Climate change is a defining issue of our time, and it’s essential that we rethink our relationship to and management of human and natural resources. Scientists at the University of Washington College of the Environment lead the way to better understand the climate system, the causes and impacts of climate change on natural and human systems and how to best advise policy-makers and practitioners on mitigation and adaptation strategies.

By exploring every corner of our climate, including its past, present and future, UW and its partners are generating new, useful knowledge about how we can all help make the world a better place in the face of this global challenge.

  • The Department of Atmospheric Sciences combines cutting-edge technology with perspectives of the climate system using oceanography and glaciology to provide science that is open and reproducible. Climate scientists at UW contributed to a multi-institute hackathon to learn about future climate change from simulations from modeling centers around the world, a test in working together remotely. The project used state-of-the-art Python tools to efficiently access and analyze data on cloud storage, without downloading all the data themselves. Highlights from UW include a public-facing web tool for visualizing local climate projections, an investigation on areas of the Southern Ocean surface waters that are sinking into the deep ocean in different models and how this affects climate.
  • At the School of Oceanography, researchers study ocean circulation and how it affects climate. Planetary-scale ocean circulation is the keystone of physical, chemical and biological oceanography and plays an important part in the Earth’s climate system. The diversity of the program in physical oceanography is greatly increased by numerous joint and affiliate positions with two world-class research laboratories, the University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and with the nearby NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.
  • The Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES) fosters collaborative efforts between the UW, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The University of Alaska Fairbanks and Oregon State University, centered on four key research themes.
  • EarthLab partner organization the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) works with partners to identify critical knowledge gaps in reducing regional vulnerability to climate-related risks, does research to fill these gaps and helps practitioners use this knowledge to inform today’s planning and decision-making. Their research, data and technical assistance have been instrumental in identifying how climate fluctuations affect the Pacific Northwest, showing how patterns of natural climate variability like El Niño and La Niña, and human-caused climate change affect regional snowpack, streamflow, flooding and droughts.
  • Climate Impacts Group and EarthLab also host the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, a collaboration with the US Department of the Interior and multiple universities, that produces relevant and accessible science on climate change impacts and adaptation actions for Northwest natural resource managers and policy-makers.
  • The Program on Climate Change (PCC) provides a framework for cross-disciplinary collaboration that furthers research and climate science education and amplifies the University of Washington’s exceptional range of expertise in climate-related fields. Interaction among faculty through PCC activities promote the integration of existing observational and modeling efforts within and between individual departments, providing a powerful synthesis approach for addressing the problems of climate change. Through courses, events and planning for future initiatives, the program unites faculty, graduate students, and more recently undergraduates and off-campus partners, in efforts to understand, mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Climate change research at the College of the Environment comes from units across the College, including: