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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UW brings field geology to students with ‘Virtual Field Geology’

Whaleback anticline

University of Washington geologists had set out to create computer-based field experiences long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Juliet Crider, a UW associate professor of Earth and space sciences, first got a grant from the National Science Foundation to send a former graduate student and a drone to photograph an iconic Pennsylvania geological site and pilot a new approach to field geology. 

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Deepest scientific ocean drilling effort sheds light on Japan’s next ‘big one’

Harold Tobin of the University Washington inspects drilling pipes.

Scientists who drilled deeper into an undersea earthquake fault than ever before have found that the tectonic stress in Japan’s Nankai subduction zone is less than expected. The results of the study led by the University of Washington and the University of Texas at Austin, published Sept. 5 in Geology, are a puzzle, since the fault produces a great earthquake almost every century and was thought to be building for another big one. 

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New UW Photonic Sensing Facility will use fiber-optic cables for seismic sensing, glaciology and more

The fiber-optic cables that travel underground, along the seafloor and into our homes have potential besides transmitting videos, emails and tweets. These signals can also record ground vibrations as small as a nanometer anywhere the cable touches the ground. This unintended use for fiber-optic cables was discovered decades ago and has had limited use in military and commercial applications. A University of Washington pilot project is exploring the use of fiber-optic sensing for seismology, glaciology, and even urban monitoring. 

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New study calculates retreat of glacier edges in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park

Holgate Glacier, shown here in June 2009, terminates on the coast and is a popular kayaking destination, especially in summer when the ice is calving. Local residents had recently observed land exposed at its terminus, but the new analysis finds that the glacier has been advancing over the past 5 years.

As glaciers worldwide retreat due to climate change, managers of national parks need to know what’s on the horizon to prepare for the future. A new study from the University of Washington and the National Park Service measures 38 years of change for glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park, a stunning jewel about two hours south of Anchorage. The study, published Aug. 

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