Lake Blanca and its glacier, Cascade Mountains, Washington. Photo by William Roberts.
The glaciological research in the Department is aimed at understanding local and small-scale processes related to snow and ice and predicting their role in regional and global climate. The structural and optical properties of snow, sea ice, and pure ice and their interaction with radiation across the solar spectrum and the thermal infrared are being studied in cold-room laboratories and field projects carried out in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Microwave properties of sea ice are being investigated experimentally and theoretically for application to satellite remote sensing. The heat and mass exchanges involved in the growth and decay of sea ice, and air/sea interaction in the presence of an ice cover, are studied by experiments in the Arctic Ocean and by computer modeling. The wind-driven circulation of sea ice is studied using drifting buoys. Changes in the statistical distribution and overall thickness of Arctic sea ice are being investigated using upward-looking submarine sonar observations. Researchers from the Department have been conducting multiplidisciplinary fieldwork in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas since 1957.
Students in the Department are part of the large and active glaciological community at the University, which includes members in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences (glacier dynamics), the Quaternary Research Center (glacial geology, permafrost, isotope chemistry of polar ice cores), and the Oceanography Department (polar oceanography). The Polar Science Center, a branch of the Applied Physics Laboratory, is dedicated to research in high-latitude oceanography, sea ice processes, air-sea-ice interaction, and remote sensing of ice and snow, and climate change.