The WrightED Lecture Series - Climate & Weather

Presenters: Larry Meckel  //  Steve Cumella  //  Lynn Peyton  //  Tip Meckel  //  Karen Risch

Jan 11 - Feb 22

Winter 2022 program - Tuesdays

wrighted lecture series winter 2022 climate and weather

The WrightED Winter Program focuses on an important and current topic of interest to all of us: “Climate and Weather”. We will address this from a number of perspectives, considering those many climate extremes (greenhouse and icehouse periods) in the Earth’s long history, the interplay of worldwide ocean and atmospheric currents on our weather patterns, plus our current concern with atmospheric carbon dioxide and what we are doing about it. We will conclude this semester with our interesting weather patterns right here in Ouray. 

Jan 11
Climate Extremes in Earth’s History: Icehouse Periods in Earth’s History - with Larry Meckel

Jan 18
Climate Extremes in Earth’s History: Greenhouse Periods in Earth’s History - with Steve Cumella

The Earth has had numerous climate extremes during its 4.5-billion-year history. We will examine those various icehouse and greenhouse periods: when they occurred, the evidence, why they occurred, and what happened to life during those difficult times. Interestingly, there is evidence that both icehouse and greenhouse periods resulted in mass extinctions. This will provide good background information as we reflect on the current hot topic of present-day climate change.

Jan 25 & Feb 1
Currents, Coriolis, and Our Weather Patterns - with Lynn Peyton

Have you ever wondered why it’s dry in Tucson but wet in Seattle? In these two lectures we will look at the processes controlling atmospheric circulation, and the relationship between atmospheric currents (winds), ocean currents and general weather patterns. We will discuss the jet stream, hurricanes and monsoons, as well as El Niño, La Niña and the Pacific Garbage Patch. You will come away with a broad understanding of how the interplay between the atmosphere and the oceans results in (somewhat) predictable weather patterns around the globe.

Lecture 1: Atmospheric circulation and the Coriolis effect, Jet streams, High and low pressure systems and hurricanes, Monsoons

Lecture 2: Ocean currents Upwelling, El Niño, La Niña, and ENSO, Putting it all together.

Feb 8 & 15
The Global Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric CO2: Past, Present, and Future - with Tip Meckel

These presentations will provide an overview of the global carbon cycle and explore the interconnections among the subsurface, surface, marine, and atmospheric processes. It will reach back in geologic time through the Quaternary (about 2.5 million years ago), using various scientific records to understand the context for current and future trends. The second presentation will conclude with a focus on strategies for limiting and abating industrial atmospheric emissions consistent with global political ambitions set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Feb 22
Ouray’s Complex Weather and Climate Patterns - with Karen Risch

Ouray’s climate is indeed complex and also fascinating.

  • Year-round temperatures are quite moderate for its elevation, 7,792 feet.
  • Colorado’s average annual precipitation is 17 inches; Ouray historically averages 23.05 inches. Over the last 15 years, Ouray’s average annual precipitation has risen to 24.07 inches, with approximately 31 percent of the total dependent on the Southwest Monsoon season (July -September).
  • Its USDA climate zone designation is now a remarkable 6A (defined as having a minimum average temperature of -10° to -5° F). Its four-month growing season is also relatively long for a high mountain valley.
$15 per lecture OR $85 for the fall semester

FREE to our local high school students who register.

Lectures will be held via Zoom. And for those who work...not to worry...enroll and view at your later convenience!

If you have questions, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Larry Meckel, the Program Coordinator (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Previous Courses

Geology of the Ouray Area as Viewed by Drone

Instructors: Mike Boruta and Steve Cumella
geology of the Ouray Area as Viewed by Drone
This two-part lecture series by Mike Boruta and Steve Cumella will explore the amazing geology of Ouray. Mike’s drone photography and videos will be used to look at features that make Ouray’s landscape so distinctive. Drones allow views and perspectives not possible by other means. We will take a drone’s eye view of some interesting geologic features in the Ouray area including dinosaur tracks, rock glaciers, volcanic deposits from the world’s largest volcanic eruptions, and faults that record the history of past mountain building episodes. Ouray’s spectacular scenery is the result of distinctive rock formations, mountain building episodes, and erosion by streams and glaciers.  Mike’s images help us see and understand geology’s important role in creating this beautiful landscape.

Narrow Gauge Railroading in the San Juan Triangle

Instructor: Don Paulson
Narrow Gauge Railroading
The four sessions will look in depth at five railroads that operated in Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel Counties: the Ouray Branch of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad which ran from Montrose down to Ouray, the Rio Grande Southern Railroad which ran from Ridgway to Durango, the Silverton Railroad which ran from Silverton north over Red Mountain pass down into the Ironton Valley, the Silverton Gladstone and Northerly that ran from Silverton north to Gladstone, and the Silverton Northern Railroad that ran east from Silverton to Animas Forks. The class will also look at the history of the Ridgway Railroad Museum and its half-mile loop railroad.

Understanding Eastern Religions with Western Minds

Instructor: Kelvin Kent

Understanding Eastern Religions with Western Minds

Three separate presentations, between 60 and 90 minutes each, depending on length of Q & A time.

Hinduism is widely regarded as the oldest, practiced religion in the world with over 1.2 billion adherents. This session will cover how Hinduism evolved, the origin of the caste system, the great Epics, deciphering the hierarchy of Gods, rituals, festivals and practices, plus their concepts of time and how the mind works, and how this religion impacts nearly every aspect of their daily lives. 

Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? Was Buddha a God or an ordinary mortal human being? We will examine what Buddha taught and what he sought to change in northwest India 2500 years ago. We will also look at how Buddhism split into its main sects and what the beliefs and teachings consist of, plus how and when Buddhism spread to many parts of the world and why it is so popular today, especially in Western countries. 

It is calculated that Islam will overtake Christianity in sheer numbers within approximately 50 years. How did Islam come about? Exactly who was Mohammed? Why was Islam able to move so rapidly across the Middle East and Asia? What was and still is, the impact of Islam on our world today - especially in the fields of science, astronomy, medicine and mathematics? Who are the Sunnis and Shias and how do their sects differ? Who are the bad guys? We will delve into all of these and much more, in an effort to understand the history, development and relevance of Islam today.

Maps That Changed the World

Instructor: Larry Meckel

Maps that changed the world

This online lecture course is designed to chronicle the most important milestones in the history of cartography. It will take us from prehistoric rock carvings to digital maps of outer space, a time span that will cover over 8000 years of human history.

Evolution of Life on Earth

Instructor: Larry Meckel

Evolution of Life on Earth

This continuing education course will look at the evolution of life on Earth over a 3 billion year period. Specifically, it will chronicle 28 major and exciting milestones in the development of life from those very first, one-celled bacteria to the emergence of man, a truly amazing journey. The concepts of origins, changes, and extinctions will be important and recurrent themes.

Some of the 28 interesting milestones we will consider are:

  • The change from single to complex cells
  • The start of vertebrates (the fish)
  • Emergence onto land (fins to feet)
  • Two huge breakthroughs: the seed (for plants) and the egg (for animals)
  • The origin of feathers and flight
  • Emergence of flowering plants
  • The first primates

The course ends by considering two intriguing aspects of life: (1) the “art of longevity”, namely a look at those species that survived through all the turmoil and continue to live today and (2) those organisms that live at the very extremes of temperature, pressure, and toxic conditions.

The Wright Opera House is a 501c3 nonprofit, operating a historic venue and premier performing arts organization located in the City of Ouray. It is supported by event fees and by generous donations. Click here to make a tax deductible donation to the Wright.

We're working hard to make the Wright Opera House an open and welcoming venue to organizations throughout Colorado. We're also trying to restore a facility that is over 126 years old. Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us! If you have some praise for what we've done already or some feedback on what we could do better, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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