metallurgical Engineering (METE) have merged into a single academic department administered jointly by the College of Engineering and College of Mines and Earth Sciences.
The processes that create ozone pollution in the summer can also trigger the formation of wintertime air pollution, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and NOAA, in partnership with the University of Utah. The team’s unexpected finding suggests that in the U.S. West and elsewhere, certain efforts to reduce harmful wintertime air pollution could backfire.
University of Utah researchers have a new partner in studying air pollution along the Wasatch Front. Google is on board with allowing air monitoring equipment on board two of their Street View mapping vehicles.
On Aug. 17, 1959, back when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the U.S. had yet to send a human to space and the nation’s flag sported 49 stars, Yellowstone National Park shook violently for about 30 seconds. The shock was strong enough to drop the ground a full 20 feet in some places. It toppled the dining room fireplace in the Old Faithful Inn. Groundwater swelled up and down in wells as far away as Hawaii. Twenty-eight people died. It went down in Yellowstone history as the Hebgen Lake earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2.
In a new study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Utah professor Paul Brooks and University of Nevada Reno professor Adrian Harpold show that changes in humidity may determine how the contribution of snowpack to streams, lakes and groundwater changes as the climate warms.
In December 2017, the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) elected Zhigang Zak Fang as a 2017 fellow. Fang, a professor of metallurgical engineering in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, was an obvious choice; he has over 50 issued patents, several more pending and multiple new projects in the works. Fang embodies the spirit of NAI, an organization that honors academics who have facilitated exceptional inventions that impact society. He joins 12 other U faculty with NAI fellowships.
A remarkable new fossilized skeleton of a tyrannosaur discovered in the Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) in southern Utah was airlifted by helicopter Sunday, Oct. 15, from a remote field site, and delivered to the Natural History Museum of Utah where it will be uncovered, prepared and studied. The fossil is approximately 76 million years old and is most likely an individual of the species Teratophoneus curriei, one of Utah’s ferocious tyrannosaurs that walked western North America between 66 and 90 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period.
As Hurricane Matthew barreled through the Caribbean and toward the U.S. Atlantic coast in 2016, forecasters have worked to determine the storm’s probable path and intensity, in order to make appropriate recommendations to the regions in the storm’s path.
As Utah's population continues to grow, water managers and water scientists are looking more at water's journey to our taps. Yousuf Jameel and his colleauges, including Dr. Gabe Bowen, sampled tap water to study the various sources of water.
They say that dead men tell no tales. A University of Utah spin-off company begs to differ. Hair, teeth and bone all preserve a record of where a person’s been – often an invaluable boon to law enforcement with no other leads to go off of.
Kathy Liu, a senior at West High School, Salt Lake City won the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award with a $50K scholarship in Phoenix this month. Kathy’s science project, “Natural Material-based Solid Polymer Electrolyte for High Performance Lithium Battery,” was done in laboratories of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering, College of Mines and Earth Sciences, University of Utah, under the supervision of Dr. Xuming Wang, Research Professor in the department.
Robert Smith, a professor in Geology and Geophysics, will receive the 2015 Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting,
to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the fields of geodesy, seismology, or tectonophysics through mentoring of junior colleagues, leadership of community research initiatives, or other forms of unselfish collaboration
Most Christmas lights, DVD players, televisions and flashlights have one thing in common: They’re made with light emitting diodes (LEDs). Two University of Utah researchers have now found a way to create LEDs from food and beverage waste. In addition to utilizing food and beverage waste that would otherwise decompose and be of no use, this development can also reduce potentially harmful waste from LEDs generally made from toxic elements.
York Smith, Post Doctoral Researcher at the University of Utah receives an award for his research focused on applying electrodynamic eddy current separation techniques to the recycling processing of end-of-life solar panel materials.
Atmospheric Sciences professor Dr. John Horel has won the Francis W. Reichelderfer Award from the American Meteorological Society. This award is given in recognition of distinguished contributions to the provision of operational environmental services to the public.
Salmon carry a strontium chemical signature in their “ear bones” that lets scientists identify specific streams where the fish hatched and lived before they were caught at sea. The new tool may help pinpoint critical habitats for fish threatened by climate change, industrial development and overfishing.
Utah’s national parks are places that we all visit for the beauty, the unusual landscapes and the remoteness. And certainly because these places are so quiet. But are they really? Turns out, these arches are “talking” to us… sort of.
Jan D. Miller, Ivor D. Thomas Distinguished Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah, was honored with the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence, the U's most prestigious award, during a special ceremony at the Honorary Degree Dinner held May 6.
Leah Campbell is a PhD candidate in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Her research, which builds on her love of the mountains and the outdoors, focuses on lake-effect snowfall and mountain effects on precipitation. Leah will be investigating the effects of the Andes Mountains on precipitation structure and distribution during winter storms in south-central Chile.
Reservoir of partly molten rock is four times bigger than shallower chamber. University of Utah seismologists discovered and made images of a reservoir of hot, partly molten rock 12 to 28 miles beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano, and it is 4.4 times larger than the shallower, long-known magma chamber.
A team of researchers from the University of Utah Department of Atmospheric Sciences are learning new information about air quality in the Salt Lake Valley through the equipment they installed on a UTA TRAX train.
By crushing minerals between diamonds, a University of Utah study suggests the existence of an unknown layer inside Earth: part of the lower mantle where the rock gets three times stiffer. The discovery may explain a mystery: why slabs of Earth’s sinking tectonic plates sometimes stall and thicken 930 miles underground.
The chemical signature of water vapor emitted by combustion sources such as vehicles and furnaces has been found in the smoggy winter inversions that often choke Salt Lake City. The discovery may give researchers a new tool to track down the sources of pollutants and climate-changing carbon dioxide gas.
Dr. Jan D. Miller, Ivor Thomas Distinguished Professor of Metallurgical Engineering will be inducted as a fellow into the National Academy of Inventors on March 20, 2015 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena California.
The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth’s climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed, but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, University of Utah researchers and their colleagues found.
SolaPur LLC, a company started by Dr. Krista Carlson and Jeffery Huber, received a Technology Commercialization & Innovation Program (TCIP) grant from the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development.
Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, and suggests it may worsen as Earth's climate warms.
Professor Courtenay Strong was awarded the 2013-2014 University Early Career Teaching Award from the University of Utah. Professor Strong is one of 50 total winners of the award since its inception 15 years ago.
Atmospheric Sciences' Mountain Meteorology group has a new TurboAce Matrix Quadcopter. They intend on using it as an instrumented device to collect vertical profiles of the lower atmosphere. Click this story to view the video.
A unique method to collect rain water samples during Hurricane Sandy has revealed the storm's chemical "signature" with a new level of detail. The technique may also lead to weather model advances that will ultimately improve storm prediction, say researchers at the University of Utah whose study was published online today in PLOS ONE.
Last year's gigantic landslide at a Utah copper mine probably was the biggest nonvolcanic slide in North America's modern history, and included two rock avalanches that happened 90 minutes apart and surprisingly triggered 16 small earthquakes, University of Utah scientists discovered.
Atmospheric Sciences Professor Steenburgh and some of his students are in Oswego County, New York for the OWLeS field program "Ontario Winter Lake-Effect Systems" (owles.org). During their 6 weeks stay students will take measurements every six hours during snow storms giving them an opportunity that would not be possible in a classroom.
U scientists unearth the oldest Tyrannosaur to date, an early ancestor of T-rex. Mark Lowen and Randy Irmis, along with co-authors P. J.Currie and Scott Sampson published the finidings in PLoS One. Lythronax argestes, whose name means "king of gore was a 24-foot-long sharp-toothed creature weighed 2.75 tons.
A team of University of Utah geology and geophysics graduate students took the top prize - the Imperial Barrel Award - on May 19 in Pittsburgh during the American Association of Petroleum Geologists' annual convention.
A new bluish-green mineral discovered in abandoned uranium mines in Colorado and Utah has been named nashite in honor of University of Utah geology and geophysics Professor Barbara Nash, who has studied related minerals.