Could COVID-19 be helping Alaska’s beluga whales get some ‘me time’?

Beluga whale shows its head above the surface of the water

When you try to imagine what a happy, calm beluga whale looks like, what images do you conjure up? A smiling white blob, reclining on a chaise lounge with a shrimp cocktail? A zen-like cetacean emerging from a meditation workshop session with a rolled-up mat under its flipper? For Manuel Castellote, a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES), the image is less absurd but more exciting. 

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Expert FAQ: Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest during the COVID-19 pandemic

Forest fires are one of nature’s oldest land management tools. For more than 10,000 years, Indigenous people in the Pacific Northwest have harnessed the power of fire to control the threat of destructive wildfires and encourage new growth across landscapes. In recent centuries, as the number of people living in forested areas has increased and large amounts of fuel have built up over years of suppression, large seasonal wildfires are becoming more common. 

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What does a hot day in Bali have to do with a dry day in Seattle?

Rainy Pike Place market

Consider this: the U.S. West Coast has seen a decrease in rainfall between 1981-2018. UW scientists think a phenomenon called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) might be to blame. A stormy disturbance that occurs several times a year in the tropics, the MJO is similar to the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which is notorious for generating extreme winter weather in the Pacific Northwest. 

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How do we know so much about ancient climates?

Isolab grad student Lindsey Davidge

Scientists know a lot about the Earth’s climate. Over the past sixty years, they have collected temperature and precipitation information, measured the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, and charted the changing weather. But what if we want to compare today’s climate to past climates—say, a million years ago or more? Traces of those past climates—referred to as paleoclimates—remain in rocks and ice as particles that once made up the ancient atmosphere, rain and soil. 

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