Ice Sheets & Glaciers

Ice Sheets and Glaciers are very important elements of the Earth System.  How the large ice sheets will respond to climate change is one of  big unknowns when projecting future sea level rise. Will the ice sheets just slowly reduce in size and bring about slow changes in global sea level, or are there processes at play that may lead to a much more rapid disintegration?  PSC researchers are monitoring ice sheet dynamics using Satellite RADAR and LIDAR sensors and are building models to better understand the processes that drive the variations in glacier speed.

Is there life beneath the 3000 m thick ice sheets? We don’t know yet, but PSC researchers have launched a project to examine whether life exists under those ice sheets. Such studies may fundamentally reveal new insights about the mechanisms that sustain life at low temperatures.

Selected Projects

Selected Publications

  • Joughin, I., S. Tulaczyk, J.L. Bamber, D. Blankenship, J.W. Holt, T. Scambos, and D.G. Vaughan,’ Basal conditions for Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, West Antarctica, determined using satellite and airborne data’, J. Glaciol., 55, 245-257, 2009.

  • Smith, B.E., Fricker, H.A., Joughin, I.R.., and S. Tulaczyk, ‘An inventory of active subglacial lakes in Antarctica detected by ICESat (2003-2008)’, J. Glaciology, 55(192), 573-595, 2009.

  • Joughin, I., I. Howat, M. Fahnestock, B. Smith, W. Krabill, R. Alley, H. Stern, and M. Truffer, 2008, Continued Evolution of Jakobshavn Isbrae Following its Rapid Speedup, J. Geophys. Res., 113, F04006, doi:10.1029/2008JF001023.

  • Smith, B.E., Raymond, C.F. and T. Scambos, “Anisotropic texture of ice sheet surfaces”, J. Geophys. Res., 111(F1), F01019, 2006.


The Polar Science Center is a group of dedicated investigators conducting interdisciplinary research on the oceanography, climatology, meteorology, biology and ecology of the ice-covered regions on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system. Learn more »