UW News


December 8, 2022

UW brings field geology to students with ‘Virtual Field Geology’

cartoon island, trees, and geology field tools

UW’s Virtual Field Geology project has many goals: to make geology field experiences accessible to more people; to document geological field sites that may be at risk from erosion or development, to offer virtual “dry run” experiences and to allow scientific collaborators to do virtual visits to a field site together. While the pandemic brought new urgency to the project, its developers believe it’s part of a “new normal” for geology research and education.


November 29, 2022

Strongest Arctic cyclone on record led to surprising loss of sea ice

ship pointing into icy water

The strongest Arctic cyclone ever observed struck in January 2022. A new analysis led by the University of Washington shows that while forecasts accurately predicted the massive storm, models seriously underestimated its impact on sea ice. Results suggest how forecast models for a changing Arctic Ocean could improve.


October 3, 2022

Study suggests La Niña winters could keep on coming

snowy scene with bare trees

Forecasters are predicting a “three-peat La Niña” this year. This will be the third winter in a row that the Pacific Ocean has been in a La Niña cycle, something that’s happened only twice before in records going back to 1950. A new study of temperature patterns in the tropical Pacific Ocean suggests that climate change is, in the short term, favoring La Niñas.


September 28, 2022

UW expert on tropical storms discusses Hurricane Ian

portrait with green scarf

Shuyi Chen, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences, was traveling to a conference in Boston as Hurricane Ian approached the Gulf of Mexico. During breaks at the conference, she provided her thoughts on the closely watched catastrophic storm system that made landfall in Florida on Sept. 28. Q: What are your thoughts on Hurricane Ian?…


September 26, 2022

Heat-related mortality risk is widespread across Washington state, study shows

W in sunshine

Heat-related deaths occur across Washington state, even in regions with typically milder climates. This is the most extensive study yet of heat-related mortality in Washington state, and the first to look beyond the major population to and include rural areas. Researchers used statistical methods to uncover “hidden” deaths that may have listed something else, like illness or a chronic disease, as the primary cause.


August 25, 2022

‘Dangerous’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ heat stress to become more common by 2100

maps of globe colored orange and red

A new study projects the number of days with “dangerous” and “extremely dangerous” mixtures of heat and humidity by the end of this century. Even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, results show that deadly heat waves will become much more common in the mid-latitudes, and many tropical regions will experience “dangerous” heat for about half the year.


August 23, 2022

Beach trash accumulates in predictable patterns on Washington and Oregon shores

yellow twine displayed on sand

Volunteers spent thousands of hours recording trash on beaches in Washington and Oregon to show that certain beaches, and certain areas of a single beach, are “sticky zones” that accumulate litter. Finding patterns for where litter lands could help to better prevent and remove trash in the marine environment.


August 17, 2022

New UW Photonic Sensing Facility will use fiber-optic cables for seismic sensing, glaciology and more

jumble of yellow cables

A University of Washington pilot project is exploring the use of fiber-optic sensing for seismology, glaciology, and even urban monitoring. Funded in part with a $473,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a nonprofit based in Vancouver, Washington, the new UW Photonic Sensing Facility will use photons traveling through a fiber-optic cable to detect ground motions as small as 1 nanometer.


August 5, 2022

New study calculates retreat of glacier edges in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park

As glaciers worldwide retreat due to climate change, managers of national parks need to know what’s on the horizon to prepare for the future. A new study from the University of Washington and the National Park Service measures 38 years of change for glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park south of Anchorage. The study, published Aug. 5 in The Journal of Glaciology, finds that 13 of the 19 glaciers show substantial retreat, four are relatively stable, and two have advanced. It also finds trends in which glacier types are disappearing fastest.


June 16, 2022

Newly documented population of polar bears in Southeast Greenland sheds light on the species’ future in a warming Arctic

single polar bear on ice floe

A new population of polar bears documented on the southeast coast of Greenland use glacier ice to survive despite limited access to sea ice. This small, genetically distinct group of polar bears could be important to the future of the species in a warming world.


June 14, 2022

UW, Seattle Public Library, Seattle Public Utilities collaboration uses VR goggles to visualize sea level rise in Seattle

laser tool by riverside and aerial view of city

The Our Future Duwamish project, available to community groups through The Seattle Public Library, uses an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset to help viewers imagine rising seas from a vantage point along the South Seattle waterway.


June 10, 2022

Q&A: Amy Snover, outgoing director of the UW Climate Impacts Group

Amy Snover

Amy Snover, the retiring director of the UW Climate Impacts Group, reflects on her past decade of leadership and on how the groundbreaking climate preparedness group has evolved over more than a quarter century of existence.


June 6, 2022

Including all types of emissions shortens timeline to reach Paris Agreement temperature targets

Smokestacks and cooling towers for power plants

Looking beyond CO2 to include other human-generated pollutants increases the amount of warming that humans have already committed to by past emissions. Earth will continue to warm even if all emissions cease, and the planet is committed to reaching peak temperatures about five to 10 years before experiencing them.


May 3, 2022

Experiments measure freezing point of extraterrestrial oceans to aid search for life

Europa Image

A planetary scientist worked with engineers to measure the physical limits of a liquid for salty water under high pressure. Results suggest where robotic missions should look for extraterrestrial life on the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan.


April 13, 2022

Ice shards in Antarctic clouds let more solar energy reach Earth’s surface

clouds

Including the splintering of ice inside clouds around Antarctica improves high-resolution global models’ ability to simulate clouds over the Southern Ocean – and thus the models’ ability to simulate Earth’s climate.


March 28, 2022

Solar energy explains fast yearly retreat of Antarctica’s sea ice

Sea ice around Antarctica retreats more quickly than it advances, an asymmetry that has been a puzzle. New analysis shows that the Southern Hemisphere is following simple rules of physics, as peak midsummer sun causes rapid changes. In this respect, it seems, it’s Arctic sea ice that is more mysterious.


March 3, 2022

Moon jellies appear to be gobbling up zooplankton in Puget Sound

pinkish-white jelly on green background

University of Washington-led research suggests moon jellies are feasting on zooplankton, the various tiny animals that drift with the currents, in the bays they inhabit. This could affect other hungry marine life, like juvenile salmon or herring — especially if predictions are correct and climate change will favor fast-growing jellyfish.


February 24, 2022

Farms following soil-friendly practices grow healthier food, study suggests

An experiment conducted on 10 farms across the U.S. suggests that crops from farms following soil-friendly practices for at least five years have a healthier nutritional profile than the same crops grown on neighboring, conventional farms. Researchers believe soil microbes and fungi boost certain beneficial minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals in the crops.


February 4, 2022

Planting trees in pastureland provides significant cooling in the tropics

Farmer with bananas

Farmers struggling to adapt to rising temperatures in tropical regions can unleash the benefits of natural cooling, alongside a host of other wins, simply by dotting more trees across their pasturelands. For the first time, a study led by the University of Washington puts tangible numbers to the cooling effects of this practice.


January 19, 2022

Bubbles of methane rising from seafloor in Puget Sound

map of bubble locations

The release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for almost a quarter of global warming, is being studied around the world, from Arctic wetlands to livestock feedlots. A University of Washington team has discovered a source much closer to home: 349 plumes of methane gas bubbling up from the seafloor in Puget Sound, which holds more water than any other U.S. estuary.


December 13, 2021

Artificial intelligence can create better lightning forecasts

Flash of lightning on black background

New research shows that machine learning — computer algorithms that improve themselves without direct programming by humans — can be used to improve forecasts for lightning, one of the most destructive forces of nature.


December 8, 2021

Simulations show how earthquake early warning might be improved for magnitude-9 earthquakes

map of Pacific Northwest with colored hexagons

Seismologists used 30 detailed simulations of magnitude-9 slips on the Cascadia Subduction Zone to evaluate how the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system would perform in these events. Results show the alerts generally work well, but suggest that lower alert thresholds provide more timely warnings over the full area that will feel the shaking.


October 28, 2021

Video: Great ShakeOut drill tests new earthquake early warning system

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1GkB93CQjuK0_0-GRxhAGmwV0SSLt31_V?usp=sharing

At 10:21 a.m. on Oct. 21, teacher Wade Johnson’s science class at Port Susan Middle School scrambled under their desks as part of the annual Great American ShakeOut. It was Stanwood Camano School District’s first live test of its earthquake early warning system with all 13 of its schools participating in a “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” drill.


How Dungeness crabs’ complex lifecycle will be affected by climate change

Dungeness crab

Results show that by the end of this century, lower-oxygen water on the Pacific Northwest coast will pose the biggest threat to Dungeness crabs. And while these crabs start as tiny, free-floating larvae, it’s the sharp-clawed adults that will be most vulnerable.


October 6, 2021

How ‘ice needles’ weave patterns of stones in frozen landscapes

rings of rocks with mountains in background

A University of Washington researcher is part of an international team that has used modern tools to explain repeating patterns of stones that form in frost-prone landscapes.


September 7, 2021

Research, education hub on ‘coastal resiliency’ will focus on earthquakes, coastal erosion and climate change

tsunami warning sign on the beach

The new Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub, led by Oregon State University and the University of Washington, will study coastal hazards and community resilience. The National Science Foundation awarded $18.9 million for the hub over five years.


August 25, 2021

Volcanic eruptions may have spurred first ‘whiffs’ of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere

person crouching in distance on layered rock

A new analysis of 2.5-billion-year-old rocks from Australia finds that volcanic eruptions may have stimulated population surges of marine microorganisms, creating the first puffs of oxygen into the atmosphere. This would change existing stories of Earth’s early atmosphere, which assumed that most changes in the early atmosphere were controlled by geologic or chemical processes.


August 5, 2021

Drier, warmer night air is making some Western wildfires more active at night

firefighter silhouetted against flames at night

Firefighters have reported that Western wildfires are starting earlier in the morning and dying down later at night, hampering their ability to recover and regroup before the next day’s flareup. A study by University of Washington and U.S. Forest Service scientists shows why: The drying power of nighttime air over much of the Western U.S. has increased dramatically in the past 40 years.


July 27, 2021

Possible future for Western wildfires: Decade-long burst, followed by gradual decline

cubes of forest landscape up in flames

A model of the eastern California forests of the Sierra Nevada looks at the longer-term future of wildfires under future climate change scenarios. Results show an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity, followed by recurring fires of decreasing area — a pattern that could apply to other hot, dry forests in the West.


July 1, 2021

Last ice-covered parts of summertime Arctic Ocean vulnerable to climate change

bow of ship with patches of ice and open water

The region north of Greenland and the Canadian Arctic has been termed the Last Ice Area, where sea ice will remain the longest in summertime, providing a refuge for ice-dependent Arctic species. But conditions last summer show that parts of this region are already experiencing less summer ice due to climate change.


June 11, 2021

Edge of Pine Island Glacier’s ice shelf is ripping apart, causing key Antarctic glacier to gain speed

ridged ice and airplane wing

Satellite images show that from 2017 to 2020, Pine Island Glacier’s ice shelf lost about one-fifth of its area, mostly in three dramatic breaks. This caused the glacier to speed up by 12%, hastening its downward motion and boosting its contribution to rising seas.


June 9, 2021

Endangered blue whales recorded off southwest coast of India

diver in water

Endangered blue whales are present and singing off the southwest coast of India. The results provide insight into a poorly studied population and suggest conservation measures should include this region.


June 3, 2021

South Pole and East Antarctica warmer than previously thought during last ice age, two studies show

closeup of ice in metal barrel

University of Washington glaciologists are co-authors on two papers that analyzed Antarctic ice cores to understand the continent’s air temperatures during the most recent glacial period. The results help understand how the region behaves during a major climate transition.


May 3, 2021

Earthquake early warnings launch in Washington, completing West Coast-wide ShakeAlert system

hand holding phone with alert

The U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington-based Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, and state emergency managers on Tuesday, May 4, will activate the system that sends earthquake early warnings throughout Washington state. This completes the rollout of ShakeAlert, an automated system that gives people living in Washington, Oregon and California advance warning of incoming earthquakes.


March 31, 2021

Thicker-leaved tropical plants may flourish under climate change, which could be good news for climate

tropical forest

As carbon dioxide continues to rise, multiple changes in the leaves of tropical plants may help these ecosystems perform better under climate change than previous studies had suggested.


March 2, 2021

Rating tornado warnings charts a path to improve forecasts

funnel cloud on dark background

A new method to rate tornado warnings shows that nighttime tornadoes in the U.S. have a lower probability of detection and a higher false-alarm rate than other events. Summertime tornadoes, occurring in June, July or August, also are more likely to evade warning.


February 24, 2021

Record-high Arctic freshwater will flow through Canadian waters, affecting marine environment and Atlantic ocean currents

Colored map of the North Atlantic and Arctic

The Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Sea has increased its freshwater content by 40% over the past two decades. When conditions change this freshwater will travel to the Labrador Sea off Canada, rather than through the wider marine passageways that connect to seas in Northern Europe. This has implications for local marine environments and global ocean circulation.


February 17, 2021

Q&A: ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system arriving in Pacific Northwest

scientists in orange suits with mountains in distance

After years in development, an earthquake early warning system known as ShakeAlert is on the cusp of being released in Oregon and Washington. Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, answers questions about the coming rollout.


February 10, 2021

Online tool displays Pacific Northwest mountain snow depth

colored lines sloping upward to Feb. 1

How’s the snow on Northwest mountains this year? Overall a little deeper than normal, but it depends where you look. A new collaboration between the University of Washington, the Northwest Avalanche Center lets you see how the current snow depth compares to past years for nine sites in Washington and two in Oregon.


February 9, 2021

Limiting warming to 2 C requires emissions reductions 80% above Paris Agreement targets

Even if all countries meet their Paris Agreement goals for reducing emissions, Earth has only a 5% chance of staying below 2 C warming this century, a previous study showed. But reductions about 80% more ambitious, or an average of 1.8% drop in emissions per year rather than 1% per year, would be enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal.



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