UW News

February 27, 2020

Video: Warming Arctic means less ice, bigger waves

UW News

Throughout the month of November 2019, a team of University of Washington researchers chased storms in the Arctic Ocean. The project, Coastal Ocean Dynamics in the Arctic, or CODA, is looking at how water currents shift and waves hit the coast with more open water, to provide better forecasts and predictions for the region’s future.

The two-year project is funded by the National Science Foundation and is led by Jim Thomson, an oceanographer at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and a faculty member of civil and environmental engineering, and Nirnimesh Kumar, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

The team used the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ RV Sikuliaq icebreaker for three weeks to watch fall storms hit the shore at the time of year when coastal ice begins to form. The video above combines an interview with Thomson after the trip with video the team captured while at sea.

“We know from other projects and other work that the waves are definitely on the increase in the Arctic,” Thomson told the Associated Press during the expedition. He published research that first detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm in the central Arctic Ocean. Bigger storms could affect communities already vulnerable to coastal erosion and pose dangers for small boats.

To learn more about the effort, see the photos and videos from the expedition on the project’s outreach website, or read the post-trip recap from the UW Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.