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The importance of the atmosphere and ocean in determining the fate of Antarctica

Landsat 9 satellite imagery shows the fractured front of the Crosson Ice Shelf in the Amundsen Sector of West Antarctica. The pace of the ice shelf’s retreat slowed in this region from 2003 to 2015. New research shows that changes in offshore winds brought less warm seawater into contact with the glacier.

An international team of researchers has combined satellite imagery and climate and ocean records to obtain the most detailed understanding yet of how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet — which contains enough ice to raise global sea level by 11 feet, or 3.3 meters — is responding to climate change. The researchers, from the University of Washington, the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, found that the pace and extent of ice destabilization along West Antarctica’s coast varies according to differences in regional climate. 

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Warming oceans have decimated marine parasites — but that’s not a good thing

A researcher holds open a preserved fish specimen that has been inspected for parasites.

More than a century of preserved fish specimens offer a rare glimpse into long-term trends in parasite populations. New research from the University of Washington shows that fish parasites plummeted from 1880 to 2019, a 140-year stretch when Puget Sound — their habitat and the second largest estuary in the mainland U.S. — warmed significantly. The study, published the week of Jan. 

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Moving from climate science to global action: reflections from Dean Emeritus Lisa Graumlich on COP27

sign welcoming participants to COP27

I’ve been thinking — and worrying — about climate change for a long time. In 1980, I came to the University of Washington to pursue a PhD, wrestling with the problem of detecting the fingerprint of human impact on the climate system. The topic held sway with my colleagues but had no traction with the general public. All that has changed, and that change is now visible in many ways across the globe. 

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Strongest Arctic cyclone on record led to surprising loss of sea ice

A ship-based view of the Arctic Ocean where the ocean surface is starting to freeze.

A warming climate is causing a decline in sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, where loss of sea ice has important ecological, economic and climate impacts. On top of this long-term shift due to climate change are weather events that affect the sea ice from week to week. The strongest Arctic cyclone ever observed poleward of 70 degrees north latitude struck in January 2022 northeast of Greenland. 

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