New system could predict how climate change will affect future fishing conditions

October 28, 2013

Fishermen often find themselves at the mercy of conditions that exist well outside of their control: extreme weather, temperature, breeding cycles, fuel prices, dock prices for their catch and so much more. But what if some of those conditions could be predicted not just days but months into the future? Would the fishing industry be better able to adapt?

New study explains increase in Antarctic sea ice

October 20, 2013

As the Arctic sea ice melt continues to concern many within the scientific community, it is an increase in Antarctic sea ice that has raised questions. UW research scientist and associate professor Jinlun Zhang recently released a study examining the reason for this phenomenon.

Although global sea ice is still in decline, certain areas of Antarctica have experienced an increase in sea ice thickness. According to Zhang’s research, this trend is due to an increase in winds in the southern oceans that decrease surface air temperature, causing the sea ice to ridge more often.

UW researchers helped draft international assessment of climate change

September 30, 2013

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change late last week released its summary for policy-makers, the Cliffs Notes version of the massive international assessment released about every six years.

The full text of the fifth IPCC report was released today, and University of Washington atmospheric science professors Dennis Hartmann and Chris Bretherton were among 209 researchers from 39 countries who were lead authors on the 900-page report.

Stronger winds explain puzzling growth of sea ice in Antarctica

September 17, 2013

Much attention is paid to melting sea ice in the Arctic. But less clear is the situation on the other side of the planet. Despite warmer air and oceans, there’s more sea ice in Antarctica now than in the 1970s – a fact often pounced on by global warming skeptics. The latest numbers suggest the Antarctic sea ice may be heading toward a record high this year.

Breaking deep-sea waves reveal mechanism for global ocean mixing

September 9, 2013

Waves breaking over sandy beaches are captured in countless tourist photos. But enormous waves breaking deep in the ocean are seldom seen, although they play a crucial role in long-term climate cycles.

A University of Washington study for the first time recorded such a wave breaking in a key bottleneck for circulation in the world’s largest ocean. The study was published online this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Earth orbit changes were key to Antarctic warming that ended last ice age

August 14, 2013

For more than a century scientists have known that Earth’s ice ages are caused by the wobbling of the planet’s orbit, which changes its orientation to the sun and affects the amount of sunlight reaching higher latitudes, particularly the polar regions.

The Northern Hemisphere’s last ice age ended about 20,000 years ago, and most evidence has indicated that the ice age in the Southern Hemisphere ended about 2,000 years later, suggesting that the south was responding to warming in the north.

Ocean acidification center another example of state leading the nation

August 8, 2013

Washington’s governor and state legislators in the last session created a hub at the University of Washington to coordinate research and monitoring of ocean acidification and its effects on local sea life such as oysters, clams and fish.

Based on what’s learned, the center will marshal efforts to improve the ability to forecast when and where corrosive waters might occur and suggest adaptive strategies to mitigate the effects.

Scientists review the ecological effects of sea ice loss

August 1, 2013

The Arctic Ocean has more open water each summer, a trend most scientists predict will continue in coming years. September 2012 set the record for the most open water since satellite observations began.

A University of Washington researcher is co-author on a review paper published this week (Aug. 2) in the journal Science looking at the ecological consequences of sea ice decline.

Santa’s workshop not flooded – but lots of melting in the Arctic

July 30, 2013

Santa’s workshop at the North Pole is not under water, despite recent reports. A dramatic image captured by a University of Washington monitoring buoy reportedly shows a lake at the North Pole. But Santa doesn’t yet need to buy a snorkel.

“Every summer when the sun melts the surface the water has to go someplace, so it accumulates in these ponds,” said Jamie Morison, a polar scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and principal investigator since 2000 of the North Pole Environmental Observatory. “This doesn’t look particularly extreme.”