Print this page

Have a news item you would like featured? Fill out the request here (UW NetID Restricted).

  • Ship Exhaust Makes Oceanic Thunderstorms More Intense
    Thursday, September 7, 2017
    Thunderstorms directly above two of the world’s busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don’t travel, according to new University of Washington research. A new study mapping lightning around the globe finds lightning strokes occur nearly twice as often directly above heavily-trafficked shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea than they do in areas of the ocean adjacent to shipping lanes that have similar climates. Simultaneous press release by UW and AGU: and Read More
  • NASA Report: Hurricane Harvey Heat Engine Analysis Confirmed by WWLLN
    Wednesday, September 6, 2017
    Under the central ring of clouds that circles the eye, water that had evaporated from the ocean surface condenses, releases heat, and powers the circling winds of the hurricane. The radar on the GPM satellite is able to estimate how much water is falling as precipitation inside of the hurricane, which serves as a guide to how much energy is being released inside the hurricane's central "heat engine." Confirming this radar analysis are lightning flashes observed by the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN). Read More
  • Native American youth launch high-altitude balloons for unique perspective on solar eclipse
    Monday, August 21, 2017

    While many people across the country donned viewing glasses and prepared to watch Monday’s solar eclipse, a group of 100 teenagers from tribes across the Pacific Northwest launched balloons thousands of feet into the air, gaining a novel perspective of the eclipse -- and the chance to send meaningful artifacts to the edge of space during a memorable moment in history.

    The high school students released their balloons from Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs land in north central Oregon, directly in the path of totality that allows viewers to see the moon completely cover the sun. Close to 400 people, mainly tribal members and students, gathered to watch. The event, organized by University of Washington-based Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium and the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline, was the largest effort involving Native American tribes during the eclipse.

    similar balloons were launched

    A group prepares to launch a high-altitude balloon at a recent event. Similar balloons were launched right before the Aug. 21 eclipse began.University of Washington

    In addition to launching the giant weather balloons, students from each school attached culturally significant items, called payloads, to theballoons and sent them high into the sky. Their artifacts nearly reached space before returning to the ground.

    “This is the first time many of the students get to participate in a cutting-edge experiment of this type,” said the consortium’s director, Robert Winglee, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. “Seeing their own payloads at the rim of space is quite exciting. This different perspective will hopefully awaken other ideas for gaining different perspectives on their own lives and their own career paths.”

    Over the past couple of years, consortium staff visited many of the schools participating in the eclipse balloon launch, introducing students to space research and various NASA projects. The goal is to bring STEM-related topics to the students in culturally relevant ways, said outreach specialist Isabel Carrera Zamanillo.


    More resources

    • Tweets from Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton covering the launch in Warm Springs
    • UW solar eclipse experts

    The eclipse project is a tangible way to further involve these students.

    “Participation in this eclipse is just a next step for students,” said Carrera Zamanillo, who is also a graduate fellow with the UW’s Center for Environmental Politics. “This is a continuing effort from two years of visiting tribes, and it is a nice event where we can congregate together.”

    Each of the 12 student teams created a small payload to attach to the high-altitude balloons. These items are important artifacts to students and included carved wooden instruments, feathers, whistles and a small paddle. Some students also designed electronic sensors that were placed in the balloons and delivered data on temperature, altitude and distance traveled as they soared high into the sky.

    The balloons can reach altitudes of 110,000 feet and were fitted with cameras and GPS trackers. The four balloons were released in pairs before the start of the total eclipse, with the hope that the cameras would capture a unique perspective.

    As expected, the balloons popped after two and a half hours of flight, and parachutes helped the artifacts and electronic equipment fall safely to the ground. The items landed about 20 miles from the launch site and teams planned to recover them with the help of GPS. About 35 UW-affiliated volunteers, including undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty, joined consortium staff in Oregon to help with the event.

    NASA released several similar weather balloons in conjunction with the solar eclipse -- including a launch off the Oregon coast -- that intended to provide different views along the path of the eclipse.

    The consortium’s leaders hope this experience will encourage students to build payloads that could hitch a ride on current space-flight missions. Blue Origin, for example, has carrying capacity for such artifacts, Winglee said.

    “We can encourage the students and say, ‘Look, you’ve done high-altitude balloons, why don’t you go all the way?’ I think this is a steppingstone for students,” he said.

    Read More
  • Your solar eclipse questions answered | KUOW
    Friday, August 18, 2017
    Bill Radke talks to Erika Harnett, research associate professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, about all things solar eclipse. Read More
  • Of all Cascade volcanoes, Mount Rainier is the most dangerous |
    Wednesday, August 9, 2017
    Steve Malone, UW professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences, is interviewed by's Jake Ellison about the region's volcanoes and how we're still in a period of time of lots of activity, relatively speaking. Read More
  • Stock traders' algorithm finds slow earthquakes | EARTH Magazine
    Friday, August 4, 2017
    Traders in financial markets use a variety of computer algorithms to help them decide when to buy or sell different stocks. UW geologists have now adapted one of these algorithms to improve detection of subtle slow-slip events along faults. Read More
  • Bringing our soil back to life with the latest in earth science | New Scientist
    Monday, July 31, 2017
    This author is down to earth in every sense. David Montgomery, a research geologist at the University of Washington, is one of our most eloquent and precise earth science communicators. Read More
  • Washington's forgotten volcano before St. Helens |
    Wednesday, July 12, 2017
    The episode at Mount Baker in 1975 set into motion a chain of events that would function as something of a dry-run for what happened in 1980 at Mount St. Helens, at least in terms of the science. Steve Malone, research professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • Could the Montana earthquake really be felt in Washington? | KIRO 7
    Friday, July 7, 2017
    Is it really possible that people felt Montana's magnitude-5.8 earthquake all the way in Washington? John Vidale, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. [This AP story appeared in several outlets] Read More
  • John Booker Receives AGU William Gilbert Award
    Wednesday, July 5, 2017
    Please Congratulate John Booker who just received The William Gilbert Award! This high honor is the top award given by the Geomagnetism, Paleomagnetism and Electromagnetism section of the American Geophysical Union. It is presented annually to one honoree in recognition of outstanding and unselfish work in magnetism of Earth materials and of the Earth and planets. The 2017 AGU Section and Focus Group Awardees and Named Lecturers are given here: Read More