Climate Change News (CCN)- Spring 2010

Climate Change News (CCN) is a quarterly newsletter designed to keep you up-to-date on PCC activities and to help create a community of students, faculty and researchers interested in issues related to climate and climate change.


March 2010
Spring is here (or so we thought in mid-March)...a time of transition from winter to summer. The Program on Climate Change is also in transition, moving from oversight by the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the past home to Atmospheric Sciences and Earth and Space Sciences, and the dean of the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences, former home of the School of Oceanography. Now that all three core departments are housed in the College of the Environment, the PCC has also found a new home. The College is searching for its first dean, with candidate visits occurring April 1-6. Participate if you can, see for information.

Faculty Profile: Julian Sachs, Paleoclimatologist and Organic Geochemist

His work takes him to lakes in tropical places, and he recreates in the mountain snow and waters of the Pacific Northwest. Julian Sachs, a UW associate professor of oceanography, reconstructs past climate from sediments cored from tropical island lakes, with an interest in how climate changes are propagated through the ocean-atmosphere-ice system. He and the many postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduates that work in his lab use the isotopic composition of molecular fossils as proxies for past rainfall, temperature, and biological productivity, and they develop new proxies through laboratory culture experiments.

Dr. Sachs was an Associate Professor of Paleoclimatology at MIT until the UW lured him to the School of Oceanography and the Program on Climate Change as a result of the last PCC faculty search. Julian regularly teaches PCC interdisciplinary courses, including Paleoproxies (OCN/ATM/ESS 554) and The Global Carbon Cycle and Greenhouse Gases (OCN/ATMS/ESS 588).

You'll find two of Julian's graduate students, Alyssa Atwood and Dan Nelson, both of whom joined UW in 2007, co-organizing the Graduate Climate Conference this year. Julian's most recent graduate student, Nemiah Ladd, joined the lab in fall 2009 and comes with a B.A. in Geology with honors from Brown University and a M.S. in Education from University of Pennsylvania.

The Sachs lab has also participated in communicating climate science to members of Congress, while in the Galapagos! In 2008 the Sachs group was collecting sediment cores, water and plant samples from lagoons, lakes and ponds on the Islands of Floreana and Isabella in the Galapagos. They had the opportunity to demonstrate field techniques to members of Congress. The Congressional Delegation was also given the opportunity to ask questions and make their own observations on the effects of climate change in this fragile ecosystem.

Julian also works with undergraduates, one of the recent projects was to the Marshall Islands as leader of an UW Exploration Seminar. His graduate students went along for this project, and can also be found on the slopes for team building exercises.

For more on Julian Sachs and his group visit:

  • Sachs Profile:
  • Sachs Research Home Page:
  • UW News/Sandra Hines article on Sachs' work on effect of climate change on rainfall in the Marshall Islands, Exploration Seminar:

  • NASA Global Climate Change Education Award to L. Thompson

    LuAnne Thompson, Professor of Oceanography, was recently funded by the NASA Global Climate Change Education initiative to create a network of teachers and learners of climate change that span high school students to NASA funded climate scientists. The centerpiece of this program will be the creation of a new high school course on climate change offered through the UW in the High School Program whereby students will receive UW credit for a high school course. The course will be taught by high school teachers, but inspired by NASA education and data resources. Adaptation and integration of a lecture style course currently taught on the University of Washington campus, existing hands on activities and lessons plans, as well as new educational materials will allow engagement and discussions not possible in the lecture setting. Additional curriculum modules will be created at the University of Washington by Graduate Students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Climate Sciences under the guidance of the high school teachers, a graduate student in the School of Education and NASA funded researchers at UW. Each of these activities will allow high school students to be involved in authentic climate science while also serving the state learning standards.

    The goal of the NASA Global Climate Change Education initiative that funded this project is to engage students in the critical disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and inspire the next generation of explorers. For more information about NASA's Global Climate Change Education initiative, visit:

    Feb 2010 PCC Public Lecture by Brian Soden

    Dr. Brian Soden from the University of Miami visited the UW from February 11-12, 2010 as the speaker for the UW Program on Climate Change's Annual Public Lecture. The Annual Public Lecture, titled "Reducing Uncertainty in Predictions of Climate Change" was held on February 11, 2010 on the UW campus and received a great response from the audience (as well as some laughs!). An audio file of the lecture and the lecture slides can be found on the event page on the UWPCC website, and a DVD of the lecture is available to be checked out from the UWPCC office. On February 12, Dr. Soden also gave a seminar titled "Assessing Radiative Feedbacks and Radiative Forcings in Climate Models" as part of the Atmospheric Sciences colloquium, a weekly seminar series through the department of Atmospheric Sciences.

    2010 PCC Summer Institute on Climate Feedbacks

    How sensitive is climate to perturbations? This is a central scientific uncertainty in projecting human-induced climate change over the next century and beyond. State-of-the-art coupled ocean-atmosphere-land models predict that under the most aggressive emission scenarios, temperatures in the 2090s will be 2.4-6.4 K higher than the 1980-1999 average. Uncertainties in climate feedbacks, including snow and ice albedo feedbacks, water vapor- and cloud-radiative feedbacks, and ocean heat uptake efficiency lead to the large range in the predictions. There is even more scientific uncertainty in biospheric and ice sheet feedbacks, which are of primary importance for climate changes of the past, and could significantly modify predictions of the future as well. This year's Summer Institute will by organized by Dargan Frierson and will focus on feedbacks in all parts of the Earth system which affect the global climate.

    Please visit the 2010 PCC Summer Institute Event Page later this quarter for information on schedule, speakers, and registration.

    2010 Graduate Student Climate Conference

    Calling all climate graduate students, abstract submission is now open for the 4th Graduate Climate Conference! GCC4 is scheduled for October 15-17th 2010 at the University of Washington's Pack Experimental Forest on the slopes of Mount Rainier, Washington. This is a unique conference for grad students, organized and run by grad students.

    Entering into its 4th installment, the GCC remains true to its mission: provide a discussion forum for graduate students undertaking research on climate and climate change in an array of disciplines, including atmospheric, biological, earth and ocean sciences. The conference is unique because only graduate students are present, providing a rare opportunity for the next generation of climate scientists to interact without the inhibitions that accompany the presence of faculty and senior scientists.

    The deadline for abstract submission is June 1, 2010.

    For more information, and a link to the application page, visit the official website:

    The GGC4 organizing committee:

    Alyssa Atwood (OCN)
    Erin Burke (ESS)
    Seth Bushinsky (OCN)
    Stu Evans (ATMOS)
    Andrea Fassbender (OCN)
    Kelly McCusker (ATMOS)
    Dan Nelson (OCN)
    Kristin Poinar (ESS)
    Mark Raleigh (CEE)

    Graduate Certificate in Climate Science (GCeCS) News and Updates

    For those of you who would like to work on a capstone project for the PCC Graduate Certificate in Climate Science this spring, Chris Bretherton has designated Lia Slemons (one of our senior PCC grad students finishing up her PhD in Chemical Oceanography, email as the GCeCS capstone coordinator for this spring. Lia is updating documents and is available to answer your questions about fulfilling requirements and about possible capstone projects.

    If you are interested in participating in the Graduate Certificate in Climate Science (GCeCS) please submit an application form to the PCC office (

    2010/2011 PCC Sponsored Courses

    Autumn 2010

    ESS/OCN/ATMS 586: Current Research in Climate Change, Coordinated by Jim Murray

    ATMS/ESS/OCN 587: Climate Dynamics, taught by Dargan Frierson and Steve Riser. There may be two sections offered, one that does not require differential equations and one that does.

    Winter 2011

    OCN/ATMS/ESS 588: The Global Carbon Cycle and Greenhouse Gasses, taught by Julian Sachs and either Becky Alexander or Lyatt Jaegle.

    ATMS/ESS/OCN 593: Communicating Climate Seminar, coordinated by Julian Sachs (pending evaluation of other communication offerings on campus).

    ATMS 585A/ENVIR 585A/ESS 585A/SMA 585A: Climate Impacts on the Pacific Northwest, taught by Nathan Mantua and Amy Snover in alternate years.

    Spring 2011

    ATMS/OCN/ESS 589: Paleoclimatology: Data, Modeling, Theory, taught by David Battisti and Eric Steig.

    Additional departmental climate related courses, both graduate and undergraduate, can be found on our quarterly climate course listings.

    e-list Subscription Information
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    Contributing to PCC Programs

    Are you interested in helping the PCC via a private donation? If so, please contact Chris (206-685-7414 or or Miriam (206-543-6521 or or give directly through the UW foundation website. We welcome contributions of all sizes!

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