UW News


May 14, 2024

UW-led project to study ozone, atmospheric layers a finalist for next-generation NASA satellite

horizon with horizontal layers of black, red, black and blue

A project led by the University of Washington to better understand our atmosphere’s complexity is a finalist for NASA’s next generation of Earth-observing satellites. STRIVE will receive $5 million to conduct a one-year concept study, and then will hear whether it is selected for launch.


April 17, 2024

Ice age climate analysis reduces worst-case warming expected from rising CO2

four woolly mammoths on frozen ground

A detailed reconstruction of climate during the most recent ice age, when a large swath of North America was covered in ice, provides information on the relationship between CO2 and global temperature. Results show that while most future warming estimates remain unchanged, the absolute worst-case scenario is unlikely.


March 22, 2024

Signs of life detectable in single ice grain emitted from extraterrestrial moons

illustration of gray planet spewing white mist on black background

Could life be found in frozen sea spray emitted from moons orbiting Saturn or Jupiter? New research finds that life can be detected in a single ice grain containing one bacterial cell or portions of a cell. The results suggest that if life similar to that on Earth exists on these planetary bodies, this life should be detectable by instruments launching in the fall.


March 12, 2024

AI analysis of historical satellite images show USSR collapse in 1990s increased methane emissions, despite lower oil and gas production

buildings with mountains in background

An AI-powered analysis of 25 years of satellite images yields the surprising finding that methane emissions in Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic and major oil-producing region, actually increased in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


February 28, 2024

80 mph speed record for glacier fracture helps reveal the physics of ice sheet collapse

drawing of glacier partly above and partly below water

New research documents the fastest-known large-scale breakage along an Antarctic ice shelf. In 2012, a 6.5-mile crack formed in about 5 and a half minutes, showing that ice shelves can effectively shatter, though the speed of breakage is reduced by seawater rushing in. These results can help improve ice-sheet models and projections for future sea level rise.


January 22, 2024

Shallow soda lakes show promise as cradles of life on Earth

people walking across large white surface

Field observations from an unusual lake show that in environments known as “soda lakes” phosphate can concentrate at the very high levels needed for the basic molecules of life to emerge. A shallow, salty lake in western Canada gives new support to Charles Darwin’s idea that life could have emerged in a “warm little pond.”


November 13, 2023

North Atlantic’s marine productivity may not be declining, according to new study of older ice cores

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of declining phytoplankton in the North Atlantic may have been greatly exaggerated. Analysis of a Greenland ice core going back 800 years shows that atmospheric chemistry, not dwindling phytoplankton populations, explains the recent ice core trends.


October 18, 2023

DNA shows where Washington culvert replacements helped spawning salmon

Two researchers by a stream seen from inside a culvert

A project led by the UW used genetic sleuthing to study how salmon were affected by two major culvert replacements near the city of Bellingham. One project, a major upgrade under Interstate-5, had a big impact, while the other old culvert may have been less of a barrier to fish. Authors from the UW and NOAA are studying the use of eDNA in future environmental impact reporting.


September 15, 2023

Polar experiments reveal seasonal cycle in Antarctic sea ice algae

sea ice with greenish underside

The frigid ocean surrounding Antarctica is home to much of the region’s photosynthetic life. A new University of Washington study provides the first measurements of how sea-ice algae and other single-celled life handle dramatic seasonal swings, offering clues to how this ecosystem might adapt to climate change.


August 31, 2023

Study connects greenhouse gas emissions to polar bear population declines, enabling greater protections under Endangered Species Act

polar bear torso looking at camera

A new paper from the UW and Polar Bears International quantifies the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and the survival of polar bear populations. The paper combines past research and new analysis to provide a quantitative link between greenhouse gas emissions and polar bear survival rates.


August 9, 2023

In the Field: UW team to spend six weeks visiting deep-ocean observatory

ship by dock in morning sun

Twenty-five undergraduates are among the participants on a 41-day cruise off the Oregon coast aboard the UW’s large research vessel, the R/V Thomas G. Thompson. Principal investigator Deborah Kelley, professor of oceanography, answers questions about the expedition to visit and maintain the cabled ocean observatory.


July 6, 2023

Marine heat waves caused mass seabird die-offs, beach surveys show

dead seabirds lined up on a beach for measurements

New research led by the University of Washington uses data collected by coastal residents along beaches from central California to Alaska to understand how seabirds have fared in recent decades. The paper, published July 6 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, shows that persistent marine heat waves lead to massive seabird die-offs months later.


June 26, 2023

New report, tool suggest how Washington can better protect against extreme heat

report cover with silhouettes on skyline

Two years after the Pacific Northwest heat dome — the deadliest weather-related disaster in state history — a collaborative effort has drawn up recommendations for how people and groups across the state could prevent future heat-related illness and save lives. The effort involves a report led by the UW Climate Impacts Group and an interactive risk-mapping tool led by the UW Center for Health and the Global Environment,


May 23, 2023

Q&A: UW polar bear expert appears in BBC-produced film about the Arctic

two polar bears

Polar scientist Eric Regehr studies polar bears on Wrangel Island, an island off Russia that is home to the highest concentration of polar bears in the world. Regehr and UW glaciologist Ian Joughin will field audience questions after screenings of “Arctic: Our Frozen Planet,” which focuses on the changing Arctic environment.


April 19, 2023

Q&A: Two ways UW researchers are studying marine microplastics

microplastics seen in a water tank

Two University of Washington researchers are using very different methods to investigate the issue of marine microplastics. For Earth Day, UW News asked them to discuss their research.


April 18, 2023

Q&A: County-scale climate mapping tool helps Washington agencies prepare for the future

map of Washington colored red on right portion and around Puget Sound

The UW Climate Impacts Group created an interactive tool that lets state agencies and local governments see what climate scientists project for their county and what they might want to consider when developing their districts’ comprehensive plans through 2100.


April 10, 2023

Warm liquid spewing from Oregon seafloor comes from Cascadia fault, could offer clues to earthquake hazards

green seafloor with five bubble columns

UW oceanographers discovered warm, chemically distinct liquid shooting up from the seafloor about 50 miles off Newport. They named the unique underwater spring “Pythia’s Oasis.” Observations suggest the spring is sourced from water 2.5 miles beneath the seafloor at the plate boundary, regulating stress on the offshore subduction zone fault.


February 21, 2023

Newly discovered form of salty ice could exist on surface of extraterrestrial moons

white sphere with dark red streaks

Scientists suspect that the red streaks crossing the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa is a frozen mixture of water and salts, but its chemical signature matches no known substance on Earth. Now researchers have discovered a new type of solid crystal that forms when water and table salt combine in cold, pressurized conditions. Researchers believe the new substance created in a lab on Earth could form at the surface and bottom of these worlds’ deep oceans.


February 3, 2023

Ice cores show even dormant volcanoes leak abundant sulfur into the atmosphere

barren landscape with patches of snow and white smoky plumes

Non-erupting volcanoes leak a surprisingly high amount of sulfur-containing gases. A Greenland ice core shows that volcanoes quietly release at least three times as much sulfur into the Arctic atmosphere than estimated by current climate models. Aerosols are the most uncertain aspect of current climate models, so better estimates could improve the accuracy of long-term projections.


January 10, 2023

Plastic pollution in the oceans is an equity issue, says UW-led report

illustration of water with plastic bits

A recent report and upcoming virtual event looks at the unequal effect of marine plastics on different communities. The international report led by UW’s Yoshitaka Ota covers topics ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on plastic pollution to a critique of Coca-Cola’s waste initiative.


January 9, 2023

Warming oceans have decimated marine parasites — but that’s not a good thing

jar with fish inside

Save the … parasites? Analyzing 140 years of parasite abundance in fish shows dramatic declines, especially in parasites that rely on three or more host species. The decline is linked to warming ocean temperatures. Parasitic species might be in real danger, researchers warn — and that means not just fewer worms, but losses for the entire ecosystem.


December 12, 2022

Signals from the ionosphere could improve tsunami forecasts

black and white GIF of exploding cloud

An underwater volcanic eruption in January 2022 created ripple effects throughout the world’s atmosphere and oceans. University of Washington scientists analyzed that event to show how GPS signals could help monitor future volcanoes and tsunamis.


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.



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