33 news posts related to Extreme Environments

Return to News

Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice a combination of climate change and natural variability

Arctic sea ice, as seen from an ice breaker ship in 2014.

Arctic sea ice in recent decades has declined even faster than predicted by most models of climate change. Many scientists have suspected that the trend now underway is a combination of global warming and natural climate variability. A new study finds that a substantial chunk of summer sea ice loss in recent decades was due to natural variability in the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean. 

Read more at UW Today »

Hidden lakes drain below West Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier

Part of the Thwaites Glacier on the edge of West Antarctica.

Thwaites Glacier on the edge of West Antarctica is one of the planet’s fastest-moving glaciers. Research shows that it is sliding unstoppably into the ocean, mainly due to warmer seawater lapping at its underside. But the details of its collapse remain uncertain. The details are necessary to provide a timeline for when to expect 2 feet of global sea level rise, and when this glacier’s loss will help destabilize the much larger West Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

Read more at UW Today »

UW oceanographer dropping robotic floats on voyage to Antarctica

A drone’s-eye view of the R/V Nathaniel B Palmer encountering sea ice in the Southern Ocean.

A University of Washington oceanographer is chief scientist on a voyage in the waters around Antarctica as part of a major effort to monitor the Southern Ocean. Stephen Riser, a UW professor of oceanography, embarked Dec. 24 as part of the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling, or SOCCOM, project to collect better data about the planet’s most remote ocean. 

Read more at UW Today »

Rapid Arctic warming has in the past shifted Southern Ocean winds

Author Bradley Markle examines a section of ice core at the West Antarctic field site. He spent two months in the field as a member of the drilling team.

The global climate is a complex machine in which some pieces are separate, yet others are connected. Scientists try to discover the connections to predict what will happen to our climate, especially in a future with more heat-trapping gases. A dramatic pattern in our planet’s climate history involves paroxysms in Arctic temperatures. During the last ice age, tens of thousands of years ago, Greenland repeatedly warmed by about 10 degrees Celsius over just a few decades and then gradually cooled. 

Read more at UW Today »

Arctic sea ice loss impacts beluga whale migration

A beluga whale surfaces for air.

The annual migration of some beluga whales in Alaska is altered by sea ice changes in the Arctic, while other belugas do not appear to be affected. A new study led by the University of Washington finds that as Arctic sea ice takes longer to freeze up each fall due to climate change, one population of belugas mirrors that timing and delays its migration south by up to one month. 

Read more at UW Today »