Cryospheric Research Roundup

October 2018

ICESat-2’s Laser Fires for First Time

ATLAS, the laser instrument that launched into orbit on Sept. 15 aboard ICESat-2, fired for the first time Sept. 30. By the morning of Oct. 3, the satellite returned its first height measurements across the Antarctic ice sheet. The first photon cloud generated by ICESat-2 shows a stretch of elevation measurements from East Antarctica, passing close to the South Pole at a latitude of 88 degrees south, then continuing between Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. Next up for ICESat-2 is a suite of procedures to optimize the instrument.
  • To learn more about ICESat-2’s first measurements, click here.

Parkinson Inducted Into American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Senior Climate Scientist Claire Parkinson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in a ceremony held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 6. 
“It is both a wonderful honor and a wonderful opportunity to be elected into the American Academy, which was founded by John Adams and others in 1780, during the American Revolution, with the purpose of cultivating ‘every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people’,” Parkinson said. “The Academy undertakes many important studies on a wide range of interdisciplinary topics, one this year being on Science and the Legal System.”
In addition to the induction itself, the three-day Induction Weekend included briefings on the work of the Academy, a celebration of the arts and humanities, and an extended talk-show-style interview with newly inducted member Sonia Sotomayor, who provided insights into her life and various aspects of being a Supreme Court justice.

September 2018

 ICESat-2 Successfully Launches to Track Earth's Changing Ice

NASA’s ICESat-2 spacecraft successfully launched on the final flight of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, lifting off from Space Launch Complex-2 at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 6:02 a.m. PDT (9:02 a.m. EDT) on September 15, 2018. Using its only onboard instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), ICESat-2 will document changes in the Earth’s polar ice and improve forecasts of sea level rise.

  • Read more about the launch here.

August 2018

New Faces In The Lab

The Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory saw its ranks expand in August 2018, with three young researchers joining the lab to work on topics ranging from melt ponds to models of ice flow. 

R. Tri Datta, a post-doctoral associate, will collaborate with Brooke Medley to quantify melt pond depth and blue ice occurrence in polar regions. Tri comes from the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at the City University of New York, where her research focused on foehn wind-induced surface melt over the Larsen C ice shelf using the regional climate model MAR (Modele Atmospherique Regional) as well as  satellite and in situ data. At Goddard, she will be working primarily with laser altimetry data from ICESat-2.
Catherine Walker will work with Tom Neumann on ICESat-2 altimetry and ice sheet science. Prior to joining the lab as a visiting assistant research scientist, Catherine was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA in the Sea Level and Ice group, where she worked on interdisciplinary Antarctic and planetary science projects. Previously, she was a postdoc at Georgia Institute of Technology, after graduating with her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Her research focuses mainly on ice shelf rifting and ice-ocean interactions around the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets using laser altimetry and other remote sensing data, and on modeling planetary ice shells and their interaction with subsurface water in the Ocean Worlds of our solar system. She also has experience in the field, using AUV/ROVs to investigate the ice-ocean boundary beneath ice shelves and is interested in further developing such capabilities.
Denis Felikson joined the lab as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow. Denis completed his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was co-supervised by Ginny Catania and Srinivas Bettadpur, on a project that determined how glacier geometry can set limits on thinning spreading from retreating glacier termini into the interior of the Greenland Ice Sheet. At Goddard, he will be working with Sophie Nowicki to determine the upper and lower bounds of the Greenland Ice Sheet’s contribution to sea-level rise over the coming century. To do this, Denis will use the Ice Sheet System Model, a numerical model of ice flow, to run thousands of simulations with different plausible configurations of the ice sheet. By comparing each simulation with satellite measurements of the ice sheet, Denis will determine the distribution of likely future sea-level rise.

July 2018

Summer Intern Working on Arctic Sea Ice Melt State

Nick Wright, a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, is interning at the laboratory this summer. Nick studies the shortwave energy balance of the Arctic sea ice cover through a combination of optical remote sensing and field observations. He has developed a method to detect melt ponds and leads in high resolution optical imagery of sea ice and he is using these data to create improved melt pond fraction estimates derived from lower resolution sensors such as MODIS and VIIRS
While at NASA, Nick will be working with Melinda Webster to develop a new product that synthesizes a wide range of satellite remote sensing data sets to describe the current state of melt of the Arctic sea ice cover. 
“This product will help to improve our ability to model the Arctic sea ice cover and our understanding of powerful albedo feedbacks that influence the global climate system,” Nick said.

Undergraduate Summer Intern Aims to Improve Sea Ice Forecasts

Akira Sewnath, an undergraduate senior at the University of Florida, is working this summer with Alek Petty on improving sea ice predictions. Currently, Petty uses an open source linear regression model that validates the idea that using June sea ice concentrations in a simple statistical model can reliably predict the September sea ice extent. Akira is working to move to a more sophisticated statistical model to get better accuracy scores for the September ice extent prediction. She is also building a system that can handle month-to-month sea ice extent, ice area, and ice concentration spatial map predictions. The purpose of this system is to produce all kinds of predictions, as well as be easily retrained when new information is available on a month-to-month basis.

Read more research news in our Research Roundup Archives.

Cryospheric Sciences at NASA Goddard

Cryospheric research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center addresses the physics of ice sheets and glaciers, sea ice, snow on ice and land, and their roles in the global climate system.

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