22 news posts related to Environmental Chemistry

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Earth’s atmosphere more chemically reactive in cold climates

Becky Alexander in the cold room of the UW’s IsoLab with sections of an ice core. Her group is now analyzing ice cores from Antarctica to see if they show the same trend as in Greenland.

Unseen in the air around us are tiny molecules that drive the chemical cocktail of our atmosphere. As plants, animals, volcanoes, wildfires and human activities spew particles into the atmosphere, some of these molecules act as cleanup crews that remove that pollution. The main molecules responsible for breaking down all these emissions are called oxidants. The oxygen-containing molecules, mainly ozone and hydrogen-based detergents, react with pollutants and reactive greenhouse gases, such as methane.  

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Nanometer-scale image reveals new details about formation of marine shells

This foraminifera is just starting to form its adult spherical shell. The calcium carbonate spherical shell first forms on a thin organic template, shown here in white, around the dark juvenile skeleton. Calcium carbonate spines then extend from the juvenile skeleton through the new sphere and outward. The bright flecks are algae that the foraminifera “farm” for sustenance.

Unseen out in the ocean, countless single-celled organisms grow protective shells to keep them safe as they drift along, living off other tiny marine plants and animals. Taken together, the shells are so plentiful that when they sink they provide one of the best records for the history of ocean chemistry. Oceanographers at the University of Washington, the University of California, Davis and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have used modern tools to provide an atomic-scale look at how that shell first forms. 

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Scientists recommend immediate plan to combat changes to West Coast seawater chemistry

Marine shelled organisms in Washington are already having difficulty forming their protective outer shells, and the local shellfish industry is seeing high mortality rates in early life stages of some commercially important shellfish species when shell formation is critical.

Global carbon dioxide emissions are triggering troubling changes to ocean chemistry along the West Coast that require immediate, decisive actions to combat through a coordinated regional approach, a panel of scientific experts has unanimously concluded. A failure to adequately respond to this fundamental change in seawater chemistry, known as ocean acidification, is anticipated to have devastating ecological consequences for the West Coast in the decades to come, the 20-member West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) Science Panel warned in a comprehensive report unveiled April 4. 

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A more acidic ocean will bend the mermaid’s wineglass

Mermaid's wineglass

New research from the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories shows that a more acidic ocean can weaken the protective shell of a delicate alga. The findings, published Sept. 9 in the journal Biology Letters, come at a time when global climate change may increase ocean acidification. The creature in question is Acetabularia acetabulum, commonly called the mermaid’s wineglass. Reaching a height of just a few inches, this single-celled alga lives on shallow seafloors, where sunlight can still filter down for photosynthesis. 

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