Coal trains fire up UW chemist

May 7, 2013

Dan Jaffe says he didn’t set out intending to go all rogue with his science.

“What happened is I was getting discouraged,” he says. “I was starting to wonder whether anyone would even be allowed to ask these basic questions. So I went outside the system.”

Jaffe is no anarchist, but an atmospheric chemist at the University of Washington.

For 20-plus years he’s followed the conventional path for doing science in this country, which is to apply for grants from the government or corporate-backed groups.

Seattle plan would make city carbon neutral by 2050

The king tides that swamped Alki last winter might be a harbinger of the effects of climate change on Seattle. Diminished snowpack in the Cascades could mean less drinking water and less cheap hydroelectricity. A 3-meter rise in sea level could swamp the Duwamish Waterway, the working port, Sodo and its industrial lands.

While steps Seattle takes to reduce emissions would have little effect on the global climate and those potential threats, they could demonstrate what one city can do to dramatically reduce its own sources of greenhouse gases, said City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

Arbor Day Foundation Names University of Washington a 2012 Tree Campus USA

April 26, 2013

Recognizing excellence in campus tree management, Tree Campus USA engages both the student body and the wider community in the establishment and maintenance of community forests. Since 2010 the University of Washington has held the proud distinction of Tree Campus USA recognition.

Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Toyota helped launch the program and continues its generous financial support this year.

Space-age domes offer a window on ocean acidification

A row of space-age domes off the Washington coast may provide a peek at the future. Not the future of space travel, but of climate change and the effects of increasingly acidic oceans.

A University of Washington class is using the nation’s first controlled-ocean research tool to study the effects of increased acidity on marine ecosystems.

“The goal is to study the impact of ocean acidification on biological community structure in seawater from the San Juan Islands,” said James Murray, a UW oceanography professor.

The paradox of reduce-reuse-recycle

When I think Cleantech, my mind goes straight to the triangular logo on my waste container at work: “reduce, reuse, recycle.”  These three words are central to most enduring cleantech innovations, though sometimes in paradoxical ways.  “Reduce” is the most prone to paradox, since reducing one thing generally happens by increasing another. Let’s explore this “reduce” paradox via two well-known examples in that space.

How to Tackle the Most Critical Environmental Issues of 2013

I got my first sense of environmental science as a child growing up in Toledo, Ohio. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Toledo has a number of beaches. But we never spent any time near the sand -- because Lake Erie was the largest dying body of water in the world, and the beach was toxic.

That said, my family was happy they weren't in Cleveland, where the Cuyahoga River spontaneously combusted.

Remote clouds responsible for climate models’ glitch in tropical rainfall

It seems counterintuitive that clouds over the Southern Ocean, which circles Antarctica, would cause rain in Zambia or the tropical island of Java. But new research finds that one of the most persistent biases in global climate models – a phantom band of rainfall just south of the equator that does not occur in reality – is caused by poor simulation of the cloud cover thousands of miles farther to the south.