UW News

climate change


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.


June 27, 2022

Top predators could ‘trap’ themselves trying to adapt to climate change, study shows

A study led by University of Washington researchers shows that over a 30-year period, African wild dogs shifted their average birthing dates later by 22 days, an adaptation that allowed them to match the birth of new litters with the coolest temperatures in early winter. But as a result of this significant shift, fewer pups survived their most vulnerable period because temperatures during their critical post-birth “denning period” increased over the same time period, threatening the population of this already endangered species. It is the first study to show that large mammalian carnivores are making major changes to their life history in response to a changing climate.


June 16, 2022

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 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 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.


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

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.


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.


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 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.


January 19, 2022

Bubbles of methane rising from seafloor in Puget Sound

map of bubble locations

The release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for almost a quarter of global warming, is being studied around the world, from Arctic wetlands to livestock feedlots. A University of Washington team has discovered a source much closer to home: 349 plumes of methane gas bubbling up from the seafloor in Puget Sound, which holds more water than any other U.S. estuary.


January 11, 2022

Researchers find concerns for animals tied to same habitats

Like humans, wild animals often return to the same places to eat, walk on the same paths to travel and use the same places to raise their young. A team led by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Wyoming has reviewed the scientific literature and found that, while “consistent” behavior may be beneficial when environmental conditions don’t change very fast, those benefits may not be realized in the ever-changing world dominated by humans.


December 17, 2021

Deforestation-fueled heat already affecting millions of outdoor workers in the tropics

series of maps

New research from an interdisciplinary team at the University of Washington, Duke University and The Nature Conservancy shows how local temperature increases in the tropics – compounded by accelerating deforestation – may already be jeopardizing the well-being and productivity of outdoor workers.


December 3, 2021

Killer whales lingering in increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean

whales in ocean

Underwater microphones show that killer whales, or orcas, have spent more time in the Arctic Ocean in recent years. The increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean may give orcas more opportunity to hunt for prey off the west and north coasts of Alaska.


November 11, 2021

Deforestation, climate change linked to more worker deaths and unsafe conditions

Outdoor workers in the world’s lower-latitude tropical forests may face a greater risk of heat-related deaths and unsafe working conditions because of deforestation and climate warming, according to a study led by The Nature Conservancy, the University of Washington and Indonesia’s Mulawarman University. In the study, researchers found that increased temperatures of 0.95 C (1.7…


November 10, 2021

New method shows today’s warming ‘unprecedented’ over past 24,000 years

Blue line that rises, then flattens out, then rises sharply

A new effort to reconstruct Earth’s climate since the last ice age, about 24,000 years ago, highlights the main drivers of climate change, and how far out of bounds human activity has pushed the climate system.


October 29, 2021

UW oceanographer will study how glacial particles remove CO2 from atmosphere

white glacier with ocean in foreground

An oceanographer at the University of Washington is part of a new project to study how glacial dust, created as glaciers grind the rock beneath them into a powder, reacts with seawater to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


October 28, 2021

How Dungeness crabs’ complex lifecycle will be affected by climate change

Dungeness crab

Results show that by the end of this century, lower-oxygen water on the Pacific Northwest coast will pose the biggest threat to Dungeness crabs. And while these crabs start as tiny, free-floating larvae, it’s the sharp-clawed adults that will be most vulnerable.


September 27, 2021

UW Climate Impacts Group, partner organizations launch the Northwest Climate Resilience Collaborative

images of Northwest landscapes with announcement text

The UW Climate Impacts Group, along with nine community, nonprofit and university partners, is launching a program of community-led, justice-oriented climate adaptation work across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The Northwest Climate Resilience Collaborative will be founded with a five-year, $5.6 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The program will be one of eleven across the country funded through NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program.


September 14, 2021

UW part of $25M NSF-funded effort to retrieve Earth’s oldest ice core

person in white suit holding long metal object

University of Washington glaciologists will join colleagues from around the country in a new effort to retrieve an ice core more than 1 million years old from East Antarctica, to better understand the history of our planet’s climate and predict future changes.


August 20, 2021

With extreme heat increasingly common, UW expert calls for urgent planning to protect health in new Lancet series

In a new series on increasingly common extreme heat waves and their impact on human health published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet, a University of Washington climate change and health expert joined more than a dozen international experts to warn that we better prepare. “The preventable heat stress and deaths during this summer’s…


August 5, 2021

Drier, warmer night air is making some Western wildfires more active at night

firefighter silhouetted against flames at night

Firefighters have reported that Western wildfires are starting earlier in the morning and dying down later at night, hampering their ability to recover and regroup before the next day’s flareup. A study by University of Washington and U.S. Forest Service scientists shows why: The drying power of nighttime air over much of the Western U.S. has increased dramatically in the past 40 years.


July 29, 2021

Climate change to fuel increase in human-wildlife conflict, UW biologist says

A herd of African elephants

Climate change is further exacerbating human-wildlife conflicts by straining ecosystems and altering behaviors, both of which can deepen the contacts — and potential competition — between people and animals. In an article published July 30 in the journal Science, Briana Abrahms, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Washington and its Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, calls for expanding research into the many ways that climate change will impact the complex interplay between human activities and wildlife populations.


July 27, 2021

Possible future for Western wildfires: Decade-long burst, followed by gradual decline

cubes of forest landscape up in flames

A model of the eastern California forests of the Sierra Nevada looks at the longer-term future of wildfires under future climate change scenarios. Results show an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity, followed by recurring fires of decreasing area — a pattern that could apply to other hot, dry forests in the West.


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.


May 27, 2021

Seabirds face dire threats from climate change, human activity — especially in Northern Hemisphere

seabird holding a fish

Many seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere are struggling to breed — and in the Southern Hemisphere, they may not be far behind. These are the conclusions of a study, published May 28 in Science, analyzing more than 50 years of breeding records for 67 seabird species worldwide.


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.


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.


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.


October 15, 2020

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?

stormcloud in front of field

Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme weather to climate change. But when meteorologists warn of hazardous weather, they include a second key measure of success — the probability of detection.


September 30, 2020

Greenland is on track to lose ice faster than in any century over the past 12,000 years, study finds

ridged ice from above

A new study combines ice cores, geologic records and computer models to understand the past, present and future of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The results show that emissions this century have a big influence on how much ice will be lost from Greenland.


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.


September 16, 2020

Marine animals live where ocean is most ‘breathable,’ but ranges could shrink with climate change

New research shows that a wide variety of marine animals — from vertebrates to crustaceans to mollusks — already inhabit the maximum range of breathable ocean that their physiology will allow. The findings provide a warning about climate change: Since warmer waters will harbor less oxygen, some stretches of ocean that are breathable today for a given species may not be in the future.


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.



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