UW News


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.


February 4, 2021

Global warming found to be culprit for flood risk in Peruvian Andes, other glacial lakes

rooftops in front of glacier

Human-caused warming is responsible for increasing the risk of a glacial outburst flood from Peru’s Lake Palcacocha, threatening the city below. This study is the first to directly link climate change with the risk of flooding from glacial lakes, which are growing in number and size worldwide.


February 1, 2021

Marine organisms use previously undiscovered receptors to detect, respond to light

magnified cells of various shapes arranged in a mosaic

Single-celled organisms in the open ocean use a diverse array of genetic tools to detect sunlight, even in tiny amounts, and respond. The discovery of these new genetic “light switches” could also aid in the field of optogenetics, in which a cell’s function can be controlled with light exposure.


December 15, 2020

A.I. model shows promise to generate faster, more accurate weather forecasts

globe split into gridded squares

A model based solely on the past 40 years of weather events uses 7,000 times less computer power than today’s weather forecasting tools. An A.I.-powered model could someday provide more accurate forecasts for rain, snow and other weather events.


December 8, 2020

NSF-funded deep ice core to be drilled at Hercules Dome, Antarctica

closeup of ice in metal barrel

Antarctica’s next deep ice core, a 1.5-mile core reaching back to 130,000-year-old ice, will be carried out by a multi-institutional U.S. team led by UW’s Eric Steig. The site hundreds of miles from today’s coastline could provide clues to the most recent collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.


November 2, 2020

Flying through wildfire smoke plumes could improve smoke forecasts

propeller with smoke plume in background

The biggest study yet of West Coast wildfire plumes shows how a smoke plume’s chemistry changes over time. Results suggest current models may not accurately predict the air quality downwind of a wildfire.


October 15, 2020

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?

stormcloud in front of field

Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme weather to climate change. But when meteorologists warn of hazardous weather, they include a second key measure of success — the probability of detection.


September 23, 2020

Some polar bears in far north are getting short-term benefit from thinning ice

polar bear with ice and water in background

The small subpopulation of polar bears in Kane Basin were doing better, on average, in recent years than in the 1990s. The bears are experiencing short-term benefits from thinning and shrinking multiyear sea ice that allows more sunlight to reach the ocean surface, which makes the system more ecologically productive.


September 16, 2020

Most landslides in western Oregon triggered by heavy rainfall, not big earthquakes

bare slope and mountains in distance

Researchers at the University of Washington, Portland State University and the University of Oregon have shown that deep-seated landslides in the central Oregon Coast Range are triggered mostly by rainfall, not by large offshore earthquakes. The open-access paper was published Sept. 16 in Science Advances. “Geomorphologists have long understood the importance of rainfall in triggering…


August 20, 2020

February lockdown in China caused a drop in some types of air pollution, but not others

colored maps of China

Atmospheric nitrogen dioxide, which comes from transportation, was half of what would be expected over China in February 2020. Other emissions and cloud properties, however, showed no significant changes.



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