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.

At the UW, smart grids put a lid on energy use

September 26, 2013

Since 2007, the Department of Energy has authorized billions in matching grants to fund smart-grid demonstration projects across the country. The University of Washington recently received $5.1 million of these funds to partner with Seattle City Light, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and McKinstry in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, a $178 million venture spanning Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Cables, instruments installed in the deep sea off Pacific Northwest coast

September 18, 2013

After almost seven weeks at sea, University of Washington scientists and engineers have installed pieces for a historic observatory. Sitting on the ocean floor are 14 miles of cable connected to sensors, seismometers and a high-definition video camera, poised to send status updates from the deep ocean.

“It went well, we accomplished all of our goals,” said principal investigator John Delaney, a UW professor of oceanography. “It’s very exciting to see this thing coming together.”

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.

New ocean forecast could help predict fish habitat six months in advance

August 30, 2013

People are now used to long-term weather forecasts that predict what the coming winter may bring. But University of Washington researchers and federal scientists have developed the first long-term forecast of conditions that matter for Pacific Northwest fisheries.

“Being able to predict future phytoplankton blooms, ocean temperatures and low-oxygen events could help fisheries managers,” said Samantha Siedlecki, a research scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean.

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.