News & Blog


Permian Mass Extinction caused by Global Warming

A newly published paper in Science proves that the Permian mass extinction, which is the largest extinction in Earth's history, was caused by global warming that raised ocean temperatures and lowered the amount of oxygen the ocean could hold, making it difficult for marine organisms to survive. Justin Penn, a doctoral student in Oceanography, and Curtis Deutsch, an assistant professor of Oceanography, along with Stanford researchers, modeled climate conditions during the Permian and used published lab measurements and the fossil record to analyze the effects of the changing climate on marine organisms. This study's results, that mass extinction is an effect of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere resulting in a warmer ocean, are important considering our climate now. Penn said, "This study highlights the potential for a mass extinction arising from a similar mechanism under anthropogenic climate change.”

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Teaching Climate Science Using a Local Phenomenon: Harmful Algal Blooms

Climate science is inherently interdisciplinary and complex. Physical processes at a molecular level cascade upward to drive global-scale events. Decisions at a local level impact the health of the global population. How can we effectively teach a topic as complicated as climate science to middle-school students? We did by focusing on a local phenomenon that they themselves can experience, see, touch, and feel. 

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Responding to the National Climate Assessment Report

When paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould heard from his doctor that he had a rare and serious stomach cancer, he went straight to the medical library and devoured the scientific literature on his condition. He tells this story in his essay The Median Isn’t the Message.  “The literature,”  he writes, “couldn’t have been more brutally clear: mesothelioma is incurable, with a median mortality of only eight months after discovery.” The prognosis, the science, and the statistics helped Gould understand the nature of the disease, but after sitting in shock with the information, his realized that the most statistically likely life expectancy wasn’t up to chance alone.   

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PCC Researchers and Graduate Students Build Partnerships to Address Wildfire Smoke Health Risks

After two summers in a row of several statewide smoke events in Washington, addressing the health impacts of wildfire smoke on communities has never been more urgent. While many scientific questions about wildfire smoke remain unanswered, answers to questions about risk communication and public health interventions are among the most pressing needs for impacted communities. With that goal in mind, a team of PCC faculty, researchers, and graduate students came together to plan a collaborative, interdisciplinary symposium around wildfire smoke risk communication. 

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Congratulations to Rebecca Neumann, AGU Award Recipient

Rebecca Neumann, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering is the American Geophysical Union’s 2018 recipient of the Charles S. Falkenberg Award given in “recognition of an early- to middle-career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.” Neumann has been an active PCC board member, she is currently on sabbatical.

Read more at UW Civil and Environmental Engineering

“Sources of Uncertainty in Long-Term Climate Projections” - PCC Summer Institute 2018

by Sarah Ragen and Hannah Director On September 12-14, 2018, members of the UW community and invited guests gathered at UW’s Friday Harbor Labs for the Program on Climate Change’s annual Summer Institute. The topic this year was “Sources of Uncertainty in Long-Term Climate Projections.” Participants attending the institute were introduced to many issues that affect how we quantify the uncertainty related to long-term climate projections. 

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Plant response to elevated carbon dioxide amplifies warming

A new study published by Marlies Kovenock, a graduate student in the Department of Biology and member of the PCC, demonstrates how the response of plants to climate change could result in more warming. Plants have been observed to change the thickness of their leaves when subject to increased CO2. Yet, the consequence of this physiological response is still poorly understood. Does this response amplify or dampen the warming caused by the increased CO2? Kovenock suggests that the thicker leaves may amplify the effects of climate change because the leaves would be less efficient in sequestering atmospheric carbon. By not accounting for this response, it means that global temperatures could rise by an extra 0.3 to 1.4 degrees Celsius.    

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On Wildfire Smoke and Climate Change

As satellite images of wildfire smoke and local air quality data streamed into our labs last month, the implications of our science have never felt so immediate. The thick haze of toxic wildfire smoke created levels of particulate matter that are the worst in over two decades for the Puget Sound region. In a lab meeting on a record-breaking pollution day, a colleague described a sinking feeling in her gut when she saw a group of children at summer camp playing outside in the smoke, since wildfire smoke can be especially dangerous for kids. 

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Understanding and Advancing Natural Resource Management in the Context of Changing Ocean Conditions

By Nyssa Baechler and Katie Keil The ocean is easy to take for granted一every day the tides roll in and out like clockwork, salmon return each season to their natal streams, and the ocean provides essential resources to sustain life around the globe. However, changes are happening at an unprecedented rate and the magnitude of the consequences of these changes is largely unknown. 

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