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  • You don't have to be a climber to explore the Cascades' mightiest glaciers | KING 5
    Tuesday, February 15, 2022
    Cascade Glacier Walking Tours allows hikers with no previous experience to traverse and explore some of the Cascades' mightiest glaciers in comfort and safety alongside a trained guide. Taryn Black, a UW doctoral student in Earth and space sciences, is interviewed. Read More
  • Giant iceberg blocks scientists' study of 'Doomsday Glacier' | Associated Press
    Thursday, February 3, 2022
    Antarctica's so-called Doomsday Glacier, nicknamed because it is huge and coming apart, is mostly thwarting an international effort to figure out how dangerously vulnerable it is. Ian Joughlin, a glaciologist at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • Activity under Three Sisters volcanic region monitored by experts | KING 5
    Wednesday, February 2, 2022
    The ground is swelling under the Three Sisters volcanic region in central Oregon. The U.S. Geological Survey issued a statement that the rate of uplift in an area 12 miles across has risen nearly an inch between June of 2020 and August of 2021. Yet, this latest uplift comes after some 25 years of activity. Scientists say it's happening as lava is filling a space underground. Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is interviewed. Read More
  • Lightning: US deaths hit record low in 2021, while the Arctic saw far more bolts than usual | USA Today
    Wednesday, February 2, 2022
    2021 was a record year for lightning, both in the U.S. - where deaths reached an all-time record low - and in the northern reaches of the Arctic, which saw a bonanza of bolts last year. Robert Holzworth, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • Why does snow glow blue? How could a fly possibly survive high-elevation elements? Join us for an exploration of Washington's winter wonders. | The Seattle Times
    Monday, January 31, 2022
    The Seattle Times explores the physical phenomena and physiological mysteries of Washington winters. The UW's Bernard Hallet, professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences; John Marzluff, professor of environmental and forest sciences; Thomas Hinckley, professor emeritus of environmental and forest sciences; and John Tuthill, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics, are quoted. Read More
  • MyShake earthquake early warning app now available for Washington state residents | KOMO 4
    Friday, January 28, 2022
    The MyShake app is now available to download for Washington state residents who want to receive as much early notice as possible before the ground starts shaking during an earthquake. Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is interviewed. Read More
  • Glaciers are squishy, holding slightly more ice than thought
    Wednesday, January 26, 2022

    Glacier ice is usually thought of as brittle. You can drill a hole in an ice sheet, like into a rock, and glaciers crack and calve, leaving behind vertical ice cliffs.

    But new University of Washington research shows that glaciers are also slightly compressible, or squishy. This compression over the huge expanse of an ice sheet -- like Antarctica or Greenland -- makes! the overall ice sheet more dense and lowers the surface by tens of feet compared to what would otherwise be expected, according to results published Jan. 19 in the Journal of Glaciology.

    green laser beams pointing at ice sheet

    NASA's ICESat-2 uses six laser beams (green) to measure elevations over an ice sheet from space, as illustrated in this artist's rendering. Accounting for the ice sheet's compressibility could make these types of measurements even more precise.NASA, ICESat-2/SCAD Collaborative Student Project

    "It's like finding hidden ice," said author Brad Lipovsky, a UW assistant professor of Earth and space sciences. "In a sense, we discovered a big piece of missing ice that wasn't accounted for correctly."

    Density matters: Ice compressibility and glacier mas!s estimation” in Journal of Glaciology

    Compression of the ice lowers the surface by up to 37 feet (11.3 meters) on the Antarctic ice sheet and by up to 19 feet (5.8 meters) on the Greenland ice sheet. Averaged across the entire Antarctic ice sheet, the surface is lower by 2.3 feet (0.7 meters), which represents 30,200 gigatons of additional ice. For Greenland, the surface of the ice sheet is lowered by an average of 2.6 feet (0.8 meters), which represents 3,000 gigatons of ice.

    The mass of the ice sheet is only partly to blame: Since a glacier's temperature increases with depth, thermal compression makes the colder ice, near the surface of the ice sheet, denser, squishing the ice almost as much as its weight.

    Together, the combined effects of gravitational and thermal compression add about 0.2% to the total mass of the ice sheet. Though that sounds small, including this effect will help improve calculations of glacier changes over time -- especially as the n!ewest satellites can make precise measurements of glaciers' elevation to monitor their responses to climate change.

    "The long-term behavior of the ice is that it flows, and it also slides a bit. But at the same time, if you hit the ice with a hammer, it goes bing, bing, bing," Lipovsky said. "On short timescales the glacier is a solid, and on long timescales it's a fluid."

    three people walking on glacier

    Brad Lipovsky (right) hikes over Easton Glacier on Washington's Mount Baker in September 2021 with UW graduate students Danny Hogan (left) and Quinn Brencher.Mark Stone/University of Washington

    !Currently even the long-term climate models don't account for the compression, which becomes a bigger effect for large ice sheets like in Antarctica and Greenland.

    "In the long-term flow models, ice is always treated as incompressible. I think if you had really pressed people, and said, 'There's seismic pressure waves in glaciers, they must be compressible,' they would have agreed. But it's not something people have been thinking about," Lipovsky said.

    The additional water content probably doesn't matter to future sea-level rise -- the new results might add 8 inches (20 centimeters) to the projected 260 feet (80 meters) of sea level rise in the very unlikely event of all the planet's glaciers melting, Lipovsky said.

    But compressibility affects measurements of the difference in glacier elevation between winter, when they are weighted with fresh snow, and summer, when much of that snow has drained off. These seasonal measurements are used to monitor how the gl!acier ischanging over time. The new study estimates that adding ice compressibility could eliminate about one-tenth of the error around these estimates, improving the monitoring of large ice sheets as they respond to climate change.

    "Going forward, I hope this will become a correction that's more commonly accounted for," Lipovsky said.


    For more information, contact Lipovsky at

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  • Artificial Intelligence can create better lightning forecasts
    Tuesday, January 25, 2022
    Lightning is one of the most destructive forces of nature, as in 2020 when it sparked the massive California Lightning Complex fires, but it remains hard to predict. A new study led by the University of Washington shows that machine learning — computer algorithms that improve themselves without direct programming by humans — can be used to improve lightning forecasts. Study led by former UW Grad Student Wei-Yi Cheng; uses WWLLN data. Read More
  • How quickly tsunami waves could move after a major earthquake | KING 5
    Friday, January 21, 2022
    New maps from the Department of Natural Resources show where, and how fast, tsunami waves could inundate Washington's coast after a major earthquake. Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is interviewed. Read More
  • Tsunami advisory | FOX 13
    Friday, January 21, 2022
    Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, talks about why the tsunami warning that went out after an eruption near Tonga is historic. Read More