UW News

Applied Physics Laboratory


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.


April 28, 2021

UW launches GeoHazards Initiative; names Paros Chair in Seismology and GeoHazards

aerial view

Leveraging the tectonic laboratory of the Cascadia subduction zone, the University of Washington today announced a new effort to best understand how to study and live with the threats of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, landslides and other seismic hazards. Dubbed the GeoHazards Initiative, the interdisciplinary work aims to develop and promote the adoption of early detection systems both on land and at sea to help prevent the loss of human life and property.


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.


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.


April 30, 2020

First results from NASA’s ICESat-2 map 16 years of melting ice sheets

colored map of Antarctica

Loss of ice from Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets since 2003 have contributed 0.55 inches to global sea level rise, with about two thirds coming from Greenland ice. The new, detailed satellite measurements provide a global picture of ice sheet change — and insights into the future of Greenland and Antarctica.


February 27, 2020

Video: Warming Arctic means less ice, bigger waves

ship surrounded by ice

Throughout the month of November 2019, a team of University of Washington researchers chased storms in the Arctic Ocean. The project, Coastal Ocean Dynamics in the Arctic, or CODA, is looking at how water currents shift and waves hit the coast with more open water, to provide better forecasts and predictions for the region’s future.


February 12, 2020

Polar bears in Baffin Bay skinnier, having fewer cubs due to less sea ice

polar bear walking

Satellite tracking of adult females and visual monitoring of polar bears in Baffin Bay show changes from the 1990s to the period from 2009 to 2015. Bears in Baffin Bay are getting thinner and adult females are having fewer cubs than when sea ice was more available.


December 4, 2019

Outlook for the polar regions in a 2 degrees warmer world

four male bears eating a whale

With 2019 on pace as one of the warmest years on record, a new international study reveals how rapidly the Arctic is warming and examines global consequences of continued polar warming.


November 5, 2019

Fall storms, coastal erosion focus of northern Alaska research cruise

freight shipping container in foreground and research ship in background

A University of Washington team is leaving to study how fall storms, dwindling sea ice and vulnerable coastlines might combine in a changing Arctic.


November 4, 2019

Swordfish as oceanographers? Satellite tags allow research of ocean’s ‘twilight zone’ off Florida

closeup of swordfish

UW marine scientists are using high-tech tags to record the movements of swordfish — big, deep-water, migratory, open-ocean fish that are poorly studied — and get a window into the ocean depths they inhabit.


October 23, 2019

UW team sending autonomous surfboard to explore Antarctic waters

researchers on ship lowering large surfboard into water

This week a UW team is releasing a robotic surfboard to explore the surface ocean around Antarctica.


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.


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.


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.


January 23, 2019

One year into the mission, autonomous ocean robots set a record in survey of Antarctic ice shelf

yellow instrument with ice in background

A team of ocean robots developed at the UW is the first group of self-guided ocean instruments to travel under an ice sheet and come back to report long-term observations.


December 18, 2018

February’s big patch of open water off Greenland? Not global warming, says new analysis

map of open water

New analysis shows that odd winds, not warming, caused the unusual patch of open water north of Greenland last February.


December 14, 2018

UW glaciologist gets first look at NASA’s new measurements of ice sheet elevation

Antarctic map and blue line

UW glaciologist Ben Smith shared a first look at the NASA ICESat-2 satellite’s view of Greenland and Antarctic glaciers at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.


December 13, 2018

Hark! UW talents — on page and disc — for the good Dawgs on your holiday shopping list

collage of books and CD covers

As the year comes to a close and festivities abound, some UW faculty creations can make great gifts for the thinking Dawg on your giving list.


November 14, 2018

First tally of U.S.-Russia polar bears finds a healthy population

polar bears on rocky beach

The first assessment of polar bears that live in the biologically rich Chukchi Sea region that spans the U.S. and Russia, finds that the population is healthy and not yet suffering from declining sea ice.


October 12, 2018

New UW-authored children’s book offers a robot’s-eye view of the deep ocean

Book cover showing cartoon robot in ocean

In a new UW-authored book, a cartoon robot takes young readers on a School of Oceanography voyage to explore the deep ocean.


September 10, 2018

UW polar scientists advised NASA on upcoming ICESat-2 satellite

instrument on dark sky above Earth

Two UW polar scientists were among a dozen experts who advised NASA on its upcoming ICESat-2 mission to monitor the 3D surface of the Earth. The mission is scheduled to launch Sept. 15 from California.


August 23, 2018

Hack week: Study supports collaborative, participant-driven approach for researchers to learn data science from their peers

Scientists working together on computer projects.

A team from the University of Washington, New York University and the University of California, Berkeley has developed an interactive workshop in data science for researchers at multiple stages of their careers. The course format, called “hack week,” blends elements from both traditional lecture-style pedagogy with participant-driven projects.


July 2, 2018

Study identifies which marine mammals are most at risk from increased Arctic ship traffic

aerial view of whales surrounded by ice

Regions of Arctic water are becoming ice-free in late summer and early fall. A new study is the first to consider potential impacts on the marine mammals that use this region and identify which populations will be the most vulnerable to ships.


June 21, 2018

NASA, NSF expedition to study ocean carbon embarks in August from Seattle

satellite view of ocean and land

More than 100 scientists and crew from more than 20 U.S. research institutions, including the UW, will depart in August for a month-long expedition to study how the ocean absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.


June 18, 2018

Great white sharks dive deep into warm-water whirlpools in the Atlantic

tag on shark fin

Tracking of two great white sharks reveals for the first time that in the open ocean they spend more time deep inside warm-water eddies.


June 4, 2018

Polar scientist Kristin Laidre documents perspectives of polar bear hunters in East Greenland

photograph of subsistence hunter

Twenty-five polar bear hunters in East Greenland were interviewed before the first formal assessment of this subpopulation, one of 19 subpopulations of polar bears in a changing Arctic.


April 27, 2018

UW researcher, Fulbright Scholar, spent winter above the Arctic Circle

green bands of lights in dark sky

Oceanographer Cecilia Peralta Ferriz is spending the academic year in Tromsø, Norway, to collaborate with colleagues who study flow out of the Arctic Ocean.


April 3, 2018

Bowhead whales, the ‘jazz musicians’ of the Arctic, sing many different songs

whale near floating ice

Bowhead whales are constantly changing their tune, unlike the only other whale species that sings, the humpback.


March 21, 2018

Partnering with indigenous communities to anticipate and adapt to ocean change

fishing boats

With a new $700,000 grant awarded from the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program, scientists from the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, Washington Sea Grant and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean have teamed with federal and tribal partners to study the social and ecological vulnerabilities of Olympic Coast ocean acidification.


February 7, 2018

Fruit bat’s echolocation may work like sophisticated surveillance sonar

blue bat head shape

High-speed recordings of Egyptian fruit bats in flight show that instead of using a primitive form of echolocation, these animals actually use a technique recently developed by humans for surveillance and navigation.


January 18, 2018

Temporary ‘bathtub drains’ in the ocean concentrate flotsam

white plastic drifter on ship deck

An experiment using hundreds of plastic drifters in the Gulf of Mexico shows that rather than simply spread out, as current calculations would predict, many of them clumped together in a tight cluster.


December 18, 2017

Partnership will use robotic network to explore Antarctic ice shelves

yellow instrument in dark water

A new partnership between the UW and Paul G. Allen Philanthropies will use a network of robots to observe conditions beneath a floating Antarctic ice shelf.


October 20, 2017

Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West

aerial view of Mount Rainier with red zones

A satellite technique provides a new way to monitor the status of more than 1,200 mountain glaciers in the lower 48 states.


September 28, 2017

Lisa M. Zurk named executive director of UW Applied Physics Laboratory

Lisa Zurk, a UW aluma in electrical engineering, professor at Portland State University and program manager at DARPA, will become the eighth director of the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory.


September 21, 2017

Hacking a pressure sensor to track gradual motion along marine faults

closeup of instrument tip

University of Washington oceanographers are working with a local company to develop a simple new technique that could track seafloor movement in earthquake-prone coastal areas.


September 20, 2017

Wave Glider surfs across stormy Drake Passage in Antarctica

yellow board on ship deck

A hardy ocean drone made a first-ever attempt to surf across Antarctica’s stormy Drake Passage gathering data about ocean mixing.


March 15, 2017

How to conserve polar bears — and maintain subsistence harvest — under climate change

Polar bear testing the ice thickness

A new analysis shows a properly-managed subsistence harvest of polar bears can continue under climate change.


March 13, 2017

Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice a combination of climate change and natural variability

a photo of Arctic sea ice as seen from an ice breaker

Dramatic declines in Arctic sea ice during the past four decades are due to a mixture of global warming and a natural decades-long hot spot over Greenland.



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