Icebergs and sunset off the west coast of Greenland.
Brad Markle
Icebergs and sunset off the west coast of Greenland.

In advance of COP 21, we’re looking at climate change research happening closer to home—here at the University of Washington. Many ideas, viewpoints, and experiences will be represented at the negotiating table in Paris though Dec. 11, but it’s important to keep in mind that science is the starting point for all discussions related to and rooted in climate change. Scientists and researchers at the College play an important role in discovering and developing the science that leads to robust conversations about our collective next step forward.

In recent weeks and months, here are some of the projects UW’s climate scientists in the College of the Environment have been working on:

  • Marine and Environmental AffairsRyan Kelly recently co-authored a paper that brought together 22 scientists and policy experts from nine countries that offered insights on the far-reaching effects of rising carbon dioxide levels in the ocean.
  • Eddie Allison and graduate student Hannah Bassett, also from Marine and Environmental Affairs, argue in the journal Science that people, including world leaders who will gather at COP 21, should pay more attention to how climate change’s impacts on ocean and coastal environments affect societies around the globe.
  • Nives Dolšak, professor of marine and environmental affairs, recently published a paper in Science that explains why we shouldn’t use the “China excuse” in global climate negotiations.
  • Sarah Ann Thompson, a visiting scientist with UW’s Climate Impacts Group, co-authored a recent article on how climate change will affect marine fish, mammals, turtles, and seabirds.
  • The Climate Impacts Group recently released its State of the Knowledge report, a comprehensive synthesis of relevant research on the likely effects of climate change on the Puget Sound region.
  • Atmospheric Sciences‘ Dennis Hartmann and his team are working to better understand clouds’ relationship to climate change. In an upcoming paper, they outline the response of clouds in the North Atlantic to sulfur released by an Icelandic volcano. The response of clouds to human-produced sulfur (from fossil fuels) is uncertain, so this volcano provides a fitting test for models.
  • Robert Wood, also from Atmospheric Sciences, coauthored a paper in mid-2015 showing how clouds over the Southern Ocean are made brighter during the summer by small aerosol particles derived from phytoplankton. This finding has implications for understanding the potential for anthropogenic aerosols to modify global climate.
  • Abby Swann, Atmospheric Sciences and Biology, published a paper in August looking at how deforestation impacts South American climate. Her team found that deforestation dries out the atmosphere, but this may only impact rainfall when climate becomes drier than it currently is over the Amazon. As part of a larger group, she’s also looking at how climate is impacted by large-scale tree die offs.
  • APL Polar Center‘s Ian Joughin, also an affiliate professor of Earth and space sciences, recently authored a paper indicating that the unstable collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun. Joughin’s work was also highlighted in The New York Times Magazine’s “The Secrets in Greenland’s Ice Sheet” story.