Students call attention to climate change | AspenTimes.com
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Students call attention to climate change

ASPEN A group of students will use Aspen Mountain and the Silver Queen Gondola plaza as a billboard Friday, as part of Aspen Middle School’s community service day.According to teacher Peter Hanson, students will erect an orange snow fence – courtesy of the Aspen Skiing Co. – about 800 feet above the level of the Gondola Plaza, as a way to illustrate the effects of global warming on the resort.Students also will be at the gondola plaza to solicit signatures on petitions bound for the White House, intended to urge President Bush to either sign the Kyoto Protocol – an international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale – or to pass it on to Congress for ratification.Hanson, whose Base Camp class of 13 students in grades 5 through 8 is undertaking the project, said the source of the students’ information is the city of Aspen’s Canary Initiative Report, which maintains that climate changes have already begun locally.”According to real data … collected over the past 50 years, winter in aspen now starts 18 days later and ends 10 days earlier,” said a prepared statement. “Average temperature has gone up by more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit; snow fall has decreased by over 16 percent.”Hanson said, “We are trying to show people that global warming is not some far off scientific fantasy which will not affect us here in Aspen. Global warming will come here, and it will affect our lifestyle. We are also hoping to get media attention and use the fame of Aspen to multiply the impact of our demonstration.”The students have calculated that, according to available data, by the year 2030, weather conditions that currently hold at the level of Gondola Plaza will move about 750 feet up the mountain, at the top of the Niagara run. By that time, according to the students’ calculations, conditions at Gondola Square will be similar to what they are today at Aspen Village, which is roughly 800 feet lower than the gondola plaza.The students’ calculations are based the “lapse rate” of temperature change, which holds that the mean temperature drops about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 in elevation gain. It is this effect, according to the students, that accounts for the fact that Aspen is about 10 degrees colder than Glenwood Springs on the average, because Aspen is about 3,000 feet higher.As a result of the changes outlined in the report, according to the students’ summary, “As Aspen’s climate warms, winter will retreat to higher altitude.””As Aspen warms, the snow conditions that exist in town and at the base of Gondola will deteriorate” the summary said. “Conditions [at Gondola Plaza] will become more like the snow conditions found in Aspen Village … or you could say the current conditions at the base of Aspen Mt. will move 700 to 800 feet UP the mountain. In other words, in 2030 to find temperatures like those at the base of Aspen Mt. today, you will have to go 700 to 800 ft further up the mountain.”Hanson said the project is meant for public consumption, and to stimulate debate.”We encourage people to come out and see our banner, ask questions and get involved in reducing global warming,” Hanson said.The students will be at the Gondola Plaza, and up on the mountain, from 10 a.m. until noon Friday.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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