Cryospheric Research Roundup

July 2014

Ice Sheet and Glacier Modelers Meet at Goddard

CMIP Meeting Lab researchers Sophie Nowicki and Ryan Walker were two of the organizers of the Ice Sheet MIP for CMIP6 meeting, a meeting of ice sheet and glacier modelers that gathered about 35 participants from 10 countries on July 16-18 at the Goddard campus. The sea-level projections made by the glaciological community as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process have often been out of phase with the projections considered by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project community. A primary focus of this meeting was to develop a plan that will allow ice sheet and glacier models to be better integrated, in order to improve both sea level projections due to changes in the cryosphere and our understanding of the cryosphere in a changing climate.

Lab Participation at 2014 Science Jamboree

Science Jamboree The cryopheric sciences laboratory had a strong representation at the 2014 Science Jamboree. Once again, Goddard’s Science and Exploration Directorate offered displays and demonstrations from all science divisions to those participating in the center’s employee engagement activities.

The laboratory had a table displaying several hands-on demonstrations on how glaciers move, ice cores from Greenland, and information on Operation IceBridge. Right next to it, ICESat-2 displayed its Traveling Altimeter Exhibit, a demonstrable mock-up of the upcoming satellite mission that takes “personal elevation profiles” of the participants. In the Hyperwall room, lab member Christopher Shuman gave a presentation displaying a time series of the Antarctic Peninsula.

MABEL’s Alaskan Campaign

MABEL instrument flight takeoff.Starting this month, scientists from the cryospheric laboratory, together with other researchers, engineers and pilots are going to Fairbanks, Alaska, to fly an airborne test instrument called the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar, or MABEL. MABEL collects data in the same way that the upcoming Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2)’s instrument will – with lasers and photon-detectors. Between July 12 and August 1, MABEL will fly aboard NASA’s high-altitude ER-2 aircraft as the Arctic sea ice and glaciers are melting. The data from the Alaskan campaign will allow researchers to develop computer programs, or algorithms, to analyze the information ICESat-2 will collect on Arctic summer conditions.

  • Check out MABEL’s field blog here

June 2014

2014 Summer Interns

The summer is here, and with it comes a new cohort of interns and summer workers for NASA’s cryospheric sciences laboratory. 

Kimberly Gutstein, a graduate student in applied mathematics at San Diego State University, is working on sea ice thickness estimation using Aquarius data, under the direction of Paolo de Matthaeis.

Natasha Marie Goodfox Chenot, is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and she is completing a major in Environmental Science at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. During her internship, working under the supervision of Lora Koenig and Ludovic Brucker, Chenot is investigating snow properties and altitudes along the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, analyzing in-situ measurements collected during an Antarctic traverse in 2011. She is comparing these measurements with those taken from CryoSat-2 satellite observations, and investigating the correlations between snow properties and regional elevations.

Irma Caraballo Álvarez is working under the tutelage of Emmanuel Dinnat and Ludovic Brucker on analyzing sea surface salinity measurements from Aquarius and comparing them to ship borne measurements. Caraballo Álvarez is pursuing her PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. Her interests include geological and oceanographical applications in remote sensing and climate change variables as evidenced in beach rocks.

Zumrad Kabilova, an undergraduate from Goucher College majoring in mathematics and physics, has been hired this summer to work on the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS). Kabilova is collaborating with the ATLAS Onboard Receiver Algorithm team, under the supervision of Ann Rackley  and Jan McGarry.

Samiah Moustafa is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Moustafa’s general research interests include Arctic hydroclimatology and assessing Greenland ice sheet meltwater losses at the pixel, catchment, and continental scale. Her current research, under the supervision of Lora Koenig, focuses on characterizing seasonal changes in surface albedo and its modulation of melt in southwest Greenland’s ablation zone. Additionally, she is working on a research project that uses a multi-scale approach to evaluate different satellite-derived albedo product’s ability to capture the inherent spatial heterogeneity of albedo found along Greenland’s ablation zone.

Lab Members Discuss Arctic Sea Ice Change With National Geographic

Josefino Comiso and Walt Meier spoke to National Geographic reporters about the shrinking of the Arctic sea ice cover, which has prompted the publisher to update its depiction of the ice in its upcoming 10th edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

  • Read the National Geographic story here


May 2014

Satellite Rain-On-Snow Detection to Help Reindeer Herders

Photo showing rain on snow.

NASA awarded the research proposal entitled “Satellite Rain-On-Snow Detection: A New Climate Change Product” submitted to the Science Mission Directorate’s Earth Science Division, in response to NASA's Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science "The Science of Terra and Aqua". The project's team is international and composed of:

  • Ludovic Brucker (NASA GSFC / USRA GESTAR)
  • Joe Munchak (NASA GSFC / Uni. of Maryland)
  • Nancy Maynard (NASA GSFC / Uni. of Miami)
  • Alexandre Langlois and Caroline Dolant (University of Sherbrooke, Canada)
  • Anders Oskal, Executive Director, International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR)
  • Inger Marie Gaup Eira (Dr.), Assoc. Professor, Vice-Rector, Sámi University College, Norway and International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR)
  • Svein D Mathiesen (Dr.), Institute Leader, Professor, University of the Arctic Institute for Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry (UArctic EALÁT Institute at ICR

The objective is to develop a satellite algorithm using the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometers (AMSR-E and AMSR2) for detecting rain-on-snow events daily over the subarctic regions. This will provide a new indicator for wintertime climate change monitoring, and it will help communities of native Arctic reindeer herders with climate adaptation to improve herd management. The algorithm will be validated using satellite rainfall data from the new Global Precipitation Measurement mission, and in-situ measurements in Northern Canada. Some ground-based observations as well as efficient dissemination of satellite ROS product to reindeer herders and managers across the Arctic will be implemented through the U Arctic EALAT Institute on Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry, the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, the Reindeer Portal, and the Arctic Portal.

If you are interested in a preliminary version of the data product, please contact Lucovic Brucker.

New Member of The Lab

Photo of Christine Dow.

Christine Dow joined NASA GSFC’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory in April as a postdoctoral research fellow. Following on from her PhD research focused on subglacial hydrological development as a result of rapid lake drainage events in Greenland, Christine will be applying hydrological models to assess the stability and hydrological balance of sub-Antarctic lakes. Her modeling will be focused on the Recovery Lakes, using data from NASA's Operation IceBridge for validation. This research will allow examination of the role of sub-Antarctic lakes in ice stream dynamics that, in turn, are important arteries of the Antarctic ice sheets.

April 2014

ICESat-2 At The USA Science and Engineering Festival


A brand new exhibit of ICEsat-2 made its debut at the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, on April 24-26. The ICESat-2 Traveling Altimeter Exhibit serves as a demonstrable mock-up of the upcoming satellite mission; a small-scale version of the satellite moving along a track overhead takes “personal elevation profiles” (height measurements) of the participants. Although the actual satellite will use a laser altimeter, the exhibit uses a simple radar instrument, yet will show how ICESat-2 will take measurements from space.

This exhibit was a collaboration between NASA's ICESat-2 Education and Public Outreach team and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, who built it. This exhibit will be displayed at large science and education conferences such as the National Science Teachers Association conferences and the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and it will take residence in some ICESat-2 science center partner locations and in several NASA centers' buildings.

Climate Change and Indigenous Arctic Communities

Photo of Reindeer.

Nancy Maynard, a lead author of the Polar Regions chapter of the International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report and a Scientist Emeritus at the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, participated in a special event to highlight the findings of this report on impacts to indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The March 31, 2014 event, held in Kautokeino, Norway, was spear headed by the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, the Arctic EALAT Institute, and the Association of World Reindeer Herders.

The warming Arctic and major changes in the cryosphere are significantly impacting the health and well-being of Arctic residents and are projected to increase – especially, for many indigenous peoples,” Maynard said. Climate change has caused snow and weather variations that affect indigenous reindeer herding communities: for example, increasing temperature variations in wintertime accompanied by rain make the snow slushy. When the mix of rain and snow refreezes, it forms ice layers that block the reindeers’ access to their food. At the same time, the hunt for natural resources, and increases in future oil and gas development in the Arctic, are shrinking the grazing lands.

The new IPCC report concludes that there is a need for more robust solutions that combine science and technology with indigenous knowledge.


Read more research news in our Research Roundup Archives.

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