UW News

polar science


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.


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.


February 27, 2020

Video: Warming Arctic means less ice, bigger waves

ship surrounded by ice

Throughout the month of November 2019, a team of University of Washington researchers chased storms in the Arctic Ocean. The project, Coastal Ocean Dynamics in the Arctic, or CODA, is looking at how water currents shift and waves hit the coast with more open water, to provide better forecasts and predictions for the region’s future.


February 12, 2020

Polar bears in Baffin Bay skinnier, having fewer cubs due to less sea ice

polar bear walking

Satellite tracking of adult females and visual monitoring of polar bears in Baffin Bay show changes from the 1990s to the period from 2009 to 2015. Bears in Baffin Bay are getting thinner and adult females are having fewer cubs than when sea ice was more available.


December 12, 2019

Video: 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 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.


July 11, 2019

Super salty, subzero Arctic water provides peek at possible life on other planets

ice crystals on roof of cave

A UW team has discovered thriving communities of bacteria in Alaskan “cryopegs,” trapped layers of sediment with water so salty that it remains liquid at below-freezing temperatures. The setting may be similar to environments on Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, or other bodies farther from the sun.


June 10, 2019

Mysterious holes in Antarctic sea ice explained by years of robotic data

map of white ice with dark hole

Why did a giant hole appear in the sea ice off Antarctica in 2016 and 2017, after decades of more typical sea ice cover? Years of Southern Ocean data have explained the phenomenon, helping oceanographers to better predict these features and study their role in global ocean cycles.


April 25, 2019

Public talks kick off study of ice loss, warming and coastal changes in northern Alaska

flat peninsula and water

A UW team will visit Alaska’s North Slope Borough the week of April 28 in preparation for a two-year study of how waves, ice loss and warming are affecting the low-lying region.


March 4, 2019

Mystery of green icebergs may soon be solved

green iceberg on blue background

Research by UW’s Stephen Warren suggests that some icebergs are green because they contain frozen, iron-rich seawater from certain regions of East Antarctica.


February 28, 2019

Polar science, climate change and, yes, dance mix this weekend at Pacific Science Center

Laidre in blue parka with polar bear cubs

Exhibits and events happening Friday through Sunday showcase the latest in polar science, much of it from the University of Washington.


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.


December 18, 2018

February’s big patch of open water off Greenland? Not global warming, says new analysis

map of open water

New analysis shows that odd winds, not warming, caused the unusual patch of open water north of Greenland last February.


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.


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.


July 2, 2018

Study identifies which marine mammals are most at risk from increased Arctic ship traffic

aerial view of whales surrounded by ice

Regions of Arctic water are becoming ice-free in late summer and early fall. A new study is the first to consider potential impacts on the marine mammals that use this region and identify which populations will be the most vulnerable to ships.


June 4, 2018

Polar scientist Kristin Laidre documents perspectives of polar bear hunters in East Greenland

photograph of subsistence hunter

Twenty-five polar bear hunters in East Greenland were interviewed before the first formal assessment of this subpopulation, one of 19 subpopulations of polar bears in a changing Arctic.


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 27, 2018

UW researcher, Fulbright Scholar, spent winter above the Arctic Circle

green bands of lights in dark sky

Oceanographer Cecilia Peralta Ferriz is spending the academic year in Tromsø, Norway, to collaborate with colleagues who study flow out of the Arctic Ocean.


April 3, 2018

Bowhead whales, the ‘jazz musicians’ of the Arctic, sing many different songs

whale near floating ice

Bowhead whales are constantly changing their tune, unlike the only other whale species that sings, the humpback.


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.


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.


November 15, 2017

Salt pond in Antarctica, among the saltiest waters on Earth, is fed from beneath

pond in bare valley with blue sky

One of the saltiest bodies on Earth, an analog to how water might exist on Mars, shows signs of being one piece of a larger aquifer.


September 20, 2017

Wave Glider surfs across stormy Drake Passage in Antarctica

yellow board on ship deck

A hardy ocean drone made a first-ever attempt to surf across Antarctica’s stormy Drake Passage gathering data about ocean mixing.


August 31, 2017

Record-low 2016 Antarctic sea ice due to ‘perfect storm’ of tropical, polar conditions

map of Antarctica

This exceptional, sudden nosedive in Antarctic sea ice last year was due to a unique one-two punch from atmospheric conditions both in the tropical Pacific Ocean and around the South Pole.


July 27, 2017

UW building underwater robots to study oceans around Antarctica

people looking at float

Oceanographers are building swimming robots to carry out an ambitious mission gathering climate data from one of Earth’s most challenging locations: the icy water that surrounds Antarctica.


March 15, 2017

How to conserve polar bears — and maintain subsistence harvest — under climate change

Polar bear testing the ice thickness

A new analysis shows a properly-managed subsistence harvest of polar bears can continue under climate change.


March 13, 2017

Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice a combination of climate change and natural variability

a photo of Arctic sea ice as seen from an ice breaker

Dramatic declines in Arctic sea ice during the past four decades are due to a mixture of global warming and a natural decades-long hot spot over Greenland.


March 1, 2017

Polar Science Weekend attractions range from old-fashioned ice sled to future NASA satellite

Polar Science Weekend poster

University of Washington polar scientists are holding the 12th annual Polar Science Weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 3-5, at Pacific Science Center in Seattle. This year’s lineup includes a simulation from NASA of its new ICESat-2 instrument. Visitors can get scanned by an instrument above their head that measures a person’s height using an infrared…


February 8, 2017

Hidden lakes drain below West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier

topography of lakes

Drainage of four interconnected lakes below Thwaites Glacier in late 2013 caused only a 10 percent increase in the glacier’s speed. The glacier’s recent speedup is therefore not due to changes in meltwater flow along its underside.


January 11, 2017

UW oceanographer dropping robotic floats on voyage to Antarctica

people lifting sensor

Autonomous floating sensors built at the UW are being deployed to track conditions in the waters surrounding Antarctica.


January 10, 2017

Rapid Arctic warming has in the past shifted Southern Ocean winds

closeup of ice core in drill

Ice core records from the two poles show that during the last ice age, sharp spikes in Arctic temperatures triggered shifts in the winds around Antarctica.


November 18, 2016

Q&A: Harry Stern discusses historical maps, the Northwest Passage and the future of Arctic Ocean shipping

Historic map with red markings

See also: “How Capt. James Cook’s intricate 1778 records reveal global warming today in Arctic” Seattle Times, Nov. 16 Harry Stern, a polar scientist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, has been studying the Arctic Ocean for decades, and sailed part of the Northwest Passage in 2009. Stern’s latest work uses the earliest…


July 7, 2016

Arctic sea ice volume, now tracking record low, stars in data visualization

four maps of Arctic Ocean

With Arctic sea ice roughly tied with previous record-low years, a University of Washington tool that tallies the total volume of ice in the Arctic Ocean is attracting attention.



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