Storm Peak

Storm Peak

Storm Peak is a lab and a classroom.

Over forty years ago what would become the premier, high-elevation atmospheric science laboratory in the Western United States opened at Steamboat Springs Ski Resort in Colorado. Storm Peak, as the facility is called, has been “the perfect place, to have your head in the clouds,” says director Gannet Hallar, professor of atmospheric sciences at the U. The laboratory sits in the clouds about 40 percent of the time in the winter. “That allows us to sample clouds and the particles that make clouds at the same time. And from that, the lab has produced about 150 peer-reviewed publications.”

Named after the peak which stands at 10,500 feet above sea level, the 3,500-square-foot lab is not only the perfect place for established researchers but for budding scientists who are studying what changes a cloud, what makes it snow versus what makes it not snow and what makes more versus less ice in the atmosphere, among other questions.

Storm Peak, Colorado

This year twelve students in the new Science Research Initiative at the College of Science will make the five-hour road trip to Steamboat Springs, then take the chairlift to Storm Peak. Funded by the National Science Foundation and operated under a permit from the U.S. Forest Service, the storied lab has an incredible record of long—term atmospheric measurements, “critical,” according to Hallar, to the success of the site and for the broader understanding we need to improve climate predictions.

Hallar has the advantage of operating out of two locations: Storm Peak where regional air quality through long data records is determined over decades of change, as well as the top floor and roof of the Browning Building at the U’s main Salt Lake campus where she studies urban air quality. One week students and faculty collaborators can be seen using a multifilter showdowband radiometer overlooking the Salt Lake Valley and then the next week literally in the clouds witnessing science in the making. Students “can learn concepts in the classroom and then watch that data appear physically in front of their eyes,” says Hallar. “They can see the concept of photochemistry as it appears, how … the concentration of gases change as the sun comes up.”

As pristine as the air is at Storm Peak, just west of the Continental Divide in the northwest corner of the state, it is also typical of rural areas in the U.S. where coal plant emissions can impact atmospheric composition. Two of those plants are upwind of the facility which makes the measurements Hallar and her team collect even more relevant to other rural locations.

William Anderegg

“What’s amazing about this place is that we have shown over the fifteen plus years that we've run undergraduate programs that it's a place of inspiration.” Students learn how important changes in gases are in terms of public health and climate. “I think it's important for our students to come and see us measuring and calibrating carefully. They can see the care and precision taken to measure greenhouse gases.”

Not all greenhouse gases are human-derived. Wildfires in the West have become a new variable in measuring atmospheric composition, involving forest ecologists like William Anderegg, director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy at the U. And there are other measurements being done at Storm Peak that might prove surprising. “We've done studies on how tree emissions change when beetle infestation happens,” says Hallar, which impacts air quality as well.

Storm Peak is just one node in the Global Atmospheric Watch Network, a consortium of labs and observation sites that together address atmospheric composition on all scales, from global and regional to local and urban. Hallar and her team work closely with sites on Mt. Washington and Whiteface, in New Hampshire and New York, respectively, as well Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, among others. Recently, the team submitted a proposal to collaborate with Pico del Este, a field site in Puerto Rico.

It will require collaboration on a global scale to address climate change, and aerosol particle research, says Hallar, “is most definitely the critical measurement that [atmospheric scientists] need to make.” In addition to measuring methane–a critical player because of its warming potential–at Storm Peak, “we can see what we call the Keeling Curve. We can see how carbon dioxide increases every year, but has a seasonal cycle, that is associated with how trees and plants uptake carbon dioxide.

Delivery via snowcat.

Meanwhile, students are preparing for their field trip to Storm Peak in March where the ski resort will not only provide transportation up to the facility via lift but ski passes. A staging facility in west Steamboat Springs houses equipment that includes a snow cat, snowmobiles and other equipment. Up top, bunks are limited to nine, so there is a lot of travel up and down the slopes. But it’s worth it for students to get their collective head in the clouds to work with instrumentation critical to measuring clean air and discovering ramifications more broadly in terms of global warming.

by David Pace, photos by Maria Garcia, Ian McCubbin, and Gannet Hallar.

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Thorn Merrill

Skiing at Alta.

Great Salt Lake is at the lowest point in its recorded history.

Without the lake, skiers and riders of the Wasatch have little hope of continuing to enjoy the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City.

In Downstream, professional skier and atmospheric scientist Thorn Merrill, explains that the health of Great Salt Lake and the enjoyment of the Greatest Snow on Earth are inexorably linked.

Thorn Merrill is a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah. His research focuses on local air pollution issues, namely dust that impacts Wasatch Front in Utah.

Merrill graduated from Bates College with a B.S. in Geology and a minor in Mathematics. Merrill moved to Salt Lake City in 2020.

To learn more about the issues facing the Great Salt Lake, please visit:


Downstream is a video by Zach Coury, originally published @ YouTube.

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Climate Hackathon

Climate Hackathon

When the new Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy announced in Fall ’22 that it would host a 24-hour Climate Solutions “Hackathon,” there was some confusion across the College of Science.

Hackathons were for coders and computer geeks, right? It turns out, not necessarily. This was to be an activity of intense solving, with a focus on a pernicious climate change-related problem: urban heat.

Urban heat is the phenomenon of cities becoming excessively hot because of urbanization, lack of vegetation, and climate change. It is increasingly causing a range of harmful effects across the world, such as air pollution, health problems, and increased energy consumption.

Ready, Set, Go!

By the time the event kicked off at noon on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Crocker Science Center, close to 140 undergraduate and graduate students had registered. Some arrived as teams of three or four, while others showed up alone, ready to partner with anyone. They were given “hack packs” with “hacking sheets” providing prompts and background information to get them rolling.

“We did as much background research as we could beforehand,” said Hollis Belnap, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering. “But once the hackathon started, that’s when we just started throwing out ideas, like, what about this? What about that?”

As the evening progressed, dozens of teams burrowed in for a long night of brainstorming, surrounded by snacks, white boards, and laptops. U faculty with specialties in urban engineering or atmospheric studies also made the rounds and offered feedback.

“It was really an urban heat crisis crash course for me,” said Victoria Carrington, a biochemistry and law major. “It was intense, but in a positive way. It’s not like being in a competition to beat other people. It’s like we were all working towards a solution. Even if we didn’t win, we were still doing something really important in that 24 hours.”

Ultimately, the submissions that won over the Wilkes Center staff and leadership team were those that recognized the complexity of the problem and found ways to creatively integrate technologies, data, and policies.

Adrian Sucahyo, Victoria Carrington, Vivek Anandh and Aarushi Verma.

First Place:  Schools as Heat Shelters ($3,000 prize) Team: “Green Campus Solutions”

 Aarushi Verma - undergraduate, Q.E.
 Vivek Anandh - undergraduate, C.S.
 Adrian Sucahyo - undergraduate, E.E.
 Victoria Carrington - graduate, law, biochem

Team Green Campus Solutions proposed using public school buildings as places for shelter during the hot summer months, and upgrading schools with renewable generation stations utilizing existing funding mechanisms in ways that would be scalable.

“When I was a senior in high school, I tried to get our school district to transition to 100 percent clean energy,” said Verma. “So, I knew a lot about schools and how schools can be a hub for clean energy. I also knew the challenges that came with that.”

Verma’s teammates also brought their own shared experiences with asthma and struggling to learn in hot classrooms.  “We really focused on how the urban heat crisis impacts children, and how we can make K-12 schools better prepared to support them, said Carrington. “It took some finessing, but I think we got there.”

Sevda Zeinal Kheiri, Hollis Belnap and Luis Rodriguez-Garcia.

Second Place: Resiliency Hubs and Portable Cooling Centers ($2,000 prize) Team: “USmart Solutions”

Sevda Zeinal Kheiri - graduate, E.C.E.
Luis Rodriguez-Garcia - graduate, E.C.E.
Hollis Belnap - graduate, E.C.E.

Team USmart Solutions proposed a combination of resilience hubs that would not overburden the grid, portable cooling stations, and incentives for community members to use less energy during extreme heat periods.

“The ‘resiliency hubs’ would be large buildings that could generate its own power, it would be green, and could be used to house people during heat wave emergencies – a community resource for people who don’t have AC,” said Belnap. “But then we thought, what if someone cannot go there?” said Rodriguez-Garcia. “We’re thinking of older adults, or people who require specific medical equipment. So, then we brought in another layer for portable cooling resources.”

The USmart team also integrated planning for energy equity – a system that would be equitable for all members of a community.

Jack Perry, Nathanael Busath and Thomas Stewart.

Third Place: An Urban Heat Formula ($1,000 prize) Team: “Hacking Urban Heat”

Jack Perry - undergraduate, Math, Q.A.
Thomas Stewart - undergraduate, C.E.
Nathanael Busath - undergraduate, Finance

Team Hacking Urban Heat created an urban heat index formula using data that cities could analyze to determine and mitigate their own unique urban heat challenges.

“We wanted our solution to be as broad-reaching as possible,” said Busath. “It’s a framework for different cities to figure out what they can do to change.”

“As we maximize green space, the denominator for equation, the urban heat index is going to go down,” added Stewart. “So, that was the really cool thing about developing the equation. Now we can go in and look at a specific situation, say, is there a lot of green space in this area already? All right, where can we reduce building materials and their albedo, and minimize that on the numerator.”

Crossing the Finish Line

Victoria Carrington, who like many participants did not know her teammates before the competition, remembered the thrill as the Saturday noon deadline approached.

“I woke up at 4:30 a.m. that second day, and it was like, we’ve gotta get this done! And I think we submitted it with two minutes to spare. It was that super adrenaline-filled type of competition.”

Thirteen teams submitted Hackathon slide decks in total. The top three teams were invited to share posters showcasing their ideas at the upcoming Wilkes Climate Summit on May 16 and 17th. More information about the Climate Solutions Hackathon can be found on the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy website.

Deep in the Hack.

by Ross Chambless, originally published @theU.

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Applied Science Groundbreaking

Dean Peter Trapa

On Friday, Feb. 10, the University of Utah held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Applied Sciences Project, a $93.5 million endeavor that includes renovation of the historic William Stewart Building and a new 100,000-square-foot building with modern teaching labs and state-of-the-art research facilities. The completed spaces will house world-class scientists addressing the country’s most urgent issues, including energy, air quality, climate change and water management, and provide additional classrooms and experiential learning opportunities for crucial undergraduate STEM courses.

“Utah is growing, and we need to expand,” said U President Taylor Randall to the crowd at the Applied Sciences Project ceremony. “This project will help us increase capacity to educate new generations of STEM leaders and provide the expertise to sustain Utah’s STEM economy to keep Utah vital.”

Gary Crocker

The Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy and the Departments of Physics & Astronomy and Atmospheric Sciences will relocate to the new building upon its completion in late 2024. The researchers will use the facilities for a range of activities, such as forecasting hazardous weather, predicting the Wasatch Front’s winter particulates and summer ozone, developing new advances in semiconductors and quantum materials and managing the Willard Eccles Observatory telescope at Frisco Peak. The partnership between these departments is a component of the merger between the College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, announced last year.

“In the end, when all is said and done, the core objective of philanthropy has always been the impact that a gift might have on individual lives. Ann and I know very personally that the College of Science is the pivotal portal in this state through which students wishing to enter the sciences and science-based profession must pass,” said Gary Crocker. “Ann and I have seen this virtuous cycle. Science leading to commercial innovation, leading to better jobs and better communities.”

President Taylor Randall

The project will boost the capacity for crucial undergraduate courses, allowing departments to address record STEM enrollment. Classes taught in the buildings are necessary for 37 different STEM degree programs and nine pre-professional programs, including all engineering, pre-medical and computer science majors. Along with access to modern experiential teaching spaces, students will avoid bottlenecks in high-demand courses, helping reduce graduation time.

“The collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of this project will bring together faculty and students who will work together to address the grand challenges of our day and make great advances in fundamental research,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science.

The Utah State Legislature approved the project in 2020 and the state appropriated $64.8 million in funding for the project. Both the university and the legislature consider the project a high priority because it supports the state’s STEM economy.

Dean Darryl Butt

“The Applied Sciences Building will be a home base, a catalyst for learning and innovation in the 21st century, and will touch thousands of lives,” said Darryl Butt, dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences.

When completed, the Crocker Science Center and the two buildings in the Applied Science Project will form the Crocker Science Complex. The complex, made possible by an $8.5 million gift from Gary and Ann Crocker, will form a dynamic interdisciplinary STEM hub on the east side of the U campus.

Visit our Applied Science Project pages for more information.

Visit our UGIVE page to make a donation in support of the Applied Science Project.



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GSL Strike Team

Great Salt Lake Strike Team

Utah’s public research universities – The University of Utah and Utah State University – formed the Great Salt Lake Strike Team to provide a primary point of contact for policymakers as they address the economic, health, and ecological challenges created by the record-low elevation of Great Salt Lake. Together with state agency professionals, the Strike Team brings together experts in public policy, hydrology, water management, climatology, and dust to provide impartial, data-informed, and solution-oriented support for Utah decision-makers. The Strike Team does not advocate but rather functions in a technical, policy-advisory role as a service to the state.

The Great Salt Lake Strike Team developed an evaluation scorecard to create apples-to-apples comparisons of the most often proposed options. By briefly outlining these policies and providing necessary context, options, and tradeoffs, we give an overview of expected water gains, monetary costs, environmental impacts, and feasibility. Many options work in conjunction with others, particularly “Commit Conserved Water to Great Salt Lake” which is foundational to shepherding water conserved through other policy options to the lake.

Strike Team Policy Options

Commit Conserved Water to Great Salt Lake
Coupled with accurate quantification, appropriate procedural mechanisms, and practicable means of delivery, stakeholders may be able to commit conserved water to Great Salt Lake.

Agriculture Water Optimization
Agriculture water optimization provides immediate and improved resilience to producers and builds the foundation of flexibility, infrastructure, and methods required to make more water available for Great Salt Lake.

Optimize Municipal and Industrial Water Pricing
By optimizing water pricing in Utah, policymakers can improve water management and increase water deliveries to Great Salt Lake.

Limiting Municipal and Industrial Water Use Growth
Efficiency and conservation in new and existing M&I water use creates savings for future growth and can also conserve water to be delivered to Great Salt Lake.

Water Banking and Leasing
The State of Utah or the Great Salt Lake Trust could lease water for Great Salt Lake, reallocating water from willing sellers to willing buyers.

Active Forest Management in Great Salt Lake Headwaters
Thinning Utah’s forests is not likely to substantially increase the amount of water reaching the GSL. Although thinning can improve forest health and reduce the risk of severe wildfire, it does not always increase streamflow.

Great Salt Lake Mineral Extraction Optimization
Mineral extractors working on Great Salt Lake collectively hold over 600,000 acre-feet of water rights. The state is currently working with these companies to encourage innovative processes for new mineral development.

Import Water
Importing water to Great Salt Lake from the Pacific Ocean (or other sources) is feasible but would be expensive, slow, and controversial.

Increase Winter Precipitation with Cloud Seeding
Cloud seeding can marginally enhance the amount of snowfall in mountainous regions of primary water sources.

Raise and Lower the Causeway Berm
Raising the adaptive management berm at the Union Pacific Railroad causeway breach between the North and South Arms of Great Salt Lake would effectively act as a dam. This would keep freshwater inflows of the major tributaries in the South Arm where salinity levels are reaching a critical threshold.

Mitigate Dust Emission Hotspots
Implementing dust control measures on exposed portions of the Great Salt Lake lakebed would reduce the impacts of dust on human health.


Visit the Gardner Policy Institute to view the latest updates.


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Saving Great Salt Lake

Saving Great Salt Lake

William Anderegg

The Great Salt Lake can be saved. This is how we do it.

Decisions to bring more water to the Great Salt Lake need to be based on the best available science and data. That’s why last fall, at the request of our university presidents and Utah’s policymakers, we launched a new kind of partnership called the Great Salt Lake Strike Team.

This team is a joint effort between Utah’s research universities — the University of Utah and Utah State University — and state agencies. Our goal is to provide data and answers to key questions needed for saving the Great Salt Lake. The effort aims to be impartial, data-driven and rapid.

On Feb. 8, we’re sharing our key findings in a policy assessment report. We’re focused on answering crucial questions. How did we get here? What are our options going forward?

Our report’s key findings are both stark and hopeful. The lake is currently sliding toward catastrophe. While a long-term drought and climate warming are exacerbating the stress, human water use is the largest driver of low lake levels. Fortunately, we have many policy levers that can help return the lake to healthy levels.

Brian Steed

The report provides a policy assessment and “scorecards” for some of the most-discussed options for bringing more water to the lake. We’ve synthesized the benefits, costs and trade-offs of these options. Also important, our report provides science-based scenarios for refilling the lake to certain target levels and the additional water required for each scenario.

While we do not advocate for any specific policies, we have four concrete recommendations that will help clarify and guide efforts to save the lake:

First, the state should set a target lake level range, based on the matrix developed by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands and a timeline to reach that lake level. Once a target and timeline have been set, annual evaluations of progress and recalibrations will be important.

Second, wet years will be crucial to helping refill the lake. Wet years — like 2023 is turning out to be — are the time to increase conservation and ensure that conserved water makes it to the lake.

Finally, further in-depth policy analyses can guide specific actions. Research on existing and potential policies, building on expertise around the state and our strike team, will be important for informing data-driven decisions in the next few years.

This “strike team” partnership has been incredibly productive. It represents the land-grant and flagship universities working together, collaborating with state agencies, to serve our great state. It leverages our complementary strengths in water modeling, water policy, climate, hydrology and air quality.

We firmly believe the Great Salt Lake can be saved. Refilling the lake to levels that ensure Utahns’ health and prosperity will require state leadership, research university technical expertise, and individual and collective action.

The next several years are a crucial window to turn the tide, though success requires us to remember that this is a marathon and not just a sprint. As a state, we have the know-how, science, innovation, problem-solving spirit and leadership to rise to the challenge.

William Anderegg is the director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy and an associate professor of biology at the University of Utah. His research focuses on water resources, drought, climate change and forests.

Brian Steed is the executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water, and Air at Utah State University. He’s previously overseen the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.


By Brian Steed and William Anderegg, originally published @DeseretNews.


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Magnesium Pollution?

Magnesium Pollution?

Salt Lake City, Utah

Research helps explain Salt Lake City's persistent air quality problems.

The 2.4 million people who live along Utah’s Wasatch Front experience some of the most severe winter particulate matter air pollution in the nation. Now, analysis of measurements taken during National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research flights in 2017 indicates that emissions from a single source, a magnesium refinery, may be responsible for a significant fraction of the fine particles that form  the dense winter brown clouds that hang over Salt Lake City.

The finding was published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Lead author Carrie Womack, a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder working at NOAA, said analysis of airborne measurements directly from the plume rising from the US Magnesium refinery during a 2017 winter air pollution study in Utah found that emissions of chlorine and bromine, known as halogenated compounds, were significant contributors to the persistent winter brown clouds.

Carrie Womack

“I was struck by the complexity of chemical reactions in the atmosphere,” said U professor John Lin, of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and a co-author of the study. “Changes in the chemical ingredients of the atmosphere could lead to unexpected outcomes through inter-linked chemical pathways.”

US Magnesium, the largest magnesium producer in North America, extracts the metal from the brine of the Great Salt Lake, at a plant upwind of Salt Lake City.

Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, also known as fine particles or PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to health, affecting both lungs and your heart.

“Understanding what causes this PM2.5 formation is the first step in reducing it,” Womack said. “One aspect of our study was characterizing known point sources in the area.”

John Lin

The Utah Division of Air Quality requires reporting of particulate precursors, such as chlorine and nitrogen oxide emissions, which are then shared with the US Environmental Protection Agency. However, NOAA’s measurements also identified significant emissions of bromine, a reactive chemical that is not required to be reported. Modeling demonstrated that the chlorine and bromine emitted by the refinery were responsible for 10 – 25% of regional PM2.5 during winter pollution episodes.

“Our measurements of chlorine and nitrogen oxides agree with what the facility reports to regulators,” Womack said. “But what we found suggests that bromine industrial emissions may deserve a closer look.”

Pollution control regulations and cleaner technologies adopted since the 1970s have steadily improved air quality in the US. Yet some valleys in the Intermountain West still experience high levels of PM2.5 during winter. In Utah’s urban Salt Lake Valley, wintertime levels of PM2.5 exceed national air quality standards an average of 18 days per year. The majority of exceedances occur in December, January and early February during a period when strong, multi-day inversions known as persistent cold air pools develop that trap pollution close to the surface.

These exceedances have been specifically associated with adverse health effects in the region, including a 42% higher rate of emergency room visits for asthma during the latter stages of air pollution events from 2003-2008, according to one study.

Prior to the NOAA study, the chemical composition of PM2.5 in northern Utah, and how it forms, had received considerably less attention than in other regions of the nation despite the severity of the problem in Utah.

“We could see during our research flights in 2017 that the air around the plant was unlike anything we had sampled previously due to the high chlorine emissions,” said NOAA scientist Steven Brown, who led the field campaign. “We were surprised that it had such a large effect on winter PM2.5 across the entire region.”

“Close to the plant, we didn’t even need to check the instruments to know we were flying through the plume,” Womack added. “We could smell it. It smelled like bleach!”

The dominant contributor to regional particulate matter is ammonium nitrate, which is responsible for up to 70% of fine particulate mass during inversion periods and 40% outside of inversions. Ammonium nitrate is a secondary pollutant formed by reactions between ammonia, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The NOAA model demonstrated that halogen emissions from US Magnesium speed up the conversion of NOx and VOCs to ammonium nitrate particulate matter.

Researchers have shared their findings with Utah officials, who had sought NOAA’s help in understanding their poor winter air quality. A previous paper by Womack in 2019 documented other sources of winter smog.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is currently conducting a study to identify sources of ammonia.

While the new paper is based on measurements taken in 2017, Womack said emissions of chlorine, which accompany the unreported emissions of bromine, have not shown any sign of significant decline in the last five years.

Researchers from the University of Utah, the University of Toronto, the University of Washington, and the U.S. EPA also participated in the study.

Find the full study here.

By Theo Stein, originally published @theU.





Gerald “Jay” Mace

U researcher to lead study of clouds in cleanest air on Earth.

The Southern Ocean is a remote region of the world that holds significant influence over the Earth’s climate. Compared with other areas on Earth, its atmosphere is relatively untouched by atmospheric particles that come from human activities. This makes the Southern Ocean a unique place to study what the atmosphere might have been like in preindustrial times.

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.

An upcoming field campaign supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) 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.

Roger Marchand

The Cloud And Precipitation Experiment at Kennaook (CAPE-K) is scheduled to run from April 2024 to September 2025 in northwestern Tasmania.

Gerald “Jay” Mace, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah, is the lead scientist of CAPE-K. His co-lead is Roger Marchand, a research professor at the University of Washington.

The campaign’s science team consists of scientists from universities and research institutions in the United States and Australia.

CAPE-K received support from a recent DOE proposal call for field campaigns that would improve the understanding and modeling of clouds and aerosols, as well as their interactions and coupling with the Earth’s surface.

DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility will provide instruments and infrastructure for CAPE-K. For 30 years, ARM has collected atmospheric data in under-observed regions around the world, including the Southern Ocean. ARM data are freely available for scientists worldwide to download and use.

A powerful collaboration

CAPE-K will take place in a region unlike many others on the planet.

“It’s the only place where there’s a circumpolar ocean current on Earth,” says Mace, who has current funding for Southern Ocean research through DOE’s Atmospheric System Research (ASR). “And so, you have this shoaling of deep water that absorbs carbon and heat. And then that, coupled with other things like recovering ozone, is causing the Southern Hemisphere to be in a state of change.”

The campaign will enable three science objectives:

  1. Document the seasonal cycle of Southern Ocean low-cloud and precipitation properties and examine how they co-vary with aerosol and with dynamical and thermodynamical factors.
  2. Compare and contrast these relationships with observations from other surface sites and campaigns, including other ARM sites.
  3. Study aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions in pristine marine low clouds and explore how these interactions can best be represented in models at various scales.

ARM plans to conduct CAPE-K at the Kennaook/Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station. This station is managed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Established in 1976, the station often measures clean air masses that have not passed over land. This is an important vantage point to have as scientists try to determine how much influence human activities have on the Earth’s energy balance.

“The CAPE-K campaign will provide important information on aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions to help reduce a large source of uncertainty in current climate models,” says DOE ARM Program Manager Sally McFarlane. “The Kennaook/Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station is an ideal location for this study due to its extensive long-term record of aerosol and gas-phase chemistry measurements and its unique location, which results in frequent sampling of pristine air masses from the Southern Ocean.”

For CAPE-K, ARM will provide a portable observatory called an ARM Mobile Facility, which consists of instruments, shelters, and data and communications systems. ARM instruments operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with onsite technicians monitoring the facility around the clock.

In addition to collecting continuous data on cloud and precipitation properties, ARM plans to provide aerosol measurements that will complement those from the baseline station.

Mace is the first person to serve as a lead scientist for multiple ARM Mobile Facility deployments. In 2010 and 2011, Mace led an ARM campaign in Colorado that measured the properties of wintertime clouds and precipitation around the ski town of Steamboat Springs.

Return trips to the Southern Ocean

CAPE-K will mark ARM’s first trip back to the Southern Ocean since 2018, when it finished conducting simultaneous campaigns in the region.

Over a five-month span, ARM instruments collected data on a supply vessel that traveled back and forth between a port in southeastern Tasmania and a set of research stations in the Antarctic.

The other campaign was a two-year deployment to Macquarie Island, which is about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica, to study surface radiative fluxes and cloud and aerosol properties.

Several researchers from CAPE-K’s science team worked on those two ARM campaigns.

Marchand led the Macquarie Island campaign and was a co-investigator for the other Southern Ocean campaign. CAPE-K co-investigator Alain Protat, from BOM, was also co-investigator for both of ARM’s past Southern Ocean campaigns.

Protat is a CAPE-K co-investigator along with CSIRO’s Ruhi Humphries and Melita Keywood.

CAPE-K also has a modeling and analysis team, which includes former BOM head of research Peter May. He helped set up an ARM site that operated in Darwin, Australia, from 2002 to 2014.

Once CAPE-K is underway, the campaign will benefit even more from established partnerships with BOM and CSIRO.

The CSIRO-operated R/V Investigator will be stationed off Kennaook in July and August 2025—wintertime in the Southern Hemisphere. The ship will then travel into the air masses that flow from the prevailing southwesterly winds to collect data on aerosol, cloud, and precipitation properties.

Mace has been a passenger on the Investigator for past data-collecting missions. He looks forward to boarding the vessel again and seeing what scientific discoveries emerge from CAPE-K.

“We’re going to expect to see very clean air masses, very low aerosol air masses—perhaps some of the cleanest on Earth,” he says.

By Katie Dorsey, originally published @theU.



Fletcher Building

Widtsoe Building

South Biology

Skaggs Building

Henry Eyring Building

Cowles Building

Thatcher Building

South Physics Building

Crocker Science Center

James Talmage Building


Collaboration of the Cited

Collaboration of the Cited

The cover of Philosophical Transactions, 1665.

Philosophical Transactions, 1665.

Biology’s ‘highly cited’ researchers collaborate in forest science.

The first scientific journal, still in print, was launched in 1665 by the Royal Society in London, but peer review and the ubiquitous citations we’ve come to expect in research documents are a relatively recent innovation. According to the Broad Institute, it began as late as the mid-1970s.

To distinguish high-level “influencers” in research, Clarivate, a company that provides insights and analytics to accelerate the pace of innovation, annually announces the most “highly cited” researchers. This year, three of those are located at the University of Utah, and all of them are based in the College of Science: Peter Stang (chemistry), John Sperry (biology) and William “Bill” Anderegg (biology).

Sperry and Anderegg have worked closely together, publishing multiple papers over the course of about six years in the areas of plant hydrology and forest stress. Their research is an auspicious example of how, in the tradition of peer-reviewed research, scientists routinely stand on the shoulders of others to move forward human understanding of life sciences. This is, of course, especially critical during an era when global warming demands that we have innovative solutions now.

Vascular health and function

When Sperry started working on plant hydro-vascular systems and their failure by cavitation more than forty years ago, he was one of only a small handful of people who knew it was an important topic. “Scientifically, the field was a goldmine,” said Sperry, “wide open with no competition. Once I’d developed a simple method for measuring cavitation in plant xylem as a grad student, I was off to the races.”

Sperry’s acknowledgment as a highly cited researcher would suggest he ran that race well before retiring in 2019. “I’ve always been thankful to Utah biology for going out on a limb with my hire,” he reports. “Once at Utah, the discoveries about cavitation and its consequences for plant ecology and evolution steadily drew more attention and the field grew.”


Sperry holding a custom rotor.

“Once at Utah, the discoveries about cavitation and its consequences for plant ecology and evolution steadily drew more attention and the field grew.”


New method developments by his lab helped acquire larger data sets on how plant form and function have evolved. Sperry custom designed centrifuge rotors to quickly expose the vascular system of plants to a known negative pressure. This in turn allowed him to create the kinds of vulnerability curves, which improve prediction of plant water use and to help move his research toward macro applications in forests to predict plant responses to climate change.

Demonstrating the linkage between the physics of water transport and the physiological regulation of plant gas exchange and photosynthesis via stomata was key to better understanding how plants respond to environmental change. This is because transport physics is easier to measure and model than the physiology underlying stomatal behavior. “I always knew that vascular health and function had to be at least as important to plants as it is to animals, and so it has proven to be.”

Scaling up through computation

While necessity is the mother of invention—as in Sperry’s early centrifuge–computational power, one could argue, is the mother of scaling up research impacts. As a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Mel Tyree at the University of Vermont, Sperry learned early on the utility of blending theoretical modeling with empirical work. “Decades of weather parameters can [now] be converted into continuous half-hourly predictions of photosynthesis, transpiration, xylem pressures and so forth in a matter of hours,” he explains of how big data revolutionized his work. “In my case, modeling converts the measured cavitation response. . .. This paved the way for improved predictions of responses to climate change. The utility of this approach has gradually become appreciated . . . hence the number of citations.”

It is no coincidence that Sperry and Anderegg who both share a research interest in plant hydraulics are cited frequently. But while Sperry’s work focused on physiological fundamentals, Anderegg’s ongoing forest research is more wide-ranging and focuses on ecological consequences at often large scales. Said Sperry of his colleague, “his measurements helped explain the drought-induced mortality he had observed in the field. … What Bill has done, in spades, is to realize the potential of plant hydraulics for improving large-scale (landscape to globe) understanding of forest health.”

He continues to watch with interest Anderegg’s research which he said, “stimulated the leap from vascular physiology at the whole-plant scale to the forest as a whole and into a future of climate change. He played a key role in identifying how to model the trade-off between transpiration and photosynthesis, which was crucial for bridging the gap between vascular health and photosynthetic health.”

For Anderegg, who first met Sperry when he was a graduate student studying cavitation in Colorado aspens, the feeling of admiration is mutual. While attending a major conference in the field, Anderegg remembers an artistic set of wooden branches—a “mentor tree.” There, “young scientists anonymously wrote the name of someone who had changed their career. John’s name was all over the tree and was the most frequent name by far.”

Sperry would agree with Anderegg when the latter explains how “climate change is already having major impacts on our landscapes, forests, and communities, and thus scientific research to help us understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change is growing rapidly.” As director of the new Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy housed in the College of Science, Anderegg is at the forefront of trying to understand more fully the western United States’ forest environments calling it “a global hotspot for climate impacts.” His aim both within the Wilkes Center and without is “to make our research in this region useful, timely, and relevant.”

“John’s work in the field of plant water transport was seminal and at the vanguard of the field,” said Anderegg, “So it’s not a surprise at all to me that it continues to be widely cited even after his retirement.”

The defining issues of our age

At the helm of the Wilkes Center, Anderegg is keen to collaborate with stakeholders and multiple partners to analyze and innovate on climate solutions. The Center’s intention is to inform policy in key areas of water resources, climate extremes, and nature-based climate solutions. Funded by a $20 million gift from Clay and Marie Wilkes, the Center illuminates climate impacts on local communities, economies, ecosystems, and human health in Utah and around the globe while developing key tools to mitigate, adapt, and manage climate impacts.

The directorship is a natural one for Anderegg whose principal query is driven by concerns that drought, insects, and wildfire may devastate forests in the coming decades. “We study how drought and climate change affect forest ecosystems, including tree physiology, species interactions, carbon cycling and biosphere-atmosphere feedback,” he writes. “This research spans a broad array of spatial scales from xylem cells to ecosystems and seeks to gain a better mechanistic understanding of how climate change will affect forests around the world.”


William “Bill” Anderegg

“We study how drought and climate change affect forest ecosystems, including tree physiology, species interactions, carbon cycling and biosphere-atmosphere feedback”


A recent paper of his in Science presents a climate risk analysis of the Earth’s forests in the 21 century. Before that publication, his team not only determined that more people are suffering from pollen-related allergies and that people who do have these allergies are suffering longer pollen seasons than they used to but that the causes, while wide-ranging, are mainly because of climate change. The Wilkes Center aims to scale up such societally relevant research, provide tools for stakeholders to make decisions and leverage science and education to inform public policy.

Accumulating citations in scientific, peer-reviewed journals leading to warm accolades of being one of an elite group of the “highly-cited” is not just about giving credit where credit is due. Instead, citations are signs of momentum, the importance of a given field of study, and robust collaboration. They are mechanisms for the leveraging of data and interpretation of that data. And, like the exhilarating high-volume transport upwards of water through xylem in trillions of trees across the earth, citations help link together the scientific literature and let scientists stand on the shoulders of giants to tackle society’s greatest challenges.


by David Pace, first published in the School of Biological Sciences