Climate Change News (CCN)- Autumn 2011

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

Transitions and Welcomes

Chris Bretherton, who led the PCC from 2006-2011, handed the directorship over to LuAnne Thompson at the Summer Institute. Over the last few years the three core departments (ESS, OCEAN and ATMS) all became a part of the new College of the Environment. As with all other activities on campus, the PCC has had to face significant budget cuts. Chris, the board, department chairs, and our graduate students all worked to articulate the importance of preserving the essential parts of the PCC into the future. We are happy to announce that the PCC continues and despite reduced resources, our activities are expanding.

With that part of history behind us, welcome to LuAnne Thompson, incoming PCC director with research interests in the role of the oceans in climate variability. She is currently also a Global Health and Environment Fellow and over the last two years led the development and implementation of the new Climate Minor. Please visit her homepage for more.

We also congratulate three graduate students on their receipt of PCC fellowships for the academic year 2011/2012: Karl Lapo (ATMS/CEE), Ashley Maloney (OCN) and Evan Fricke (Biology). They will be formally introduced at the PCC Winter Welcome Reception on January 10, 2012.

Another transition takes place at this time of year--the Graduate Student Representative to the PCC Board. Many thanks to Andrea Fassbender (OCN) who represented the graduate student concerns over the past year. At a vote just prior to the September Summer Institute, the new GSR was selected. Welcome, Spruce Schoenemann (ESS), the new GSR.

Finally, I am very happy to welcome Alexandra Brewer back as the PCC undergraduate assistant. She took a year abroad studying lake sediments in Finland but has returned to help in the office and at events.

Please plan to meet and welcome these new participants and consider interdisciplinary climate concepts at the annual PCC Welcome Reception, to be held this year on January 10 in the fisheries building. Registration and details will be sent to the e-lists, so be sure to subscribe (see below).


Past: 2011 PCC Summer Institute, "The Water Cycle in a Changing Climate"

The 10th annual PCC Summer Institute was held at Friday Harbor Labs on 14-16 September 2011. It was also a Friday Harbor Centennial Symposium; the theme this year was the water cycle in a changing climate and Chris Bretherton was the SI director. Among the 70 attendees were two distinguished visiting guests, Dr. Yi Ming from GFDL, an expert on global modeling of aerosols and their effect on radiation balance and precipitation, and Dr. Ed Cook from Lamont Dougherty Earth Observatory, an expert on tree-ring analysis and droughts in the paleoclimate record.

Former PCC Director Christopher Bretherton (center) with invited speakers Ed Cook (left) and Yi Ming (right).

The speakers and discussions covered a broad spectrum of topics including ocean salinity trends as a possible marker of enhanced regional differences between precipitation and evaporation (Greg Johnson of PMEL), the effects of more rainfall in the Arctic on seal dens in wintertime snow over sea ice (Ceci Bitz of the UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences,) how extreme precipitation events seem to be increasing in many parts of the world, but only maybe in the Pacific Northwest (Eric Salathe of UW Bothell), and the relative importance of temperature vs. rainfall variations on African agriculture (graduate students Brian Smoliak and Steven Po-Chedley of UW Atm Sci in collaboration with Alison Cullen of the UW Evans School of Public Affairs). We also summarized how precipitation changes connect to climate dynamics (Dargan Frierson, UW Atm Sci) and hydrology (Dennis Lettenmaier, UW CEE), and why they are difficult to project into a greenhouse-warmed world on regional scales (Chris Bretherton, UW Atm Sci). The diverse group of graduate students from many UW departments did a great job of asking good questions, setting up excellent discussions, and maintaining a tradition of active nightlife. Luckily, the weather was as pleasant as the setting and did not add a strident voice to the dialogue.

We also welcomed in LuAnne Thompson as incoming PCC director and had a collective conversation about how to best help her move PCC forward into its second decade.

Future: 2012 PCC Summer Institute, FHL Centennial Symposium

"Atmosphere-Ocean-Ice Sheet Interactions"

Next years' institute will focus on the interaction of atmospheric and oceanic change with the polar ice sheets. In late September the PCC proposal to Friday Harbor Labs, prepared by LuAnne Thompson and Eric Steig, was accepted and our Summer Institute will once again double as a Friday Harbor Centennial Symposium. The tentative dates of the SI are Sept 17-19, 2012.


PCC Graduate Student (only) Seminar Series Continues

The PCC is continuing to organize a new seminar - Program on Climate Change Graduate Student Seminar - that focuses on climate research from graduate students. This is a great opportunity to see what is going on in climate research with your fellow students down the hall or in the building over. This seminar is also a chance to show off some of your own research to fellow graduate students or post-docs (and receive unique feedback from a range of participants).

This seminar series is intended to be pretty relaxed with presentations of about 20-25 minutes followed by a brief discussion. Presentations will be geared toward a general scientific audience (of graduate students) with some background in climate science. Presentations should emphasize the background and motivation behind the research so that everyone can get the punch line without being overwhelmed with technical details.

In order to help keep the cross-departmental dialogue going, we will follow the talks by a mass migration to College Inn.

The bi-weekly series started on October 5th; we meet at 4:30 in OCN (aka OSB) 425. Your participation can help shape the series and help us build momentum for this student-only seminar.

Fall 2011 Dates:
Oct 5 Angie Pendergrass
Oct 19 Sarah Purkey
Nov 2 Brian Smoliak
Nov 16 Jessica Lundin
Nov 30 Naomi Goldenson

If you're willing to briefly share your research for a general audience e-mail Spruce at so we can get you on the schedule. We are currently full for the fall quarter but we need people for the winter quarter.

Seminars: Future

Winter 2012 Current Climate Science Seminar (ATMS/ESS/OCN 586): Ice/Ocean Interactions

The interactions between the ocean and ice sheets remain poorly understood and are rarely included in global climate models. This limits our ability to predict the response of the polar oceans and ice sheets to a changing climate and precludes accurate forecasts of sea level rise. We seek to collect students from a variety of disciplines to explore the broad topic of ice/ocean/climate interactions. Graduate students from Atmospheric Sciences, Oceanography, and ESS are strongly encouraged to participate. Students lead discussions on scientific papers and will be expected write short summary reports. Potential topics include:

  • ocean response to ice input
  • ocean current effects on ice shelves and glacier termini
  • the role of atmosphere/sea ice/ocean processes in delivering ocean heat to glaciated coastlines
  • coupling between grounding and floating ice

  • Contact Adam Campbell ( for additional information.

    Graduate Certificate in Climate Science (Updates)

    Elective Requirement

    Governmental Responses to Climate Change (SMA 521, 3 credit) can now be used to satisfy the elective requirement for the GCeCS.

    Other courses that fulfill this requirement are: Paleoclimatology- Data, Modeling and Theory (ESS/OCN/ATM S 589, 3 credits, Spr, alt yrs); Paleoclimate Proxies (OCN/ATMS/ESS 554, 3 credits, Sp, alt years); Climate Impacts on the Pacific Northwest (AtmS/Envir/ESS/SMA 585, 4 credits, Wi or Sp, alt yrs) and Climate Modeling (ATM S/ ESS 559 and OCEAN 558, 4 credits, Sp, alt yrs).

    Communication Seminar

    As part of the capstone requirement, students working on their GCeCS are required to receive formal training in some aspect of communicating science to a non-science audience. We are currently encouraging students to take advantage of the offerings across campus on this topic, including ENVIR 500: Science Communication and the Media, OCN 506: Science and Technology News and Feature Writing, OCN 592: Communicating Ocean Sciences, COM 597: Special Topics in Communication: Science Communication, and PbAF 595 Communicating Climate Change. We are also examining different options for providing students a venue for discussing their capstone projects as they are being developed.

    For a full description of the certificate please visit: GCeCS Questions can also be addressed to Julian Sachs (, the current capstone advisor, or Miriam ( in the PCC office.


    CoEnv Career Blog and RSS feed

    The College of the Environment's career listings are now available through their blog: Those interested can also subscribe the the College's daily email digest or RSS feed.

    To submit posting suggestions for the College of the Environment Careers Blog, please send position descriptions to

    2011/2012 "PCC" Climate Courses

    Updated October 2011

    Fall 2011

  • Climate Dynamics (OCN/ATMS/ESS 587)
    Instructors: David Battisti and Steve Riser
    Course catalog description
  • Current Research in Climate (OCN/ATMS/ESS 586)
    Instructor: LuAnne Thompson
    Course sample description
  • Current Research in Climate Science (OCN/ATMS/ESS 475)
    Instructor: LuAnne Thompson (OCN)

  • Winter 2012

  • Current Research in Climate: Ice-Ocean Interactions (ATMS/OCN/ESS 586, 2 units, CR/NC)
    A student led seminar, hosted by LuAnne Thompson.
  • The Global Carbon Cycle and Climate (ATMS/OCN/ESS 588)
    Instructors: Steve Emerson and Julian Sachs
    Course sample description

  • Spring 2012

  • Climate Modeling (ATMS/ESS 559 and OCEAN 558)
    Instructor: Cecilia Bitz (ATMS) w/LuAnne Thompson (OCN)
    Course sample desciption
  • Paleoclimate Proxies (ATMS/OCN/ESS 554)
    Instructors: Becky Alexander and Julian Sachs
    Course sample description

  • e-list Subscription Information

    To receive direct e-mail notices...

    ...of climate related seminars, subscribe to:

    ...from or for graduate students involved or interested in climate science, subscribe to:

    ...of updates to this newsletter and of general PCC community announcements (social events, summer institute registration, etc.), subscribe to:

    We also have an active climate outreach group; if you'd like to be contacted when we get speaker or other climate-related requests, send an e-mail to Miriam at

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