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New resources support tribes in preparing for climate change

A tribal fire crew member in Oregon monitors a prescribed burn, a key tool for preventing large wildfires that are likely to become more common under climate change.

As the natural world responds to climate change, American Indian tribes across the country are grappling with how to plan for a future that balances inevitable change with protecting the resources vital to their cultural traditions. The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group and regional tribal partners have developed a collection of resources that may be useful to tribes at any stage in the process of evaluating their vulnerability to climate change. 

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First tally of U.S.-Russia polar bears finds a healthy population

An adult female and cub in fall 2017 on Wrangel Island, where hundred of Chukchi Sea polar bears spend the summer months.

Not all polar bears are in the same dire situation due to retreating sea ice, at least not right now. Off the western coast of Alaska, the Chukchi Sea is rich in marine life, but the number of polar bears in the area had never been counted. The first formal study of this population suggests that it’s been healthy and relatively abundant in recent years, numbering about 3,000 animals. 

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Polar bears gorged on whale carcasses to survive past warm periods, but strategy won't suffice as climate warms

Four male polar bears standing on a floating whale carcass shortly after it drifted to shore on the island of Svalbard.

Polar bears likely survived past warm periods in the Arctic, when sea ice cover was low, by scavenging on the carcasses of stranded large whales. This food source sustained the bears when they were largely restricted to land, unable to roam the ice in search of seals to hunt. A new study led by the University of Washington found that although dead whales are still valuable sources of fat and protein for some polar bears, this resource will likely not be enough to sustain most bear populations in the future when the Arctic becomes ice-free in summers, which is likely to occur by 2040 due to climate change. 

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