UW News

Department of Earth and Space Sciences


September 10, 2018

UW polar scientists advised NASA on upcoming ICESat-2 satellite

instrument on dark sky above Earth

Two UW polar scientists were among a dozen experts who advised NASA on its upcoming ICESat-2 mission to monitor the 3D surface of the Earth. The mission is scheduled to launch Sept. 15 from California.


September 6, 2018

Volcano under ice sheet suggests thickening of West Antarctic ice is short-term

animation of straight blue line over bumpy base

Evidence left by a volcano under the ice sheet suggests that the observed bulging of ice in West Antarctica is a short-term feature that may not affect the glacier’s motion over the long term.


May 23, 2018

A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core

yellow tent on snow

The oldest ice core so far provides 800,000 years of our planet’s climate history. A UW field survey in Antarctica has pinpointed a location where an entire million years of undisturbed ice might be preserved intact.


May 8, 2018

UW researchers will survey Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier as part of major international effort

International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration logo

UW glaciologist Knut Christianson is part of a massive collaboration that will collect on-the-ground data about a key Antarctic glacier that shows signs it could be collapsing into the sea.


April 3, 2018

Four UW students honored by Goldwater Foundation

School shot

Three University of Washington undergraduates are among 211 students nationwide named as 2018 Goldwater Scholars. One UW student received honorable mention.


April 2, 2018

Earth’s stable temperature past suggests other planets could also sustain life

image of early Earth with thermometer and pH strip overlaid

Earth has had moderate temperatures throughout its early history, and neutral seawater acidity. This means other rocky planets could likely also maintain this equilibrium and allow life to evolve.


March 19, 2018

University of Washington graduate and professional disciplines rank highly in US News’ Best Graduate School lists

library at night

Nearly 50 different graduate and professional programs and specialties at the University of Washington are among the top 10 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Best Graduate School rankings released March 20.


March 6, 2018

Glaciers in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert actually shrank during the last ice age

researchers walking on ice

High in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, the climate is so dry and cold that glaciers shrank during the last ice age. Dating of rock deposits shows how glaciers in this less-studied region can behave very differently as the climate shifts.


February 7, 2018

Ice core shows North American ice sheet’s retreat affected Antarctic weather

iceberg from above

A study from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Washington finds that the retreat of the ice sheet covering North America made Antarctic weather more similar from one year to the next.


January 24, 2018

A new ‘atmospheric disequilibrium’ could help detect life on other planets

illustration of telescope and planets

A University of Washington study has found a simple approach to look for life that might be more promising than just looking for oxygen.


December 18, 2017

Partnership will use robotic network to explore Antarctic ice shelves

yellow instrument in dark water

A new partnership between the UW and Paul G. Allen Philanthropies will use a network of robots to observe conditions beneath a floating Antarctic ice shelf.


December 1, 2017

UW astrobiologists to discuss work, introduce IMAX film ‘The Search for Life in Space’ Dec. 6 at Pacific Science Center

"The Search for Life in Space" is now playing at the IMAX theater at the Pacific Science Center.

Three University of Washington astrobiologists will discuss their research and introduce the new 3-D IMAX movie “The Search for Life in Space” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, in the PACCAR Theater of the Pacific Science Center.


November 27, 2017

Less life: Limited phosphorus recycling suppressed early Earth’s biosphere

As Earth's oxygen levels rose to near-modern levels over the last 800 million years, phosphorus levels increased, as well, according to modeling led by the UW's Michael Kipp and others. Accordingly, Kipp says, large phosphate deposits show up in abundance in the rock record at about this time. This is a Wyoming portion of The Phosphoria Formation, a deposit that stretches across several states in the western United States and is the largest source of phosphorus fertilizer in the country. The photo shows layers of phosphorus that are 10s of meters thick, shales the contain high concentrations of organic carbon and phosphorus. Kipp said many such deposits are documented over time but are rare in the Precambrian era. "Thus, they might represent a conspicuous temporal record of limited phosphorus recycling."

The amount of biomass – life – in Earth’s ancient oceans may have been limited due to low recycling of the key nutrient phosphorus, according to new research by the University of Washington and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.


November 15, 2017

Salt pond in Antarctica, among the saltiest waters on Earth, is fed from beneath

pond in bare valley with blue sky

One of the saltiest bodies on Earth, an analog to how water might exist on Mars, shows signs of being one piece of a larger aquifer.


October 23, 2017

50 simulations of the ‘Really Big One’ show how a 9.0 Cascadia earthquake could play out

colored map of subduction zone

The largest number yet of detailed simulations for how a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake might play out provides a clearer picture of what the region can expect when the fault unleashes a 9.0 earthquake.


October 20, 2017

Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West

aerial view of Mount Rainier with red zones

A satellite technique provides a new way to monitor the status of more than 1,200 mountain glaciers in the lower 48 states.


October 9, 2017

Paul Bodin named interim director of Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

photo of Paul Bodin

Paul Bodin, a UW seismologist and manager of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, has been named interim director of the network that monitors earthquakes and volcanoes in Washington and Oregon.


August 21, 2017

Native American youth launch high-altitude balloons for unique perspective on solar eclipse

balloon launch

While many people across the country donned viewing glasses and prepared to watch Monday’s solar eclipse, a group of 100 teenagers from tribes across the Pacific Northwest launched balloons thousands of feet into the air, gaining a novel perspective of the eclipse — and the chance to send meaningful artifacts to the edge of space during a memorable moment in history.


May 22, 2017

Weathering of rocks a poor regulator of global temperatures

river flowing through mountain valley

Evidence from the age of the dinosaurs to today shows that chemical weathering of rocks is less sensitive to global temperature, and may depend on the steepness of the surface. The results call into question the role of rocks in setting our planet’s temperature over millions of years.


May 4, 2017

UW seismologist John Vidale elected to National Academy of Sciences

mug shot of John Vidale

John E. Vidale, a UW professor of seismology and director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.


May 2, 2017

New book by UW’s David R. Montgomery addresses how to rebuild Earth’s soils

cover showing wheat field

“Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” is a good-news environment story about how shifts in farming practices can restore health and fertility to soils.


April 10, 2017

USGS, partners launch a unified, West Coast-wide earthquake early warning system

screenshot

Events Monday celebrated the launch of a West Coast-wide earthquake early warning prototype system, and initial test users in Washington and Oregon.


March 28, 2017

Using a method from Wall Street to track slow slipping of Earth’s crust

instrument on mountain

An algorithm for stock prices can be used with GPS data to automatically detect slow-slip earthquakes at a single station, offering a new way to monitor seismic activity.


February 8, 2017

Hidden lakes drain below West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier

topography of lakes

Drainage of four interconnected lakes below Thwaites Glacier in late 2013 caused only a 10 percent increase in the glacier’s speed. The glacier’s recent speedup is therefore not due to changes in meltwater flow along its underside.


January 17, 2017

Conditions right for complex life may have come and gone in Earth’s distant past

A 1.9-billion-year-old stromatolite — or mound made by microbes that lived shallow water — called the Gunflint Formation in northern Minnesota. The environment of the oxygen "overshoot" described in research by Michael Kipp, Eva Stüeken and Roger Buick may have included this sort of oxygen-rich setting that is suitable for complex life.

Conditions suitable to support complex life may have developed in Earth’s oceans — and then faded — more than a billion years before life truly took hold, a new University of Washington-led study has found.


January 10, 2017

Rapid Arctic warming has in the past shifted Southern Ocean winds

closeup of ice core in drill

Ice core records from the two poles show that during the last ice age, sharp spikes in Arctic temperatures triggered shifts in the winds around Antarctica.


December 12, 2016

Mountain glaciers are showing some of the strongest responses to climate change

mountain range with glaciers

A University of Washington study addresses controversies over the cause of mountain glacier retreat, and finds that for most glaciers the observed retreat is more than 99 percent likely due to climate change.


November 2, 2016

New study co-authored by UW geologists looks at what lies below Mount St. Helens

snow-capped mountain in fall

Research that peers below Mount St. Helens finds that the material below the western and eastern half of the mountain is different material and temperatures, and suggests that the source of explosive magma is coming from the east.


September 13, 2016

Westerly winds have blown across central Asia for at least 42 million years

Buddhist flags blowing in wind

The winds that gust across the Tibetan Plateau have done so for far longer than previously believed, showing they are resilient to the formation of mountains and changes in carbon dioxide and temperature.


August 15, 2016

UW research backs up ongoing efforts to protect the enigmatic Nautilus

Nautilus

University of Washington biologist Peter Ward’s body of research has helped policymakers recognize the impact nautiluses have on ocean ecosystems, as well as how they can — and cannot — replenish their numbers in the face of unrestricted, unregulated fishing. At a CITES meeting in September, Ward and his team hope nautiluses will get much-needed protections from trade and harvesting.


August 9, 2016

Three UW Earth scientists elected as AGU fellows

AGUFellows2016

Charles Eriksen, Deborah Kelley and Stephen Warren are among 60 newly elected fellows from U.S. and international institutions.


August 4, 2016

UW geologist: Ancient Chinese flood is latest to match oral, geologic histories

Photo of Insights art

A Science commentary written by UW professor of Earth and space sciences David Montgomery discusses how recent geological findings support the historical basis for traditional tales about China’s Great Flood.


July 15, 2016

Joseph Wartman, David Montgomery honored for Oso landslide report

headshots of two researchers

The Geological Society of America has honored two UW professors and other authors of a 186-page report on the causes and consequences of the deadly March 2014 landslide in Oso, Washington.


June 28, 2016

UW geologist wins early career award from American Geophysical Union

headshot

Alison Duvall, a UW assistant professor of Earth and space sciences, was selected for the Luna B. Leopold Award for early-career scientists.


June 13, 2016

Arc volcano releases mix of material from Earth’s mantle and crust

black rock and green rock

Rock from a common type of volcano shows surprising evidence of the descending tectonic plate. Analyses show that magnesium atoms are somehow drawn out of the crust, deep below the surface.


May 19, 2016

Will more snow over Antarctica offset rising seas? Don’t count on it

person in red coat pointing at ice

Heavier snowfall over Antarctica was supposed to be one of the few brakes on sea-level rise in a warming world. But that prediction is not reliable, says a new study of Antarctic snowfall over the past 31,000 years.


May 9, 2016

Early Earth’s air weighed less than half of today’s atmosphere

swirly rocks

The idea that the young Earth had a thicker atmosphere turns out to be wrong. New research from the University of Washington uses bubbles trapped in 2.7 billion-year-old rocks to show that air at that time exerted at most half the pressure of today’s atmosphere. The results, published online May 9 in Nature Geoscience, reverse…


March 25, 2016

Geology and art connect at UW light rail station

station interior with blue walls

Alison Duvall talks about the geology of the UW light rail station in a narration to accompany the station’s art installation, which was created by UW alumnus Leo Saul Berk.


February 19, 2016

UW part of team that drilled first deep ice core at the South Pole

red tents on snow

UW glaciologists helped drill the first deep ice core at the South Pole, which will provide new clues to Antarctica’s climate history.


February 17, 2016

NASA-funded consortium to support science education in Washington, Oregon and Montana

child and adult with bottle rocket

A new program based at the University of Washington will bring together educational institutions, K-12 teachers and informal education organizations to inspire, teach and recruit the next generation of students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The new Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline, or NESSP, has begun a $10 million, five-year cooperative agreement with NASA…



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