Op-ed: Maintain state’s transportation network with a carbon tax

WE have a transportation problem. The governor’s Connecting Washington report identified a maintenance shortfall of almost $800 million per year over the next 10 years just to keep roads, bridges and ferries in safe working order.

We have a climate problem. Carbon concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise, and the scientific consensus about the risks of global warming continues to build.

With climate change, winter isn't what it used to be

At 3:12 a.m. Friday, winter arrived in Seattle.

The winter solstice marks the season of rest and renewal, a quiet, dark time in which nature catches its breath.

Scientists are only now realizing, though, how climate change unleashes a cascade of effects on this season.

Here, and elsewhere around the country, while winter weather can still be ferocious — witness the storm hammering the Midwest — the long-term trend, or climate, shows winter isn't what it used to be. And more change is ahead.

Greenland ice sheet carries evidence of increased atmospheric acidity

Research has shown a decrease in levels of the isotope nitrogen-15 in core samples from Greenland ice starting around the time of the Industrial Revolution. The decrease has been attributed to a corresponding increase in nitrates associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

However, new University of Washington research suggests that the decline in nitrogen-15 is more directly related to increased acidity in the atmosphere.

International study provides more solid measure of shrinking in polar ice sheets

The planet’s two largest ice sheets have been losing ice faster during the past decade, causing widespread confusion and concern. A new international study provides a firmer read on the state of continental ice sheets and how much they are contributing to sea-level rise.

Dozens of climate scientists have reconciled their measurements of ice sheet changes in Antarctica and Greenland during the past two decades. The results, published Nov. 29 in the journal Science, roughly halve the uncertainty and discard some conflicting observations.

UW to work with state agencies to reduce ocean acidification

Gov. Christine Gregoire announced Tuesday that state agencies will be taking action to combat the problem of ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest, including the potential opening of a research center at the UW, as an executive order.

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, appointed by Gregoire to review the subject, recommended Gregoire take steps to reduce harm on marine wildlife from ocean acidification. When pH levels drop in seawater, the water becomes acidic. The effects of this on shellfish and marine life are detrimental.

Puget Sound encyclopedia launches online

October 27, 2012

An encyclopedia specific to the Puget Sound region is now available online to the general public. This encyclopedia is the first if its kind in the area.

The new encyclopedia is compiled by a network of researchers and students. The Puget Sound Institute (PSI) — an agreement among the UW, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Puget Sound Partnership — spearheaded the project. Regional scientists reviewed the encyclopedia to ensure accuracy.

“This is a new way of doing science,” said Lisa Graumlich, dean of the College of the Environment.

Shrinking snow depth on Arctic sea ice threatens ringed seal habitat

As sea ice in the Arctic continues to shrink during this century, more than two thirds of the area with sufficient snow cover for ringed seals to reproduce also will disappear, challenging their survival, scientists report in a new study.

The ringed seal, currently under consideration for threatened species listing, builds caves to rear its young in snow drifts on sea ice. Snow depths must be on average at least 20 centimeters, or 8 inches, to enable drifts deep enough to support the caves.