UW News

Environment


September 20, 2019

Two UW ice researchers to participate in year-long drift across Arctic Ocean

ship surrounded by sea ice and dark skies

Two UW researchers — Bonnie Light, a principal physicist at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory and an affiliate associate professor of atmospheric sciences, and Madison Smith, a recent UW graduate who is now doing her postdoctoral research at the UW — will join for the fifth of the six two-month legs, in summer 2020.


September 10, 2019

Tides don’t always flush water out to sea, study shows

Dawn in Willapa Bay in 2015, showing oysters on a tidal flat.

Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Strathclyde report that, in Willapa Bay in Washington state, the water washing over the tidal flats during high tides is largely the same water that washed over the flats during the previous high tide. This “old” water has not been mixed in with “new” water from deeper parts of the bay or the open Pacific Ocean, and has different chemical and biological properties, such as lower levels of food for creatures within the tide flats.


September 9, 2019

Lightning ‘superbolts’ form over oceans from November to February

Flash of lightning on black background

A study of superbolts, which release a thousand times more electrical energy in the low-frequency range than regular lightning bolts, finds they occur at very different times and places than regular lightning. Superbolts tend to strike over particular parts of the oceans, while regular lightning strikes over land.


September 4, 2019

New study tracks sulfur-based metabolism in the open ocean

researchers on ship

UW oceanographers used lab experiments and seawater samples to learn how photosynthetic microbes and ocean bacteria use sulfur, a plentiful marine nutrient.


August 23, 2019

Wildfires west of the Cascades: Rare, but large and severe

More than 99 percent of wildfires in the last 40 years have been east of the Cascade Crest. But evidence that suggests Western Washington also has a history of large wildfires, each burning hundreds of thousands of acres. We might not be familiar with them, because most happened centuries ago.


August 21, 2019

3 UW graduate students earn NASA fellowships, continue legacy of success

rainier vista

Three University of Washington graduate students are among this year’s recipients of a prestigious NASA fellowship that funds student research projects in the fields of Earth and planetary sciences and astrophysics.


August 19, 2019

USGS awards $10.4M to ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system in the Pacific Northwest

The U.S. Geological Survey announced $10.4 million in funding to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at University of Washington, to support the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. Some $7.3 million of the two-year funding total will go to the UW.


August 13, 2019

Air pollution can accelerate lung disease as much as a pack a day of cigarettes

Air pollution over Los Angeles.

Air pollution—especially ozone air pollution which is increasing with climate change—accelerates the progression of emphysema of the lung, according to a new study led by the University of Washington, Columbia University and the University at Buffalo.


August 12, 2019

First evidence of human-caused climate change melting the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

white snow and ocean

A new study by U.S. and U.K. scientists finds that in addition to natural variations in winds that drive warmer water to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which last about a decade, there has been a longer-term change in the winds that can be linked with human activities.


August 8, 2019

More than 100 years of Arctic sea ice volume reconstructed with help from historic ships’ logbooks

black and white photo of ship

A new study provides a 110-year record of the total volume of Arctic sea ice, using early U.S. ships’ voyages to verify the earlier part of the record. The longer record puts the recent loss into perspective.


August 6, 2019

How the Pacific Ocean influences long-term drought in the Southwestern U.S.

paw print on cracked mud

Analyzing the full life cycle of long-term droughts and how they relate to El Niño and La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean could eventually lead to better prediction of damaging, multiyear droughts in the Southwestern U.S.


July 24, 2019

How to consider nature’s impact on mental health in city plans

two children in park

An international team led by the UW and Stanford has created a framework for how city planners and municipalities around the world can start to measure the mental health benefits of nature and incorporate those into plans and policies for cities and their residents.


July 23, 2019

What motivates people to join — and stick with — citizen science projects?

bird and measuring tape on sand

After more than 20 years, the UW’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, or COASST, is itself the subject of scientific study. Social scientists are studying the program’s success to extract lessons for all citizen science efforts.


July 16, 2019

8 UW professors elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences in 2019

Suzzallo Library at night

Eight scientists and engineers from the University of Washington have been elected this year to the Washington State Academy of Sciences.


July 11, 2019

Super salty, subzero Arctic water provides peek at possible life on other planets

ice crystals on roof of cave

A UW team has discovered thriving communities of bacteria in Alaskan “cryopegs,” trapped layers of sediment with water so salty that it remains liquid at below-freezing temperatures. The setting may be similar to environments on Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, or other bodies farther from the sun.


July 9, 2019

UW professors to receive 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Six University of Washington professors are to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, according to an announcement July 2 from the White House. The award, also known as the PECASE, is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to early-career scientists and engineers “who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.”


Coral reefs shifting away from equator, new study finds

coral reef

Coral reefs are retreating from equatorial waters and establishing new reefs in more temperate regions, according to new research by the University of Washington and other institutions.


July 1, 2019

Study shows that management and evolution give hope to coral reefs facing the effects of climate change

green sea turtle

A new study released July 1 in Nature Climate Change gives hope for coral reefs. Launched by the nonprofit Coral Reef Alliance, with lead and senior authors at the University of Washington, the study is one of the first to demonstrate that management that takes evolution and adaptation into account can help rescue coral reefs from the effects of climate change.


June 19, 2019

Deep submersible dives shed light on rarely explored coral reefs

corals in the mesophotic zone

  Just beyond where conventional scuba divers can go is an area of the ocean that still is largely unexplored. In waters this deep — about 100 to at least 500 feet below the surface — little to no light breaks through. Researchers must rely on submersible watercraft or sophisticated diving equipment to be able…


June 18, 2019

First book published on fishes of the Salish Sea

rockfish illustration

The first book documenting all of the known species of fishes that live in the Salish Sea is now available.


June 10, 2019

Mysterious holes in Antarctic sea ice explained by years of robotic data

map of white ice with dark hole

Why did a giant hole appear in the sea ice off Antarctica in 2016 and 2017, after decades of more typical sea ice cover? Years of Southern Ocean data have explained the phenomenon, helping oceanographers to better predict these features and study their role in global ocean cycles.


June 4, 2019

Early lives of Alaska sockeye salmon accelerating with climate change

sockeye salmon

An ample buffet of freshwater food, brought on by climate change, is altering the life history of one of the world’s most important salmon species.


May 30, 2019

Seismologists seek space on volunteers’ floors and lawns to study Seattle seismic risks

Seattle map shaded brown

A series of seismic experiments will take place this summer in the Seattle area. The researchers are looking for volunteer sites throughout the region.


May 29, 2019

Young herring ‘go with the older fish’ a key finding in Ocean Modeling Forum’s efforts

A collaborative group led by the University of Washington has released a set of research papers, fact sheets and modeling tools to help agencies incorporate traditional knowledge and human dimensions into Pacific herring management.


May 23, 2019

Tiny fishes fuel life on coral reefs

small fish looks out cautiously

In a paper published May 23 in Science, a team of international researchers from Simon Fraser University, University of Washington and other institutions reveals that the iconic abundance of fishes on reefs is fueled by an unlikely source: tiny, bottom-dwelling reef fishes.


Hot spots in rivers that nurture young salmon ‘flicker on and off’ in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region

A spawning sockeye salmon.

Chemical signatures imprinted on tiny stones that form inside the ears of fish show that two of Alaska’s most productive salmon populations, and the fisheries they support, depend on the entire watershed.


May 8, 2019

One-third of the world’s longest rivers remain free-flowing, new analysis finds

laird river

Just over one-third of the world’s 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing, according to a new study published May 8 in Nature. Dams and reservoirs are drastically reducing the diverse benefits that healthy rivers provide to people and nature across the globe.


May 1, 2019

Arsenic-breathing life discovered in the tropical Pacific Ocean

people working on deck of boat

In oxygen-poor parts of the ocean, some microorganisms survive by breathing arsenic. This holdover from the ancient Earth was not thought to still exist in the open ocean.


April 30, 2019

Explore and dive to the depths of Puget Sound May 4 with UW’s aquatic science open house

kids looking at tank of water animals

Families, students and children are invited to get their hands wet on Saturday with “Our Watery World,” the University of Washington’s second annual aquatic science open house.


April 25, 2019

Public talks kick off study of ice loss, warming and coastal changes in northern Alaska

flat peninsula and water

A UW team will visit Alaska’s North Slope Borough the week of April 28 in preparation for a two-year study of how waves, ice loss and warming are affecting the low-lying region.


April 15, 2019

Historic logging site shows first human-caused bedrock erosion along an entire river

orange trees by riverbank

Over many years, a University of Washington team has shown how logging on the Teanaway River in central Washington caused dramatic changes to the river channel.


April 12, 2019

For 17 years, UW program has provided an interdisciplinary nexus for climate research and education

people in front of poster

Over 17 years, the program has evolved into a campuswide, interdisciplinary, student-driven program on climate change research, communication and action. A recent publication looks at the program history and current mission.


April 4, 2019

April ‘Weather Madness’: UW wins top team, individual prizes in national forecasting contest, now enters tournament round

three people in front of gray sky

A University of Washington team placed first in a national weather forecasting contest that began in September. A UW graduate student also developed a model that for the first time beat out all human competitors.


April 1, 2019

UW students spearhead efforts to predict peak bloom for cherry trees

collecting data

A team of UW students hopes to make it possible to accurately predict peak bloom timing for the iconic Quad cherry trees.


March 29, 2019

North Dakota site shows wreckage from same object that killed the dinosaurs

cartoon of waves and animal images

A new excavation site in North Dakota shows evidence from the day a giant meteor struck Earth, marking the beginning of the end for the dinosaurs and 75 percent of animal life.


March 26, 2019

Air quality agencies can breathe easier about current emissions regulations

researchers in plane

A University of Washington-led study provides a fuller picture of the relationship between nitrogen oxides — the tailpipe-generated particles at the center of the Volkswagen scandal, also known as NOx, — and PM2.5, the microscopic particles that can lodge in lungs.


New tool maps a key food source for grizzly bears: huckleberries

huckleberry leaves turning red

Researchers have developed a new approach to map huckleberry distribution across Glacier National Park that uses publicly available satellite imagery. Tracking where huckleberry plants live now — and where they may move under climate change — can help biologists predict where grizzly bears will also be found.


March 21, 2019

Hundreds of bubble streams link biology, seismology off Washington’s coast

map with red stars

The first survey of methane vent sites off Washington’s coast finds 1,778 bubble columns, with most located along a north-south band that is in line with a geologic fault.


March 11, 2019

When coyote parents get used to humans, their offspring become bolder, too

coyotes in grass

When coyote parents are habituated to humans, their offspring are more habituated, too — potentially leading to negative interactions between coyotes and humans.


Black and Hispanic Americans bear a disproportionate burden from air pollution

industry smokestacks at sunrise

Black and Hispanic Americans bear a disproportionate burden from air pollution generated mainly by non-Hispanic white Americans, according to new research from a team led by the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota.



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