UW News

College of the Environment


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.


September 7, 2021

Research, education hub on ‘coastal resiliency’ will focus on earthquakes, coastal erosion and climate change

tsunami warning sign on the beach

The new Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub, led by Oregon State University and the University of Washington, will study coastal hazards and community resilience. The National Science Foundation awarded $18.9 million for the hub over five years.


August 25, 2021

Volcanic eruptions may have spurred first ‘whiffs’ of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere

person crouching in distance on layered rock

A new analysis of 2.5-billion-year-old rocks from Australia finds that volcanic eruptions may have stimulated population surges of marine microorganisms, creating the first puffs of oxygen into the atmosphere. This would change existing stories of Earth’s early atmosphere, which assumed that most changes in the early atmosphere were controlled by geologic or chemical processes.


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.


August 2, 2021

New report: State of the science on western wildfires, forests and climate change

wildfire in washington's methow valley

Seeing the urgent need for change, a team of scientists from leading research universities, conservation organizations and government laboratories across the West has produced a synthesis of the scientific literature that clearly lays out the established science and strength of evidence on climate change, wildfire and forest management for seasonally dry forests. The goal is to give land managers and others across the West access to a unified resource that summarizes the best-available science so they can make decisions about how to manage their landscapes.


July 20, 2021

New 3D images of shark intestines show they function like Nikola Tesla’s valve

three dogfish sharks

For more than a century, researchers have relied on flat sketches of sharks’ digestive systems to discern how they function — and how what they eat and excrete impacts other species in the ocean. Now, researchers have produced a series of high-resolution, 3D scans of intestines from nearly three dozen shark species that will advance the understanding of how sharks eat and digest their food.


July 16, 2021

20 UW researchers elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021

Twenty scientists and engineers at the University of Washington are among the 38 new members elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021, according to a July 15 announcement. New members were chosen for “their outstanding record of scientific and technical achievement, and their willingness to work on behalf of the Academy to bring the best available science to bear on issues within the state of Washington.”


July 8, 2021

Remotely-piloted sailboats monitor ‘cold pools’ in tropical environments

red sailboat on blue ocean

A UW-led study uses data from remotely-piloted sailboats to better understand cold air pools — pockets of cooler air that form when rain evaporates below tropical storm clouds. These fleeting weather phenomena are thought to influence tropical weather patterns.


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 29, 2021

Air pollution from wildfires impacts ability to observe birds

yellow warbler up close

Researchers from the University of Washington provide a first look at the probability of observing common birds as air pollution worsens during wildfire seasons. They found that smoke affected the ability to detect more than a third of the bird species studied in Washington state over a four-year period. Sometimes smoke made it harder to observe birds, while other species were actually easier to detect when smoke was present.


June 17, 2021

Interim deans named in UW College of the Environment and University Libraries

University of Washington Provost Mark A. Richards has announced interim deans for both the College of the Environment and University Libraries.


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 3, 2021

South Pole and East Antarctica warmer than previously thought during last ice age, two studies show

closeup of ice in metal barrel

University of Washington glaciologists are co-authors on two papers that analyzed Antarctic ice cores to understand the continent’s air temperatures during the most recent glacial period. The results help understand how the region behaves during a major climate transition.


June 2, 2021

Maya Tolstoy named dean of the UW College of the Environment

headshot

Maya Tolstoy has been named the Maggie Walker Dean of the College of the Environment, University of Washington Provost Mark Richards announced today. Tolstoy’s appointment as dean, set to begin Jan. 1, 2022, is subject to approval by the UW Board of Regents.


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.


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.


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 26, 2021

Four UW faculty named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Four University of Washington faculty members have been inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.


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

Video: 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.


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.


ArtSci Roundup: Katz Distinguished Lecture: Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Contemporary Environmental Issues In Taiwan, Global Perspectives on Restorative Justice & Race, and More

During this time of uncertainty and isolation, find solace in digital opportunities to connect, share, and engage. Each week, we will share upcoming events that bring the UW, and the greater community, together online.  Many of these online opportunities are streamed through Zoom. All UW faculty, staff, and students have access to Zoom Pro via UW-IT.  Joff…


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 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 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

UW announces Maggie Walker Deanship in the College of the Environment

headshot

The University of Washington today announced a major gift that elevates the importance of climate change and secures the legacy of Seattle philanthropist Maggie Walker by creating a namesake deanship for the College of the Environment.


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.



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