How mega are the ocean’s megafauna?

Photot: Jim Cosgrove

From blue whales and great white sharks to leatherback turtles, colossal squid, and giant clams, a paper published this week in the journal PeerJ looks at the true size of the ocean’s largest marine species. A team of scientists, including Aquatic and Fishery Sciences’ Trevor Branch, lead the charge aimed at addressing the challenges associated with accurately measuring and cataloging the largest animals in the sea. 

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Epic survey finds regional patterns of soot and dirt on North American snow

N Dakota famr field and melting snow

Snow is not as white as it looks. Mixed in with the reflective flakes are tiny, dark particles of pollution. University of Washington scientists recently published the first large-scale survey of impurities in North American snow, to see whether they might absorb enough sunlight to speed melt rates and influence climate. The results, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, show that North American snow away from cities is similar to Arctic snow in many places, with more pollution in the U.S. 

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Warmer Pacific Ocean could release millions of tons of seafloor methane

Sonar image of bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast.

Off the West Coast of the United States, methane gas is trapped in frozen layers below the seafloor. New research from the University of Washington shows that water at intermediate depths is warming enough to cause these carbon deposits to melt, releasing methane into the sediments and surrounding water. Researchers found that water off the coast of Washington is gradually warming at a depth of 500 meters, about a third of a mile down. 

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Embarking on geoengineering, then stopping, would speed up global warming


Spraying reflective particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and then stopping it could exacerbate the problem of climate change, according to new research by atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington. Carrying out geoengineering for several decades and then stopping would cause warming at a rate that will greatly exceed that expected due to global warming, according to a study published February 18 in Environmental Research Letters. 

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Book explains astrobiology for a general audience

Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction

In the late 1990s, the University of Washington created what was arguably the world’s first graduate program in astrobiology, aimed at preparing scientists to hunt for life away from Earth. In 2001, David Catling became one of the first people brought to the UW specifically to teach astrobiology. Catling, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, is the author of Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction, the 370th offering in the Oxford University Press series of “very short introduction” books by experts in various fields. 

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