UW News

College of the Environment


May 17, 2024

UW atmospheric scientist participating in field campaign to improve Western snowfall, drought forecasts

Wooden building with snow and blue skies

A UW atmospheric scientist will participate in a campaign to study winter storms and snowfall in northwestern Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Like Seattle, this area depends on winter snow for its summer water supplies, so improving mountain snow forecasts will improve projections for summer drought and wildfire risks.


May 15, 2024

Scientists want to know how the smells of nature benefit our health

A tree canopy in a tropical rainforest.

Spending time in nature is good for us. And knowing more about nature’s effects on our bodies could not only help our well-being, but could also improve how we care for land, preserve ecosystems and design cities, homes and parks. Many studies have focused on how seeing nature affects us. A team of scientists from around the world wants to understand what the nose knows. They are calling for more research into how odors and scents from natural settings impact our health and well-being.


May 14, 2024

UW-led project to study ozone, atmospheric layers a finalist for next-generation NASA satellite

horizon with horizontal layers of black, red, black and blue

A project led by the University of Washington to better understand our atmosphere’s complexity is a finalist for NASA’s next generation of Earth-observing satellites. STRIVE will receive $5 million to conduct a one-year concept study, and then will hear whether it is selected for launch.


May 9, 2024

Navy Growler jet noise over Whidbey Island could impact 74,000 people’s health

Two men facing away from the camera watch a blurred jet land on an airstrip. The men are both wearing over-ear headphones.

As often as four days a week, Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island fly loops overhead as pilots practice touch-and-go landings. The noise is immense. New research from the University of Washington shows that the noise isn’t just disruptive — it presents a substantial risk to public health.


May 2, 2024

Qiang Fu, Raymond Huey elected to National Academy of Sciences

Two University of Washington researchers are among the newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences. Qiang Fu, professor of atmospheric sciences, and Raymond Huey, professor emeritus of biology, are among those recognized with one of the highest honors a scientist can achieve.


April 23, 2024

Daniel James Brown to address UW’s Class of 2024

man at podium

Daniel James Brown, the author of “Boys in the Boat,” the story of the 1936 University of Washington men’s rowing team, will deliver the 2024 Commencement address for the 149th ceremony, which takes place June 8 at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium.


Author Daniel James Brown and MIT atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon to receive honorary degrees at UW’s 2024 Commencement

head shot of a man and a woman

The University of Washington 149th Commencement is scheduled for Saturday, June 8, at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. This year, the UW will recognize best-selling author Daniel James Brown and Susan Solomon, a professor of environmental science and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both will receive honorary degrees for their contributions to the humanities and sciences.


April 17, 2024

Ice age climate analysis reduces worst-case warming expected from rising CO2

four woolly mammoths on frozen ground

A detailed reconstruction of climate during the most recent ice age, when a large swath of North America was covered in ice, provides information on the relationship between CO2 and global temperature. Results show that while most future warming estimates remain unchanged, the absolute worst-case scenario is unlikely.


April 10, 2024

Ranking: UW recognized as among the best in the world

building

The University of Washington has been named one of the world’s top universities, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject released Wednesday.


New report ‘braids’ Indigenous and Western knowledge for forest adaptation strategies against climate change

treated forest

Forests could also be potential bulwarks against climate change. But, increasingly severe droughts and wildfires, invasive species, and large insect outbreaks — all intensified by climate change — are straining many national forests and surrounding lands. A report by a team of 40 experts outlines a new approach to forest stewardship that “braids together” Indigenous knowledge and Western science to conserve and restore more resilient forestlands. Published March 25, the report provides foundational material to inform future work on climate-smart adaptive management practices for USDA Forest Service land managers.


April 4, 2024

What four decades of canned salmon reveal about marine food webs

University of Washington researchers have shown that levels of anisakid worms — a common marine parasite — rose in two salmon species in the Gulf of Alaska and Bristol Bay over a 42-year period. The team discovered this by studying salmon caught, killed and canned from 1979 to 2021. Since anisakid worms have a complex life cycle involving multiple types of hosts, the researchers interpret their rising numbers as a potential sign of ecosystem recovery, possibly driven by rising numbers of marine mammals thanks to the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.


In the Field: UW researchers traveling to capture total solar eclipse

orange orb on black background

Baptiste Journaux, a UW faculty member in Earth and space sciences, and four graduate students will travel to Arkansas on Monday to view the total solar eclipse. They will use a special telescope to capture images of solar features that can be viewed most clearly during an eclipse. 


March 22, 2024

Signs of life detectable in single ice grain emitted from extraterrestrial moons

illustration of gray planet spewing white mist on black background

Could life be found in frozen sea spray emitted from moons orbiting Saturn or Jupiter? New research finds that life can be detected in a single ice grain containing one bacterial cell or portions of a cell. The results suggest that if life similar to that on Earth exists on these planetary bodies, this life should be detectable by instruments launching in the fall.


March 12, 2024

AI analysis of historical satellite images show USSR collapse in 1990s increased methane emissions, despite lower oil and gas production

buildings with mountains in background

An AI-powered analysis of 25 years of satellite images yields the surprising finding that methane emissions in Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic and major oil-producing region, actually increased in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


March 8, 2024

Video: Predicting cherry tree bloom timing at the UW

Cherry trees on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus are waking up and getting ready to say hello. For the 29 iconic Yoshino cherry trees in the UW Quad, peak bloom will likely begin after March 20.


March 6, 2024

Scientists CT-scanned thousands of natural history specimens, which you can access for free

Natural history museums have entered a new stage of discovery and accessibility — one where scientists around the globe and curious folks at home can access valuable museum specimens to study, learn or just be amazed. This new era follows the completion of openVertebrate, or oVert, a five-year collaborative project among 18 institutions to create 3D reconstructions of vertebrate specimens and make them freely available online. The team behind this endeavor, which includes scientists at the University of Washington and its Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture, published a summary of the project March 6 in the journal BioScience, offering a glimpse of how the data can be used to ask new questions and spur the development of innovative technology.


February 28, 2024

80 mph speed record for glacier fracture helps reveal the physics of ice sheet collapse

drawing of glacier partly above and partly below water

New research documents the fastest-known large-scale breakage along an Antarctic ice shelf. In 2012, a 6.5-mile crack formed in about 5 and a half minutes, showing that ice shelves can effectively shatter, though the speed of breakage is reduced by seawater rushing in. These results can help improve ice-sheet models and projections for future sea level rise.


February 16, 2024

Video: Bringing stars back to the sea 

A clear box suspended deep in the water holds a few sea stars and mussel shells.

Scientists at Friday Harbor Laboratories, a University of Washington facility in the San Juan Islands, are working to help sunflower stars — a type of sea star — grow and thrive once again after their populations along the West Coast were devastated by a mysterious disease called sea star wasting syndrome.


February 8, 2024

Foul fumes pose pollinator problems

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that nighttime air pollution — coming primarily from car exhaust and power plant emissions — is responsible for a major drop in nighttime pollinator activity. Nitrate radicals (NO3) in the air degrade the scent chemicals released by a common wildflower, drastically reducing the scent-based cues that its chief pollinators rely on to locate the flower. The findings, published Feb. 9 in Science, are the first to show how nighttime pollution creates a chain of chemical reactions that degrades scent cues, leaving flowers undetectable by smell. The researchers also determined that pollution likely has worldwide impacts on pollination.


January 29, 2024

Q&A: How ‘slow slip’ earthquakes may be driven by deep hydraulic fracturing

gray rock with lines through it

New research confirms the cause of slow slip along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and other faults that is accompanied by intermittent tremors or “pops” at the surface. Co-authors Marine Denolle and Joan Gomberg discuss the role of fluid-driven fracturing deep underground.


January 22, 2024

Shallow soda lakes show promise as cradles of life on Earth

people walking across large white surface

Field observations from an unusual lake show that in environments known as “soda lakes” phosphate can concentrate at the very high levels needed for the basic molecules of life to emerge. A shallow, salty lake in western Canada gives new support to Charles Darwin’s idea that life could have emerged in a “warm little pond.”


December 19, 2023

How will climate change affect how predators hunt prey? Two UW professors teamed up to find out

A hand wearing a glove next to a paw print in the snow

Two UW professors teamed up to study how climate change will affect predator-prey interactions in snowy landscapes. Together with a group of researchers, the two measured snow properties that led to a “danger zone,” where prey would sink but predators would not.


December 11, 2023

New faculty books: Story and comic collection, Washington state fossils, colonial roots of intersex medicine

Three book covers on a wooden table background

Three new faculty books from the University of Washington cover wide-ranging topics: life in the Rio Grande Valley, fossils of Washington state and the colonial roots of contemporary intersex medicine. UW News talked with the authors to learn more. Collection highlights life in Rio Grande Valley “Puro Pinche True Fictions” is a collection of short…


Beluga whales’ calls may get drowned out by shipping noise in Alaska’s Cook Inlet

pod of beluga whales with shoreline in background

Around Anchorage, communications among the critically endangered population of Cook Inlet beluga whales may be masked by ship noise in their core critical habitat, accordingly to the first repertoire of their calls.


November 30, 2023

More than 40 UW experts on Highly Cited Researchers 2023 List

campus view in fall

The University of Washington is proud to announce that more than 40 faculty and researchers who completed their work while at UW have been named on the annual Highly Cited Researchers 2023 list from Clarivate.


November 16, 2023

In the Field: Tracking seismic clues in one of the driest places on Earth

researcher bends over using rock hammer with desert in background

Two University of Washington geophysicists will travel to the Atacama Desert in Chile this month to study a fault system that’s similar to the Seattle Fault in Puget Sound, but in a much different climate that makes it easier to monitor its effects on the landscape.


November 14, 2023

5th National Climate Assessment authors include UW climate experts

Three UW experts are among the authors of the newly released Fifth National Climate Assessment, an overview of climate trends, impacts and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change across the nation.


November 13, 2023

UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences maintains No. 1 global ranking; more than two dozen UW subjects in top 50

campus entrance

Six University of Washington subjects ranked in the top 10, and atmospheric sciences maintained its position as No. 1 in the world on the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects list for 2023. The ranking, released at the end of October, was conducted by researchers at the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, a fully independent organization dedicated to research on higher education intelligence and consultation.


North Atlantic’s marine productivity may not be declining, according to new study of older ice cores

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of declining phytoplankton in the North Atlantic may have been greatly exaggerated. Analysis of a Greenland ice core going back 800 years shows that atmospheric chemistry, not dwindling phytoplankton populations, explains the recent ice core trends.


November 9, 2023

New York Climate Exchange, on which UW is a core partner, names first CEO

illustration of building on Governors Island with Manhattan in the distance

The New York Climate Exchange, a first-of-its-kind organization working to implement innovative climate solutions in New York City and across the globe, on Nov. 9 announced Stephen Hammer as its founding chief executive officer. The University of Washington is a core member of the exchange.


October 25, 2023

UW experts offer hot takes on El Niño, weather and ocean temperatures

map of global oceans with red spots in Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean

Five University of Washington experts comment on the current El Niño, its effect on Pacific Northwest winter weather, as well as on regional and global ocean temperature trends.


October 18, 2023

DNA shows where Washington culvert replacements helped spawning salmon

Two researchers by a stream seen from inside a culvert

A project led by the UW used genetic sleuthing to study how salmon were affected by two major culvert replacements near the city of Bellingham. One project, a major upgrade under Interstate-5, had a big impact, while the other old culvert may have been less of a barrier to fish. Authors from the UW and NOAA are studying the use of eDNA in future environmental impact reporting.


September 21, 2023

NSF funds internet-connected ocean observatory through 2028

map of Juan de Fuca plate

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Washington $52.4 million over five years to continue operating the Regional Cabled Array, a cabled deep-ocean observatory about 300 miles offshore from Newport, Oregon. The grant is part of a $220 million total investment that will fund the internet-connected ocean observatory, known as the Ocean Observatories Initiative, through 2028.


September 19, 2023

Five UW faculty members elected as AGU Fellows, plus more honors

block W

The American Geophysical Union announced Sept. 13 that five University of Washington faculty members have been elected as new fellows, representing the departments of astronomy, Earth and space sciences, oceanography, global health, and environmental and occupational health sciences.


September 15, 2023

Polar experiments reveal seasonal cycle in Antarctic sea ice algae

sea ice with greenish underside

The frigid ocean surrounding Antarctica is home to much of the region’s photosynthetic life. A new University of Washington study provides the first measurements of how sea-ice algae and other single-celled life handle dramatic seasonal swings, offering clues to how this ecosystem might adapt to climate change.


September 8, 2023

UW a lead partner on new NSF-funded earthquake research center

tsunami evacuation sign

The University of Washington is a lead partner on a new multi-institution earthquake research center that will study the Cascadia subduction zone and bolster earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.


August 31, 2023

Study connects greenhouse gas emissions to polar bear population declines, enabling greater protections under Endangered Species Act

polar bear torso looking at camera

A new paper from the UW and Polar Bears International quantifies the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and the survival of polar bear populations. The paper combines past research and new analysis to provide a quantitative link between greenhouse gas emissions and polar bear survival rates.


August 21, 2023

REBURN: A new tool to model wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and beyond

Researchers with the University of Washington and the U.S. Forest Service have developed a new tool, REBURN, that can simulate large forest landscapes and wildfire dynamics over decades or centuries under different wildfire management strategies. The model can simulate the consequences of extinguishing all wildfires regardless of size, which was done for much of the 20th century and has contributed to a rise in large and severe wildfires, or of allowing certain fires to return to uninhabited areas to help create a more “patchwork” forest structure that can help lessen fire severity. REBURN can also simulate conditions where more benign forest landscape dynamics have fully recovered in an area.


August 9, 2023

In the Field: UW team to spend six weeks visiting deep-ocean observatory

ship by dock in morning sun

Twenty-five undergraduates are among the participants on a 41-day cruise off the Oregon coast aboard the UW’s large research vessel, the R/V Thomas G. Thompson. Principal investigator Deborah Kelley, professor of oceanography, answers questions about the expedition to visit and maintain the cabled ocean observatory.


July 6, 2023

Marine heat waves caused mass seabird die-offs, beach surveys show

dead seabirds lined up on a beach for measurements

New research led by the University of Washington uses data collected by coastal residents along beaches from central California to Alaska to understand how seabirds have fared in recent decades. The paper, published July 6 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, shows that persistent marine heat waves lead to massive seabird die-offs months later.



Next page