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58 posts in In the News

Ice-sheets in the Northern Hemisphere drove climate variability in the Southern Hemisphere

A new study by PCC community members, Eric Steig and Brad Markle, is out in Nature. The team, led by researchers at University of Colorado, Boulder, demonstrated that climate variability in the Southern Hemisphere was forced by ice-sheet topography in the Northern Hemisphere. By using a fully-coupled climate model, the team determined the reason for the observed change in the ice core. They demonstrate that the retreat of the Laurentide–Cordilleran ice-sheets fundamentally altered the circulation of the ocean and atmosphere by reducing the strength of interactions between the tropical Pacific and high southern latitudes. Their results show that interannual and decadal variability in West Antarctica was reduced by nearly half during this retreat.

Read More in Nature

LuAnne Thompson on climate science and travel

LuAnne Thompson, a Professor of the School of Oceanography and previous Director of the Program on Climate Change (PCC), recently spoke to KUOW about the struggle to reconcile the convenience of flying while being a climate scientist. Many climate scientists travel constantly throughout the year for conferences and advisory meetings causing individual greenhouse gas emission levels to soar. However, Thompson believes we have to acknowledge that, "even with really good web technology, it’s not going to be as good as a face to face meeting and that’s maybe a compromise we need to make.”

Read More at KUOW

Abby Swann on Forecast: a podcast about climate science and climate change

Assistant Professor Abby Swann was recently featured on Forecast, a podcast about climate science and climate change. Michael White, Nature's editor for climate science and host of Forecast, talked with Swann about how plants respond to and affect climate change. Understanding the interactions of vegetation with the atmosphere usually involve long, convoluted, and complex stories, however, Swann eloquently describes such interactions in simple ways in this podcast.

Listen at Forecast

Knut Christianson on the need for self-steering drones under Antarctica’s ice shelves

Knut Christianson, an assistant professor of Earth and Space Sciences, was profiled in the Scientific American about his current multi-million dollar project. Christianson, along with the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies foundation, will send a fleet of seven underwater robots into the world on a risky yearlong mission. Their goal is to help forecast sea level rise by observing the melting processes where layers of warm and cool water mix at the shelf. The complex physics in this unique region are poorly understood and make for a highly intriguing study. Scientists have been unable to make robust predictions about the ice shelves’ future and this seeks to change that.

Read More at Scientific American

New species relationships and interactions due to climate change

A new study led by doctoral student Elli Theobald, doctoral student Ian Breckheimer and biology professor Janneke Hille Ris Lambers help to uncover what subalpine communities may look like by the end of this century. Over the course of a few summers, the researchers studied the flowering patterns among the alpine species. They noted that the anomalous conditions of the 2015 suggested that new patterns of reassembled wildflower communities will occur, with unknown ecological consequences. However, there is not enough information to know who the "winners" and "losers" of reassembly will be, or even what "winning" or "losing" in this scenario would look like.

Read More at ESA

Mountain glacier change from space

David Shean, a soon-to-be assistant professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering, has developed a new way of measuring mountain glacier change. Shean uses high-resolution satellite images to track elevation changes on local mountain glacier regions. His hope is to integrate the observations of glaciers with climate models and ask, "based on what we know now, where are these systems headed?". This prediction could be used to better manage water supplies and flood risks in a warmer world.  

Read More at UW News

PCC Director Cecilia Bitz helps explain Antarctica's massive polyna

A polyna is an area of open water in sea-ice. Polynas are special because they are formed by either warm oceanic upwelling beneath sea-ice or strong katabatic winds from above—or both. Polynas give scientists a view into the processes underneath sea-ice. This specific polyna is the size of Maine and has not been seen since the 1970s. Bitz ("Dr. Sea Ice"), was interviewed by Bustle to help explain this odd event and what it means for sea-ice research.

Read More at Bustle

Former PCC member, Mark Zelinka, tries to clear the cloud-feedback problem

In a recent paper in Nature Climate Change, Mark Zelinka (former PCC member) adds to the discussion of the cloud-feedback problem. Zelinka proposes that the cloud feedback is likely positive rather than negative. Zelinka states that our understanding of the uncertainty "in cloud feedback is a dominant cause of uncertainty in projections of global warming and hence more societal relevant aspects of climate, such as sea-level rise and changes in precipitation, continued progress is necessary".

Read more at Nature Climate Change

Distorted news and scientific studies

Abby Swann, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences and biology at the University of Washington, recently talked to Earth & Space Science News (EOS) about the rise in disinformation of scientific results. A study she conducted in 2016 about modeling found that forest loss in the southwestern United States and the Amazon could actually cause trees to grow faster in the southeastern United States and eastern South America. Ready to combat articles that were going to skew the results, Swann armed herself with talking points on non-climate-related benefits of trees. As of right now, only one right-wing newspaper in Australia has written a misleading article about her work.

Read More at EOS

Greg Johnson, of NOAA's PMEL, will lead massive Deep ARGO project

Greg Johnson, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle received a $4 million grant from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies to deploy the first large-scale array of the new sensors, called Deep Argo floats. Johnson states that “understanding ocean temperatures is vital to understanding climate and climate change. Since 1970, the oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat from greenhouse warming”. 

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