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  • PNW's ShakeAlert earthquake warning system awarded $10.4 million | MyNorthwest.com
    Tuesday, August 20, 2019
    The U.S. Geological Survey announced $10.4 million in funding to the UW-based Pacific Northwest Seismic Network where the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system is being developed and tested. Harold Tobin, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • UW scientist on how climate change is impacting soil and the food we grow | MyNorthwest.com
    Monday, August 19, 2019
    David Montgomery, a professor of Earth and space science at the UW, argues that with the onset of climate change our soil is not going to be able to support our food supply. Read More
  • Wind shifts caused by human-induced global warming cause of West Antarctic's melting ice | UPI
    Monday, August 19, 2019
    Human-caused climate change has triggered wind shifts in Antarctica, according to a new study, driving accelerated melting across the continent's west coast. Eric Steig, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • USGS awards $10.4M to ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system in the Pacific Northwest
    Monday, August 19, 2019

    The U.S. Geological Survey today announced $10.4 million in funding to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at University of Washington, to support the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. Some $7.3 million of the funding will go to the UW.

    The PNSN is responsible for monitoring earthquakes and volcanoes in Washington and Oregon. It is a partnership between the University of Washington, the University of Oregon and the USGS. The support for the PNSN is among the new ShakeAlert cooperative agreements announced today by the USGS.

    The first year’s funding of $5.4 million to the PNSN begins this month. The UW will receive about $3.75 million in direct support of its PNSN activities and $1.66 million will support the PNSN team at the University of Oregon. The second-year funding, of an additional $5 million, is contingent on approval by Congress and will be similarly shared.

    Karl Hagel and Pat McChesney, field engineers with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network team at the University of Washington, install earthquake monitoring equipment on the slopes of Mount St. Helens, with Mount Hood in the distance.Marc Biundo/University of Washington

    “This investment in the PNSN represents a major increase in federal support for earthquake monitoring in the Cascadia region,” said Harold Tobin, director of the PNSN and professor in the UW’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. “At the end of the two years of funding we anticipate having essentially doubled the number of seismic stations across our whole region that contribute to real-time earthquake early warning. This would allow for full public alerts of any potentially damaging earthquakes, across our entire region of Washington and Oregon, by the end of the two-year period.”

    This new award will allow for installation of 104 new seismic stations in Washington state and 44 in Oregon, during the two-year period. It will also support improved, more-sophisticated detection of earthquakes as they begin, and new efforts to engage potential users of the warnings.

    ShakeAlert’s network of instruments detect the first, less damaging waves from a major earthquake close to where the earthquake begins. The system then issues alerts for the estimated size and location of the earthquake, providing seconds or minutes of warning before the more damaging ground shaking begins - enough for someone to pull off the road, stop a surgery, or find a safe place to take shelter.

    map with concentric circles

    A sample warning, with a countdown of the number of seconds until the strong shaking reaches the user.Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

    In the Pacific Northwest’s pilot phase of the system, early adopters in the region have developed pilot projects with guidance and support from the PNSN and USGS, and have received ShakeAlert warning messages for the past two years. These warnings are currently used to trigger loss-reduction measures at critical facilities -- such as turning off water valves in public utility districts -- before dangerous shaking would arrive.

    The additional funding will support the development of new pilot projects in schools, businesses, communities and critical infrastructure facilities in preparation for the eventual goal of open alerts to the general public, as launched recently in the Los Angeles region. The improvements to PNSN’s network supported by this funding will meet the USGS’ recommended station-density standard for public alerting in almost all areas of Washington and Oregon.

    "It will enable us to rapidly build out our network to produce faster and more accurate alerts for Cascadia Region earthquakes," Tobin said.

    map of Washington and Oregon with white dogs

    Existing Pacific Northwest Seismic Network ShakeAlert stations, as of spring 2019. The new funding will roughly double the number of stations in Washington and Oregon.

    The funding will also support ongoing research to integrate GPS data into ShakeAlert, which will allow quicker estimates of the magnitude of offshore Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes as they unfold. The UW is sharing its research in this area with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA in the hope of improving tsunami-warning capabilities. The UW is working with Central Washington University, also supported by USGS, to receive near-real-time GPS data from across Washington and Oregon that will be integrated into future releases of ShakeAlert.

    Related: “New funding will help advance Oregon's part in ShakeAlert” – University of Oregon

    How an earthquake alert app could eventually give the West Coast vital warning” – PBS NewsHour

    The regional ShakeAlert effort began in 2011, when the UW joined the University of California, Berkeley and California Institute of Technology as a primary ShakeAlert center in the developing a West Coast warning system. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded $2 million to each university to kick-start ShakeAlert from a research project to an operational system. With support from Congress, the USGS ramped up support for ShakeAlert as the foundation’s seed funding expired.

    Additional support for PNSN operations comes from the U.S. Department of Energy and the states Oregon and Washington. The Washington legislature, in its current biennium budget, allocated $1.24 million over two years for additional enhancements to the ShakeAlert network.

     

    For more information, contact Tobin at htobin@uw.edu or 206-543-6790 and PNSN communications director Bill Steele at wsteele@uw.edu or 206-685-5880. Note: Tobin is available by phone Aug. 19 and will be back in Seattle Aug. 20.

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  • Analysis: Restoring soil can help address climate change | The Daily Beast
    Thursday, August 15, 2019
    "It's time to take soil seriously. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states with very high confidence in its latest report, land degradation represents 'one of the biggest and most urgent challenges' that humanity faces," writes David Montgomery, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW. [This article originally appeared in The Conversation] Read More
  • Analysis: Restoring soil can help address climate change | The Conversation
    Tuesday, August 13, 2019
    "It's time to take soil seriously. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states with very high confidence in its latest report, land degradation represents 'one of the biggest and most urgent challenges' that humanity faces," writes David Montgomery, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW. Read More
  • New study definitively links western Antarctic ice melt to human-caused climate change | New York Daily News
    Tuesday, August 13, 2019
    As scientists watch the world's ice melt away, predict sea level rises, and sound the alarm about climate change, they have been struggled to demonstrate a direct link between that and human activity, at least when it comes to the western Antarctic ice sheets -- until now. Eric Steig, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • First evidence of human-caused climate change melting the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
    Monday, August 12, 2019
    white snow and ocean

    An aerial view of Getz ice shelf in West Antarctica taken from a helicopter in January 2018 after using radar on the ice to measure ocean-driven ice shelf melt.Pierre Dutrieux

    A new study reveals the first evidence of a direct link between human-induced global warming and melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. A research team led by the British Antarctic Survey that included the University of Washington found that curbing greenhouse gas emissions now could reduce this region’s future contribution to global sea level rise.

    Ongoing ice loss in West Antarctica has increased over the past few decades. Scientists previously found that ice loss in this region is caused by ocean-driven melt, and that varying winds in the region cause transitions between relatively warm and cool ocean conditions around key glaciers. But until now it was unclear how these naturally occurring variations in the winds could cause ongoing ice loss.

    The study by U.S. and U.K. scientists published Aug. 12 in Nature Geoscience finds that in addition to the natural variations, which last about a decade, there has been a longer-term change in the winds that can be linked with human activities. Continued ice loss in this region could cause global oceans to rise tens of inches by the year 2100.

    "These results solve a long-standing puzzle,” said co-author Eric Steig, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. “We have known for some time that varying winds near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have contributed to the ice loss, but it has not been clear why the ice sheet is changing now.”

    “Our work with ice cores drilled in the Antarctic Ice Sheet have shown, for example, that wind conditions have been similar in the past,” Steig said. “But the ice core data also suggest a subtle long-term trend in the winds. This new work corroborates that evidence and, furthermore, explains why that trend has occurred."

    The researchers combined satellite observations and climate model simulations to understand how winds over the ocean near West Antarctica have changed since the 1920s in response to rising greenhouse gas concentrations. They found that human-induced climate change has caused a long-term change in the winds, and that as a result, warm ocean conditions have gradually become more prevalent.

    white ice shelf in ocean

    A view of Dotson ice shelf in West Antarctica taken in January 2009 aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer after deploying an autonomous underwater vehicle under Pine Island ice shelf.Pierre Dutrieux

    “The impact of human induced climate change on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is not simple,” said lead author Paul Holland at the British Antarctic Survey. “This is the first evidence for a direct link between human activities and the loss of ice from West Antarctica. Our results imply that a combination of human activity and natural climate variations have caused ice loss in this region, accounting for around 4.5 centimeters [1.8 inches] of sea level rise per century."

    Previous research from Steig and co-author Pierre Dutrieux, a research assistant professor at Columbia University and former UW research scientist, had established the connection between the ocean currents, winds and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    "We knew this region was affected by natural climate cycles lasting about a decade, but these didn't necessarily explain the ice loss,” Dutrieux said. “Now we have evidence that a century-long change underlies these cycles, and that it is caused by human activities."

    The team also looked at model simulations of future winds, and found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the winds will continue to shift in a way that increases the rate of ice loss. But if greenhouse gas emissions are controlled, the winds remain in their current state and prevent greater warming to the underside of the ice sheet.

    Other co-authors are Thomas Bracegirdle and Adrian Jenkins at the British Antarctic Survey. The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

    ###

    For more information, contact Steig at steig@uw.edu.

    Adapted from a British Antarctic Survey press release.

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  • Soundbites/B-roll: UW hosts student robotics 'moon landing' challenge
    Tuesday, July 30, 2019

    For journalists

    Soundbites and b-roll are available for download here.

     

    A robotics challenge July 20th at the UW featured twenty-eight middle and high school teams from Forks to Walla Walla and from Bellingham to Olympia. The event marked a half-century since the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon and two U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked its surface.

    Each team flew a drone that attempted to drop and retrieve a lunar module designed by the group on a high-resolution map of the moon’s surface. Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots were programmed to explore the surface and retrieve rock samples. The goal is to prepare the next generation of scientists for the “next giant leap”, and broaden the pipeline for future aeronautics careers.

    The Apollo 50 Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, or ANGLeS Challenge, has attracted 4,000 students from across the country since it launched in January. UW is the regional host for Washington state as well as the national hub for 15 similar events taking place this week across the country. The twenty-eight teams from across Washington qualified for the finals.

    The challenge event is the latest outreach effort by NASA’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP), which seeks to attract underrepresented students into space careers.

    More information at https://www.washington.edu/news/2019/07/17/uw-hosts-student-robotics-challenge-friday-to-mark-50th-anniversary-of-apollo-11-moon-landing/

    Kiyomi Taguchi, UW News video producer: ktaguchi@uw.edu

     

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  • Video: UW hosts student robotics 'moon landing' challenge
    Tuesday, July 30, 2019

    A robotics challenge July 20th at the UW featured twenty-eight teams of middle and high schoolers from Forks to Walla Walla and from Bellingham to Olympia. The event marked a half-century since the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon and two U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked its surface.

    Each team flew a drone that attempted to drop and retrieve a lunar module designed by the group on a high-resolution map of the moon’s surface. Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots were programmed to explore the surface and retrieve rock samples. The goal is to prepare the next generation of scientists for the “next giant leap”, and broaden the pipeline for future aeronautics careers.

    The Apollo 50 Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, or ANGLeS Challenge, has attracted 4,000 students from across the country since it launched in January. UW is the regional host for Washington state as well as the national hub for 15 similar events taking place this week across the country. The twenty-eight teams from across Washington qualified for the finals.

    The challenge event is the latest outreach effort by NASA’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP), which seeks to attract underrepresented students into space careers.

    More information at https://www.washington.edu/news/2019/07/17/uw-hosts-student-robotics-challenge-friday-to-mark-50th-anniversary-of-apollo-11-moon-landing/
    Kiyomi Taguchi, UW News video producer: ktaguchi@uw.edu

     

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