National Science Foundation Fellow Will Kochitzky discuses his research on glacial ice sheets.
I have broad interests in ice bodies around the world. In my undergraduate thesis, I focused on Nevado Coropuna which is an ice cap in rural Peru. It’s one of the highest tropical ice bodies. Previous studies found that it was melting quite rapidly in comparison with other high altitude ice bodies.
My work showed that it’s not. It’s about a third the rate the most well-cited studies had previously shown. I was able to measure change at the Nevado Coropuna ice cap from 1980 to 2014, and I’ve printed these models on a 3-D printer so you could visually see the change that has occurred over that 34-year period.
Here, we have the 1980 ice cap. I hope you can visually see the 2014 ice cap is substantially smaller, but this isn’t a story of disappearance.
Large parts of the glaciers haven’t totally vanished, the glaciers are definitely still intact and are looking relatively good, which further supports our evidence that we think these ice bodies are going to stick around for quite some time and continue to contribute to water supplies, unlike what previous studies have found that they’re going to disappear by 2025.
That’s what I did in my undergraduate work. Transitioning now in my graduate work, I’m going to be focusing largely on the ice sheets in Arctica and/or Greenland and studying how those glaciers are reacting to warming in those regions, and how that’s connecting with broader climate ocean patterns.
Most of my techniques are largely remote sensing, and using the computers and satellites to help us understand what’s happening in these dynamic systems.