UW News

Environment


May 5, 2021

Ice core data show why, despite lower sulfur emissions in U.S. and Western Europe, air pollution is dropping more slowly

graphic of Earth with chemical pathways

Ice core data from Greenland shows why air pollution is dropping more slowly than sulfur emissions reductions. As cloud droplets become less acidic, the chemical reaction that turns sulfur dioxide into sulfate aerosol gets more efficient. The new results can improve the models that project air quality and climate change.


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.


Genetically engineered grass cleanses soil of toxic pollutants left by military explosives, new research shows

Grasses growing in tubes in the foreground. Two people stand behind them. Another person standing to the right.

A team, which includes researchers from the University of Washington, demonstrated that over the course of three years, a genetically engineered switchgrass could break down an explosive chemical in plots of soil at a military range.


April 27, 2021

Thousands of baby sea stars born at UW lab are sign of hope for endangered species

adult sea stars eating mussels

Scientists at the University of Washington, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, are raising sunflower sea stars in captivity, with the goal of learning more about this species and exploring eventual reintroduction to the wild, if determined to be advisable.


April 20, 2021

Using engineering methods to track the imperceptible movements of stony corals

A coral reef with orange fish swimming around

A new study led by UW researchers borrowed image-analysis methods from engineering to spot the minute movements of a stony coral.


April 13, 2021

Deep earthquakes within the Juan de Fuca plate produce few aftershocks

cracked pavement on highway

In the Cascadia subduction zone, medium- and large-sized “intraslab” earthquakes, in which the slip happens within the oceanic plate and below the continental plate, will likely produce only a few detectable aftershocks, according to a new study from the University of Washington and the U.S. Geological Survey.


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 29, 2021

UW’s Joshua Lawler named fellow of Ecological Society of America

Joshua Lawler

Joshua Lawler, a University of Washington professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, has been named a 2021 fellow of the Ecological Society of America. Fellows are elected for life, and the honor recognizes scientists who advance or apply ecological knowledge in academics, government, nonprofits and the broader society.


March 25, 2021

Tasty options as researchers tap a new forestry product

Maple syrup is being poured on a round waffle on a white plate.

Scientists from the University of Washington are testing the viability of making maple syrup in the Pacific Northwest. Long associated with Canada or Vermont, this sweet forest product that has graced many a breakfast table may be part of this region’s future.


March 22, 2021

Warming temperatures tripled Arctic lightning strikes over the past decade

Lightning strike

Lightning strikes in the Arctic tripled from 2010 to 2020, a finding University of Washington researchers attribute to rising temperatures due to human-caused climate change. The results, researchers say, suggest Arctic residents in northern Russia, Canada, Europe and Alaska need to prepare for the danger of more frequent lightning strikes.


March 18, 2021

‘By-the-wind sailor’ jellies wash ashore in massive numbers after warmer winters

jellies washed on shore.

Thanks to 20 years of observations from thousands of citizen scientists, University of Washington researchers have discovered distinct patterns in the mass strandings of by-the-wind sailor jellies. Specifically, large strandings happened simultaneously from the northwest tip of Washington south to the Mendocino coast in California, and in years when winters were warmer than usual.


March 17, 2021

How five global regions could achieve a successful, equitable ‘Blue Economy’

three colored world maps

The future of an equitable and sustainable global ocean, or “Blue Economy,” depends on more than natural or technological resources. A new study finds that socioeconomic and governance conditions such as national stability, corruption and human rights greatly affect different regions’ ability to achieve a Blue Economy — one that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically viable.


‘Forgetting Nature’: Peter Kahn offers warning in short documentary film

The message of “Forgetting Nature,” a new documentary film featuring Peter Kahn, is short but powerful: We humans are losing our connection to the natural world, at our great peril.


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 23, 2021

Logging change in Puget Sound: Researchers use UW vessel logbooks to reconstruct historical groundfish populations

historical photo of the research vessel Commando

To understand how Puget Sound has changed, we first must understand how it used to be. But unlike most major estuaries in the U.S., long-term monitoring of Puget Sound fish populations did not exist until 1990. Now researchers have discovered an unconventional method to help fill in gaps in the data: old vessel logbooks.


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.


January 27, 2021

In Brazil, many smaller dams disrupt fish more than large hydropower projects

small dam in Brazil

A new University of Washington paper quantifies the tradeoffs between hydroelectric generation capacity and the impacts on river connectivity for thousands of current and projected future dams across Brazil. The findings confirm that small hydropower plants are far more responsible for river fragmentation than their larger counterparts due to their prevalence and distribution.


January 25, 2021

Emeritus professor Robert Edmonds pens history of forestry science at the UW

A talk with Robert Edmonds, professor emeritus in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, who has written a new history of UW forestry research and education called “Saving Forest Ecosystems: A Century Plus of Research and Education at the University of Washington.”


January 11, 2021

More management measures lead to healthier fish populations

Fish populations tend to do better in places where rigorous fisheries management practices are used, and the more measures employed, the better for fish populations and food production, according to a new paper published Jan. 11 in Nature Sustainability.


December 23, 2020

Bait and switch: Mislabeled salmon, shrimp have biggest environmental toll

pink piece of salmon

A study co-authored by UW’s Sunny Jardine finds that farmed Atlantic salmon, often labeled and sold as Pacific salmon or rainbow trout, is the second-most-consumed mislabeled seafood product in the U.S. Although not the most frequently mislabeled seafood, salmon’s popularity means it has one of the biggest environmental impacts.


December 18, 2020

Coral recovery during a prolonged heatwave offers new hope

The pressing concerns of climate change have placed the long-term health of the world’s coral reefs in jeopardy. However, new research inspires hope as some corals managed to survive a recent and globally unprecedented heatwave.


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 9, 2020

Warm oceans helped first human migration from Asia to North America

colored map of North Pacific

New research reveals significant changes to the circulation of the North Pacific and its impact on the initial migration of humans from Asia to North America. It provides a new picture of the circulation and climate of the North Pacific at the end of the last ice age, with implications for early human migration.


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.


December 7, 2020

Military flights biggest cause of noise pollution on Olympic Peninsula

path through a forested area

A new University of Washington study provides the first look at how much noise pollution is impacting the Olympic Peninsula. The paper found that aircraft were audible across a large swath of the peninsula at least 20% of weekday hours, or for about one hour during a six-hour period. About 88% of all audible aircraft in the pre-pandemic study were military planes.


December 2, 2020

Scientists organize to tackle crisis of coral bleaching

bleached corals in the sea

At the current rate of global warming, mass coral bleaching is expected to become more frequent and severe worldwide. An international consortium of scientists, including a coral researcher from the University of Washington, has created the first-ever common framework for increasing comparability of research findings on coral bleaching.


November 24, 2020

Microbes help unlock phosphorus for plant growth

poplar trees along a river

A research team led by the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has shown that microbes taken from trees growing beside pristine mountain-fed streams in Western Washington could make phosphorus trapped in soils more accessible to agricultural crops. The findings were published in October in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.


November 23, 2020

US seafood industry flounders due to COVID-19

fish being harvested

The global pandemic is hurting the seafood industry, and American fishmongers may flounder without more government aid, according to the largest study of COVID-19’s impacts on U.S. fisheries.


November 18, 2020

Lisa Graumlich, dean of UW College of the Environment, named president-elect of AGU

portrait

The American Geophysical Union announced that its members have elected Lisa Graumlich, dean of the UW College of the Environment, as the president-elect starting Jan. 1. After two years in this role Graumlich will begin a two-year term as president of the AGU board beginning in 2023.


November 5, 2020

New global archive logs changes in behavior of Arctic animals

moose in field

Scientists from around the world, including the University of Washington, have established the Arctic Animal Movement Archive, an online repository for data documenting the movements of animals in the Arctic and Subarctic. With this archive, scientists can share their knowledge and collaborate to ask questions about how animals are responding to a changing climate.


November 4, 2020

Faculty/staff honors: New atmospheric research board trustee; prize-winning fiction; PBS show consultant

Shuyi Chen, UW professor of atmospheric sciences, has been elected one of five new trustees to the board of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the group that manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

A University of Washington meteorologist joins a national board for atmospheric research, an English professor’s story is honored and a Jackson School faculty member helps with research for a PBS show.


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 29, 2020

UW awarded $23.5M to build floating robots as part of NSF project to monitor the world’s oceans

two people drop instrument in water

The University of Washington is among leading U.S. oceanographic institutions that have received National Science Foundation funding to build and deploy 500 robotic ocean-monitoring floats to monitor the chemistry and biology of the world’s oceans.


October 20, 2020

Video: Local stream watchers add to salmon science

salmon underwater in stream

This fall, about three dozen people signed up to help count the salmon in their local streams and creeks. Recruited by University of Washington Bothell teaching professor Jeff Jensen, these volunteers agree to observe a stream location for at least half an hour per week (while taking coronavirus precautions) to gather vital information about salmon in streams that flow into Lake Washington and the Sammamish River.


October 19, 2020

Early-arriving endangered Chinook salmon take the brunt of sea lion predation on the Columbia

sea lion eating a salmon

A new University of Washington and NOAA Fisheries study found that sea lions have the largest negative effect on early-arriving endangered Chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River. The results of this study will publish Oct. 18 in the Journal of Applied Ecology.



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