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Ice Fest

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Boulder, Colorado is home to some of the world’s leading polar and climate experts, and so to help celebrate the beginning of the International Polar Year we’ll be holding Ice Fest, which may, if successful, become an annual event.  This year it will be held March 8-11th on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus, with “Arts & Sciences Day “on Thursday March 8th showcasing phenomenal photograph from both polar regions, a special keynote talk on Friday followed by “An Evening with Michael Brown,” an award-winning Boulder filmmaker, “Family Day” on Saturday the 10th, which will be packed with talks and presentations for the general audience by some of the world-class polar researchers in the area, and finally “Make a Difference Day” on Sunday the 11th, which will focus on climate related topics and discussions of what we can do as individuals and in our communities to use less and share more.  Each night of the festival there will be polar-related films as part of the International Film Series

So far we have had plenty of ice and snow in the area, and since March is traditionally the snowiest month in these parts, we’ll likely have plenty of ice for the Ice Fest.  As organizer of the Ice Fest, I’ve been concerned that we might not have ice or snow around at that time — we’ve have some droughts in recent years where in early March it might be dry as a bone with no snow except in the high mountains.  But the current trend is looking good for having a icy Ice Fest: we’ve had five consecutive weeks with snowfall for a total of over 93 inches (2.36 meters); the record for an entire winte is 142 inches (3.61 meters) in 1908-09, and it is possible we’ll break that record.  (Even with all the snow, the total precipitation is on average a mere 19.14 inches, or 48.61 cm.)

How can this region be getting more than usual snow if there’s global warming and climate change? Well, the climate system is complex (some of our recent snow has been from moisture drawn up from the Gulf of Mexico and may relate to ENSO conditions) and as oceans and atmosphere warm, more evaporation and precipitation occur, normal patterns change, and some places with a relatively high altitude get more snow.  For instance, the top of the Greenland icecap is getting more snow in winter than “usual” (which itself is a relative term) but the additional snow doesn’t nearly make up for the much higher rates of melting during the summer.

But all these complex topics relating to polar science, global impacts and the research of the International Polar Year will be explored at Ice Fest, and we’ll be blogging about it as we finalize our plans and then hold the event.  Stay tuned for some special surprises.

By odd coincidence (and bad/good planning depending on your point of view), Ice Fest is going to be at the same time as the Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland, a mountain town half an hour to the West, which attracts up to 10,000 people on March 10th. 

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