56 news posts related to Extreme Environments

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One year into the mission, autonomous ocean robots set a record in survey of Antarctic ice shelf

A Seaglider, with the Getz Ice Shelf in the background, being prepared for deployment in January 2018 under the neighboring Dotson Ice Shelf.

A team of ocean robots deployed in January 2018 have, over the past year, been the first self-guided ocean robots to successfully travel under an ice sheet and return to report long-term observations. Beyond mere survival, the robotic mission — a partnership between the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, the Korean Polar Research Institute and Paul G. 

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UW glaciologist gets first look at NASA’s new measurements of ice sheet elevation

Since ICESat-2 launched in September, it has already exceeded expectations. It's measuring the height of sea ice to within an inch, which will be used to improve climate modeling and forecasts.

Less than three months into its mission, NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, is already exceeding scientists’ expectations. The satellite is measuring the height of sea ice to within an inch, tracing the terrain of previously unmapped Antarctic valleys and measuring other interesting features in our planet’s elevation. Benjamin Smith, a glaciologist with the University of Washington and member of the ICESat-2 science team, shared the first look at the satellite’s performance at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting Dec. 

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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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Volcano under ice sheet suggests thickening of West Antarctic ice is short-term

snow mobile on a field of white ice and snow

A region of West Antarctica is behaving differently from most of the continent’s ice: A large patch of ice there is thickening, unlike other parts of West Antarctica that are losing ice. Whether this thickening trend will continue affects the overall amount that melting or collapsing glaciers could raise the level of the world’s oceans. A study led by the University of Washington has discovered a new clue to this region’s behavior: A volcano under the ice sheet has left an almost 6,000-year record of the glacier’s motion. 

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UW professor Cecilia Bitz elected American Geophysical Union fellow

Cecilia Bitz, incoming chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

Cecilia M. Bitz, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist, has been elected as a fellow of the American Geophysical Union. The UW honoree is among 62 new 2018 fellows from 21 countries.The scientific group recognizes only one in 1,000 members each year for major scientific work and sustained impact. Bitz is a UW professor in the atmospheric sciences department and director of the Program on Climate Change. 

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