UW News

Department of Earth and Space Sciences


September 16, 2020

Most landslides in western Oregon triggered by heavy rainfall, not big earthquakes

hills and sunset

Researchers at the University of Washington, Portland State University and the University of Oregon have shown that deep-seated landslides in the central Oregon Coast Range are triggered mostly by rainfall, not by large offshore earthquakes. The open-access paper was published Sept. 16 in Science Advances. “Geomorphologists have long understood the importance of rainfall in triggering…


July 16, 2020

7 University of Washington researchers elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences in 2020

Seven scientists and engineers at the University of Washington have been elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences, according to an announcement July 15 by the academy.


June 9, 2020

Volcanic activity and changes in Earth’s mantle were key to rise of atmospheric oxygen

layered brown rock

Evidence from rocks billions of years old suggest that volcanoes played a key role in the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere of the early Earth.


May 12, 2020

Seismologists to host virtual event on 40th anniversary of Mount St. Helens eruption

snow-covered mountain with smoke

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at the University of Washington, will host an online event on the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, featuring seismologists from the UW and other institutions who can explain the events before, during and after the historic blast. The virtual event will take place from 6:30…


May 6, 2020

Faculty/staff honors: Distinguished contributions to Asian studies, social equity award, Swedish physical geography honor, new Cascade Public Media director

Recent honors to University of Washington faculty and staff have come from the Association of Asian Studies, the American Society of Public Administration, the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography and Cascade Public Media.


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 23, 2020

ArtSci Roundup: Labor On-line: A Virtual Seminar Series, The Henry’s Re/Frame moves online, and more

collage of art and portraits

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 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.  Film Screening:…


April 16, 2020

‘Hands-on’ classes online? How some instructors are adapting to a new teaching environment

A postal service box with lab materials inside

When the UW announced it was moving its spring quarter 2020 classes entirely online to combat the novel coronavirus, instructors across campus faced a new, uncharted challenge.


April 1, 2020

UW-created podcasts: ‘Crossing North’ by Scandinavian Studies — also College of Education, Information School’s Joe Janes, a discussion of soil health

Logo for podcast "Crossng North," by UW Dept of Scandinavian Studies

UW Notebook visits with the producer of “Crossing North,” a podcast by the Scandinavian Studies Department, and notes other podcasts on campus and an appearance by David Montgomery on the podcast “Undark.”


March 10, 2020

‘Age of A.I.’ documentary on YouTube features UW experts

three people stare at graph on screen

A documentary series produced and released this winter by YouTube features UW computer scientist Pedro Domingos and members of the UW-based Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.


February 13, 2020

Researchers at AAAS to discuss latest science on Cascadia earthquake hazards

earthquake damage to brick building

At a Saturday afternoon session, researchers from the University of Washington and federal agencies will discuss the emerging research on Pacific Northwest megaquakes.


January 24, 2020

Tiny, ancient meteorites suggest early Earth’s atmosphere was rich in carbon dioxide

shiny black balls on red background

Tiny meteorites that fell to Earth 2.7 billion years ago suggest that the atmosphere at that time was high in carbon dioxide, which agrees with current understanding of how our planet’s atmospheric gases changed over time.


January 9, 2020

By the numbers: UW in the media in 2019

collage of portraits

In 2019, the University of Washington was mentioned in 4,143 news articles around the world. Among those, UW experts were quoted 2,290 times: 1,185 in national or international outlets and 1,105 in regional and local outlets.


December 30, 2019

Life could have emerged from lakes with high phosphorus

A lake in Africa with flamingoes and zebras along its shore.

Life as we know it requires phosphorus, which is scarce. So, how did a lifeless environment on the early Earth supply this key ingredient? A new UW study, published Dec. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds an answer to this problem in certain types of carbonate-rich lakes.


December 12, 2019

Barrels of ancient Antarctic air aim to track history of rare gas

snow and tents

An Antarctic field campaign last winter led by the U.S. and Australia has successfully extracted some of the largest samples of air dating from the 1870s until today. Researchers will use the samples to look for changes in the molecules that scrub the atmosphere of methane and other gases.


November 26, 2019

Six UW faculty members named AAAS fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has named six faculty members from the University of Washington as AAAS Fellows, according to a Nov. 26 announcement. They are part of a cohort of 443 new fellows for 2019, all chosen by their peers for “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”


October 31, 2019

Washington’s first student-built satellite preparing for launch

tall silver rectangle inside glass box that reads "flight hardware"

After years of preparation, a tiny satellite built by UW students is scheduled to launch early Saturday, Nov. 2, from a NASA flight facility in Virginia. The launch will be broadcast live on NASA TV.


September 9, 2019

Lightning ‘superbolts’ form over oceans from November to February

Flash of lightning on black background

A study of superbolts, which release a thousand times more electrical energy in the low-frequency range than regular lightning bolts, finds they occur at very different times and places than regular lightning. Superbolts tend to strike over particular parts of the oceans, while regular lightning strikes over land.


August 19, 2019

USGS awards $10.4M to ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system in the Pacific Northwest

The U.S. Geological Survey announced $10.4 million in funding to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at University of Washington, to support the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. Some $7.3 million of the two-year funding total will go to the UW.


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.


July 30, 2019

Soundbites: UW hosts student robotics ‘moon landing’ challenge

Two fifth-grade boys from Forks, WA point out design elements of their LEGO lunar rover.

A robotics challenge July 20th at the UW featured twenty-eight teams of middle and high schoolers from Forks to Walla Walla and from Bellingham to Olympia. The event marked a half-century since the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon and two U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked its surface.


Video: UW hosts student robotics ‘moon landing’ challenge

Two fifth-grade boys from Forks, WA point out design elements of their LEGO lunar rover.

A robotics challenge July 20th at the UW featured twenty-eight teams of middle and high schoolers from Forks to Walla Walla and from Bellingham to Olympia. The event marked a half-century since the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon and two U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked its surface.


July 17, 2019

UW hosts student robotics challenge Friday to mark 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing

three girls with drone

This Friday, teams of 5th- through 12th-grade students from across Washington state will complete a challenge in Kane Hall to mimic the 1969 Apollo moon landing, using drones and Lego robots.


May 30, 2019

Seismologists seek space on volunteers’ floors and lawns to study Seattle seismic risks

Seattle map shaded brown

A series of seismic experiments will take place this summer in the Seattle area. The researchers are looking for volunteer sites throughout the region.


April 15, 2019

Historic logging site shows first human-caused bedrock erosion along an entire river

orange trees by riverbank

Over many years, a University of Washington team has shown how logging on the Teanaway River in central Washington caused dramatic changes to the river channel.


March 29, 2019

North Dakota site shows wreckage from same object that killed the dinosaurs

cartoon of waves and animal images

A new excavation site in North Dakota shows evidence from the day a giant meteor struck Earth, marking the beginning of the end for the dinosaurs and 75 percent of animal life.


January 30, 2019

UW-based group launches national challenge to recreate first moon landing — with drones and Lego robots

robot with lunar lander

A UW-based group is launching a national student challenge to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo moon landing.


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 10, 2018

Ancient whale named for UW paleontologist Elizabeth Nesbitt

person with bones

A new species of whale discovered in 33-million-year-old Oregon rock has been named for Elizabeth Nesbitt, a curator at the Burke Museum and faculty member in the UW’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences.


October 25, 2018

Q&A: Provost Mark Richards’ welcome lecture asks: ‘What really killed the dinosaurs?’

Mark Richards in front of brick building

Provost Mark Richards answers questions surrounding the topic of his welcome lecture, Tuesday afternoon in the HUB Lyceum.


October 4, 2018

Q&A with Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

man smiling

Harold Tobin, who joins the UW this fall as a faculty member in Earth and space sciences and director of the regional seismic sensing network, discusses earthquake early warning, seismic risks and the Pacific Northwest’s “big one.”


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.


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.


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 3, 2018

Four UW students honored by Goldwater Foundation

School shot

Three University of Washington undergraduates are among 211 students nationwide named as 2018 Goldwater Scholars. One UW student received honorable mention.


April 2, 2018

Earth’s stable temperature past suggests other planets could also sustain life

image of early Earth with thermometer and pH strip overlaid

Earth has had moderate temperatures throughout its early history, and neutral seawater acidity. This means other rocky planets could likely also maintain this equilibrium and allow life to evolve.


March 19, 2018

University of Washington graduate and professional disciplines rank highly in US News’ Best Graduate School lists

library at night

Nearly 50 different graduate and professional programs and specialties at the University of Washington are among the top 10 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Best Graduate School rankings released March 20.


March 6, 2018

Glaciers in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert actually shrank during the last ice age

researchers walking on ice

High in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, the climate is so dry and cold that glaciers shrank during the last ice age. Dating of rock deposits shows how glaciers in this less-studied region can behave very differently as the climate shifts.


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.



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