UW News

Environment


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.


November 4, 2022

Two College of the Environment faculty recognized by American Geophysical Union

block W

Two UW College of the Environment professors, Ginger Armbrust and Dennis Hartmann, will be honored at the 2022 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December.


November 2, 2022

Study reveals how ancient fish colonized the deep sea

A new University of Washington-led study reports that throughout Earth’s ancient history, there were several periods of time when many fish actually favored the cold, dark, barren waters of the deep sea instead of shallow ocean waters that are warm and full of resources.


Permanent daylight saving time would reduce deer-vehicle collisions, study shows

University of Washington researchers found that adopting permanent daylight saving time in the United States would reduce deer-vehicle collisions and likely prevent an estimated 36,550 deer deaths, 33 human deaths, 2,054 human injuries and $1.19 billion in costs each year. Deer-vehicle collisions would decrease under permanent DST because skies would be brighter later into the evening.


October 13, 2022

Animals in national parks impacted by even just a few people

a brown bear walks by with water behind

A new University of Washington-led study has found that even in remote, rarely visited national parks, the presence of even just a few humans impacts the activity of wildlife that live there. Nearly any level of human activity in a protected area like a national park can alter the behavior of animals there.


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?…


UW-developed wave sensors deployed to improve hurricane forecasts

Person drops sensor from plane

Researchers dropped technology developed at the University of Washington off the coast of Florida this week to measure ocean waves in the path of Hurricane Ian. The test is one part of a broad effort to improve forecasts for these fast-moving and deadly systems.


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.


September 22, 2022

Deepest scientific ocean drilling effort sheds light on Japan’s next ‘big one’

White ship seen from below

A 2018 expedition that drilled farther into the seafloor than ever before — almost 2 miles — sought to take measurements of stress as close as possible to a tectonic fault off the coast of Japan. Surprisingly, the researchers found little built-up tectonic stress. The findings could help to better understand earthquakes in subduction zones around the world.


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 11, 2022

Bird behavior influenced by human activity during COVID-19 lockdowns

a bird flaps its wings on a branch

For birds that inhabit developed areas of the Pacific Northwest, the reduction in noise and commotion from COVID-19 lockdowns may have allowed them to use a wider range of habitats in cities, a new University of Washington study has found.


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.


July 12, 2022

UW study strengthens evidence of link between air pollution and child brain development

Seattle traffic

Air pollution is not just a problem for lungs. Increasingly, research suggests air pollution can influence childhood behavioral problems and even IQ. A new study led by the University of Washington has added evidence showing that both prenatal and postnatal exposure to air pollution can harm kids. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found…


June 29, 2022

‘Safety in numbers’ tactic keeps Pacific salmon safe from predators

fish swim together in a fish tank

A new University of Washington study that leverages historical data has found unique support for a “safety in numbers” hypothesis by showing that Pacific salmon in larger groups have lower risk of being eaten by predators. But for some salmon species, schooling comes at the cost of competition for food, and those fish may trade safety for a meal.


June 21, 2022

New study: 2021 heat wave created ‘perfect storm’ for shellfish die-off

A pile of dead oysters with their shells open. There is water in the background.

A team led by the UW has produced the first comprehensive report of the impacts of the 2021 heat wave on shellfish.


June 16, 2022

Q&A: Healthier soil leads to more-nutritious food, argues new book by UW geomorphologist David Montgomery

book cover showing crops

David Montgomery, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, discusses soil health, food nutrients and human health. He is co-author of “What Your Food Ate,” being published this month.


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 13, 2022

Is there snow in that tree? Citizen science helps unpack snow’s effect on summer water supplies

Trees in a forest. The trees are blanketed by heavy snow.

To investigate what happens to snow intercepted by trees, UW researchers created a citizen science project called Snow Spotter.


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 9, 2022

Scientists seek to grow the field of eDNA research ‘without squelching creativity’

two researchers sample water in a stream.

A new effort at the University of Washington aims to accelerate eDNA research by supporting existing projects and building a network of practitioners to advance the nascent field.


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 24, 2022

Video: Experts collaborate to troubleshoot necessary fires and harmful smoke

Forest on fire with smoke billowing, as seen from a helicopter

Forest fire smoke can make you sick, and we’re experiencing more them. In terms of public health, it seems logical to reduce forest fires to limit unhealthy air pollution, but forest managers are increasingly seeing prescribed burning as an essential tool to reduce explosive wildfires. How should we plan to deal with the impacts of these fires?


April 28, 2022

Unchecked global emissions on track to initiate mass extinction of marine life

If emissions from greenhouse gases continue, species losses from warming and oxygen depletion of ocean waters could eclipse all other human stressors on marine species by around 2100. Tropical waters would experience the greatest loss of biodiversity, while polar species are at the highest risk of extinction


April 13, 2022

Two UW faculty named fellows of Ecological Society of America

campus sign

Two University of Washington professors have been honored by the Ecological Society of America for their knowledge and contributions to the field of ecology.


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.


April 7, 2022

UW documentary chronicles story of tree poacher accused of starting 2018 fire

Justin Wilkes looks up at trees with his back to the camera

A new documentary from University of Washington professors Lynn M. Thomas and Daniel Hoffman tells the story of a man accused of starting a wildfire while illegally removing trees from the Olympic National Forest.


April 1, 2022

Video: Rubbish is reborn as ‘Trash Art’ in unique contest

Image of quilt made from disposable face masks

Bottle tops, face masks and dog hair — these are all items usually destined for the dumpster. But UW Recycling came up with a unique art contest that takes waste from garbage to gallery.


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 10, 2022

Newest satellite data shows remarkable decline in Arctic sea ice over just three years

distant figures walking on snow-covered ice

In the past 20 years, the Arctic has lost about one-third of its winter sea ice volume, and winter sea ice in the Arctic has lost about a foot and a half of thickness over just the past three years. This thinning is largely due to loss of older, multiyear sea ice that is more resistant to melting.


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 28, 2022

UW authors in IPCC report emphasize threats to human health and well-being

Two University of Washington experts in climate change and health are lead authors of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The new report titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptations and Vulnerability, published Monday morning, details in over three thousand pages a “dire warning” about the consequences of inaction on reducing…


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 15, 2022

eDNA a useful tool for early detection of invasive green crab

green crab in the mud

As the green crab invasion in the state worsens, a new analysis method developed by University of Washington and Washington Sea Grant scientists could help contain future invasions and prevent new outbreaks using water testing and genetic analysis. The results show that the DNA-based technique works as well in detecting the presence of green crabs as setting traps to catch the live animals, which is a more laborious process. Results suggest these two methods could complement each other as approaches to learn where the species’ range is expanding.


February 9, 2022

New Center for Environmental Forensic Science aims to disrupt and dismantle international illegal wildlife trade

seized ivory

Across the globe, endangered species are at risk for illegal poaching. African elephants are sought out for their ivory, rhinoceros for their singular horns, and armadillo-like pangolins for their protective, brittle scales. Add to that list valuable and environmentally sensitive trees illegally harvested throughout the world where entire ecosystems are being deforested and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that is devastating oceans. These illicit markets, estimated at $1 trillion annually, cause enormous environmental impacts and have the potential to unleash new, deadly pathogens.


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 26, 2022

Glaciers are squishy, holding slightly more ice than thought

three people walking on glacier

Though usually though of as a solid, glaciers are also slightly compressible, or squishy. This compression over the huge expanse of an ice sheet — like Antarctica or Greenland — makes the overall ice sheet more dense and lowers the surface by tens of feet compared to what would otherwise be expected.



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