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71 posts in In the News

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.    

Read More at UW News

PCC members part of massive international project to monitor Thwaites Glacier

Knut Christianson, an assistant professor of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences, and Nick Holschuh, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences, are helping to lead a massive international collaboration to better understand the fate of Thwaites Glacier, nicknamed the "world's most dangerous glacier". Their work is just one of eight projects involving over 100 scientists. The project aims to collect better data that will eventually be fed into computer models to forecast the future of Earth’s climate. The data that Christianson and Holschuh will collect will be from scans using two different radars to map the individual layers of snow, ice, and bedrock. Predictions of the near-term fate of Thwaites Glacier depend critically on a more detailed picture of the bed topography where the glacier resides.

Read More at UW News

PCC members help connect the dots on climate change through an influential and lasting GCeCS capstone

Studying climate change is not always about the science. The science, however, does lay the foundation for adapting to and mitigating climate change. An example of this relationship was shown no better than in a recent presentation given by a few PCC members. Judy Twedt, Michelle Tigchelaar, Miriam CaukinsAlex Lenferna, and Kate Griffith, all members of the climate caucus within the Union of Academic Student Employees at the University of Washington, talked about climate change in a worker-centric environment that sought to move beyond polarization and stereotyping to have honest dialogue. The idea was originally started by Twedt, who proposed developing a short presentation for the climate caucus on climate change and how it will impact residents of Washington state for her Graduate Certificate in Climate Science (GCeCS). After the initial presentation with the climate caucus, other unions requested similar talks for their membership and staff meetings. The talks have since blossomed into a speakers bureau, picking up members from all over the university.

Read More at UAW

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
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