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‘Black swan’ events strike animal populations

A black swan (Cygnus atratus) seen in New Zealand. The black swan metaphor refers to a previous assumption that the birds did not exist, but later were found in the wild — signifying a surprising change of thought.

Black swan events are rare and surprising occurrences that happen without notice and often wreak havoc on society. The metaphor has been used to describe banking collapses, devastating earthquakes and other major surprises in financial, social and natural systems. A new analysis by the University of Washington and Simon Fraser University is the first to document that black swan events also occur in animal populations and usually manifest as massive, unexpected die-offs. 

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'The blob' of abnormal conditions boosted Western U.S. ozone levels

Researchers use the ski lifts to carry equipment to sample air on the summit. A radon sensor travels to the peak of Mount Bachelor.

An unusually warm patch of seawater off the West Coast in late 2014 and 2015, nicknamed “the blob,” had cascading effects up and down the coast. Its sphere of influence was centered on the marine environment but extended to weather on land. A University of Washington Bothell study now shows that this strong offshore pattern also influenced air quality. The climate pattern increased ozone levels above Washington, Oregon, western Utah and northern California, according to a study published Feb. 

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Listen to the Earth smash another global temperature record

Federal science agencies announced Wednesday that 2016 was the warmest year on record, beating the previous global temperature record set in 2015, which itself had beat the previous record set in 2014. Now atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington have set the new temperature record to an electronic dance beat. This is their second project to convert scientific data to an audio track, a process known as sonification. 

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