UW News

climate change


July 27, 2020

Pristine air over Southern Ocean suggests early industrial era’s clouds not so different from today’s

southern ocean clouds seen from an aircraft

A new study led by the University of Washington and the University of Leeds uses satellite data over the Southern Hemisphere to understand the makeup of global clouds since the Industrial Revolution. This research tackles one of the largest uncertainties in today’s climate models — the long-term effect of tiny atmospheric particles on climate change.


May 21, 2020

NOAA selects UW to host new, regional institute for climate, ocean and ecosystem research

atlantic ocean

A 5-year, up to $300 million grant from NOAA establishes the new Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies, a UW-based institute with partners at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Oregon State University. The institute will lead collaborative, multidisciplinary research and education activities around oceans and climate.


May 15, 2020

Ocean ‘breathability’ key to past, future habitat of West Coast marine species

silver fish

Historical observations collected off California since the 1950s suggest that anchovies thrive where the water is breathable — a combination of the oxygen levels in the water and the species’ oxygen needs, which are affected by temperature. Future projections suggest that the waters off Mexico and Southern California could be uninhabitable by 2100.


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.


April 28, 2020

Agricultural pickers in US to see unsafely hot workdays double by 2050

pickers in field

A new study looks at temperature increases in counties across the United States where crops are grown. It also looks at different strategies the industry could adopt to protect workers’ health.


April 1, 2020

Study synthesizes what climate change means for Northwest wildfires

bare trunks

A University of Washington study, published this winter in Fire Ecology, takes a big-picture look at what climate change could mean for wildfires in the Northwest, considering Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana.


March 24, 2020

Ships’ emissions create measurable regional change in clouds

aerial image of ships' tracks

Years of cloud data over a shipping route between Europe and South Africa shows that pollution from ships has significantly increased the reflectivity of the clouds. More generally, the results suggest that industrial pollution’s effect on clouds has masked about a third of the warming due to fossil fuel burning since the late 1800s.


March 9, 2020

Climate change at Mount Rainier expected to increase ‘mismatch’ between visitors and iconic wildflowers

A meadow filled with wildflowers in full bloom on the slopes of Mount Rainier.

The wildflowers of Mount Rainier’s subalpine meadows, which bloom once the winter snowpack melts, are a major draw for the more than 1 million visitors to this national park in Washington state each spring and summer. But by the end of this century, scientists expect that snow will melt months earlier due to climate change. New research led by the University of Washington shows that, under those conditions, many visitors would miss the flowers altogether.


January 16, 2020

Mobile protected areas needed to preserve biodiversity in the high seas

black bird with blue sky

Leaders are updating the laws for international waters that apply to most of the world’s ocean environment. This provides a unique opportunity, argues a UW Bothell marine scientist, to anticipate new techniques that allow protected zones to shift as species move under climate change.


December 4, 2019

Warmer temperatures will increase arsenic levels in rice, study shows

closeup of rice grains on rice plants

UW researchers have found that warmer temperatures, at levels expected under most climate change projections, can lead to higher concentrations of arsenic in rice grains.


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.


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 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.


June 5, 2019

Urgent action on climate change will prevent heat-related deaths in major U.S. cities

The planet will warm by about 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century if the U.S. and other nations meet only their current commitments under the Paris climate agreement to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases. According to a paper by U.S. and U.K. scientists published in Science Advances today, accelerating ambition to reduce global warming emissions to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius could prevent thousands of extreme heat-related deaths in cities across the U.S.


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.


February 12, 2019

Assessing riverside corridors — the ‘escape routes’ for animals under climate change — in the Northwest

river through brown canyon

A study led by the University of Washington pinpoints which riverside routes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana will be the most important for animals trying to navigate a changing climate.


February 4, 2019

Early spring rain boosts methane from thawing permafrost by 30 percent

The landscape surrounding a thaw bog in Alaska

A UW-led team has found that early spring rainfall warms up a thawing permafrost bog in Alaska and promotes the growth of plants and methane-producing microbes.


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.


January 16, 2019

For 35 years, the Pacific Ocean has largely spared West’s mountain snow from effects of global warming

snowy mountain

A new study has found that since the early 1980s, a pattern of ocean temperatures and atmospheric circulation has offset most of the impact of warming on the West’s mountain snowpack.


December 6, 2018

Biggest extinction in Earth’s history caused by global warming leaving ocean animals gasping for breath

orange and red ocean with fossil images

New research from the University of Washington and Stanford University combines models of ocean conditions and animal metabolism with published lab data and paleoceanographic records to show that the Permian mass extinction in the oceans was caused by global warming that left animals unable to breathe. As temperatures rose and the metabolism of marine animals sped up, the warmer waters could not hold enough oxygen for them to survive.


November 29, 2018

Forests, human health, Northwest outlook: UW researchers involved in Fourth National Climate Assessment

cover of Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II showing wildfires

University of Washington researchers contributed to the Fourth National Climate Assessment that considers impacts, risks and adaptation across the United States.


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.


November 8, 2018

Common allergen, ragweed, will shift northward under climate change

ragweed against blue sky

The first study of common ragweed’s future U.S. distribution finds the top allergen will expand its range northward as the climate warms, reaching new parts of upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, while retreating from current hot spots.


October 11, 2018

UW professor of global health a lead author on new climate report

Kristie Ebi, a UW professor of global health, was a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C” that compares the effects of 1.5 versus 2 degrees Celsius of global warming.


October 1, 2018

High CO2 levels cause plants to thicken their leaves, which could worsen climate change effects, researchers say

A tree canopy in a tropical rainforest.

When levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rise, most plants do something unusual: They thicken their leaves. Now two University of Washington scientists have shown that this reaction by plants will actually worsen climate change by making the global “carbon sink” contributed by plants was less productive.


September 17, 2018

Shift in large-scale Atlantic circulation causes lower-oxygen water to invade Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence

red and blue swirls on map

Rapid deoxygenation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is caused by shifts in two of the ocean’s most powerful currents: the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current. A detailed model shows that large-scale climate change is causing oxygen to drop in the deeper parts of this biologically rich waterway.


September 6, 2018

Volcano under ice sheet suggests thickening of West Antarctic ice is short-term

animation of straight blue line over bumpy base

Evidence left by a volcano under the ice sheet suggests that the observed bulging of ice in West Antarctica is a short-term feature that may not affect the glacier’s motion over the long term.


August 30, 2018

Climate change projected to boost insect activity and crop loss, researchers say

Image of ears of wheat

In a paper published Aug. 31 in the journal Science, a team led by scientists at the University of Washington reports that insect activity in today’s temperate, crop-growing regions will rise along with temperatures. Researchers project that this activity, in turn, will boost worldwide losses of rice, corn and wheat by 10-25 percent for each degree Celsius that global mean surface temperatures rise.


August 20, 2018

California plain shows surprising winners and losers from prolonged drought

wildflowers on hill

Meticulously tracking of 423 species before, during and after the worst droughts to hit California in more than a thousand years shows surprising patterns. Key prey species plummeted in the third year of the drought, and carnivores were hardest hit in later years.


July 30, 2018

Sea-level rise report contains best projections yet for Washington’s coasts

Google Map of Washington

A University of Washington report provides the best projections yet for sea-level rise due to climate change at 171 sites along Washington’s coasts.


July 18, 2018

Atlantic Ocean circulation is not collapsing – but as it shifts gears, global warming will reaccelerate

Depiction of Atlantic circulation with red arrows pointing north and blue arrows pointing south.

New research suggests the Atlantic Ocean is transitioning back to its slower phase, which means average global air temperatures will go back to rising more quickly.


June 11, 2018

Warmer climate will dramatically increase the volatility of global corn crops

corn field in sunshine

A study of global maize production in 2100 shows dramatic increases in the variability of corn yields from one year to the next under climate change, making simultaneous low yields across multiple high-producing regions more likely, which could lead to price hikes and global shortages.


May 23, 2018

A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core

yellow tent on snow

The oldest ice core so far provides 800,000 years of our planet’s climate history. A UW field survey in Antarctica has pinpointed a location where an entire million years of undisturbed ice might be preserved intact.


May 8, 2018

UW researchers will survey Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier as part of major international effort

International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration logo

UW glaciologist Knut Christianson is part of a massive collaboration that will collect on-the-ground data about a key Antarctic glacier that shows signs it could be collapsing into the sea.


April 25, 2018

UW faculty selected as authors, editors of international report on climate change

About twice each decade, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, looks at what is known about the science of climate change, the extent to which human activities are changing the Earth’s climate, and what risks these changes pose to human and natural systems. Organized into three working groups, each assessment is…


February 7, 2018

Ice core shows North American ice sheet’s retreat affected Antarctic weather

iceberg from above

A study from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Washington finds that the retreat of the ice sheet covering North America made Antarctic weather more similar from one year to the next.


February 5, 2018

UW atmospheric scientists flying through clouds above Antarctica’s Southern Ocean

clouds

UW atmospheric sciences faculty and graduate students are in Tasmania studying how clouds form over Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.


January 18, 2018

Civil War-era U.S. Navy ships’ logs to be explored for climate data, maritime history

soldiers on shore

A new grant will let a University of Washington-based project add a new fleet to its quest to learn more about past climate from the records of long-gone mariners. The UW is among the winners of the 2017 “Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives” awards, announced Jan. 4 by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Library…


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.



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