Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center


Glacier Environmental Change


Our research addresses physical and human dimensions of environmental change in glacierized landscapes. We are interested in the nature, extent, and impact of changes over different scales of space and time. We incorporate different field and computer-based methods, including glacial geology and geomorphology, hydrology, meteorological monitoring, mapping with global positioning system (GPS), remote sensing, GIS, and modeling. While the predominant focus is on tropical glaciers and mountain environments, we also work in mid-latitude sites once occupied by glaciers, including Great Basin National Park and Central Ohio.


May – June 2013

Follow our new blog

We invite you to read our new blog. There you can follow updates from our research, specifically our collaborative project on Hydrologic Transformation and Human Resilience to Climate Change in the Peruvian Andes. We have also included a Twitter account to update the activities of our Transdisciplinary Andean Research Network (TARN) this year in Perú.

March – April 2013

Glaciers, Water & People


We have our 2013’s Peru night. If you want to come, please reserve at

November 2012

Jeff Mckenzie interviewed by cbc Radio about our work in the Cordillera Blanca.

The Andes Mountains in Peru have the world’s largest mass of tropical glaciers, and most of those are located in the Cordillera Blanca Range.  Glacial melt-water finds its way to the Santa River, a significant source of water for the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the cities of this region, including Lima.  This water is also important for local agriculture, as well as one of Peru’s largest hydro-electric projects.  But a new study by a team of scientists, including Dr. Jeffrey McKenzie, a Hydrogeologist from McGill University in Montreal, has found that the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca are receding rapidly, and have been for at least ten to fifteen years, due to climate change.  Some have even disappeared, while other glaciers have crossed a threshold called ‘peak water,’ which means they are melting faster than they can be replenished.  The growing shortage of water has already created conflict among a growing population, and scientists are concerned that unless more efficient uses of water are employed, the situation will only get worse.   Do you want to listen the details? Click here.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

The MORSL lab at the Ohio State University (OSU) invites applications for three 2-year post-doctoral fellow positions to study regime shifts in coupled human and natural systems in the Logone Floodplain in Cameroon. The post-docs will be integral members of a new, interdisciplinary, NSF-funded project focused on regime shifts in African floodplains, examining the impact of human activities and climate change.  This is a unique opportunity for post-doctoral researchers to study the interaction among ecological, hydrological, hydraulic and social systems within the conceptual framework of coupled human and natural systems. Click here for the announcement. The deadline is 31 December 2012.


Credit: Alex Eddy and

Our Andean glacier melt research just got featured in a Nature News piece:

Melting in the Andes: Goodbye glaciers
by Barbara Fraser

On a crisp morning in July, Mark, Baraer and some colleagues with the project climb a lupin-fringed path to Lake Cuchillacocha, which sits at 4,600 metres above sea level, just below a glacier on Mount Pucaranra. There, they work in shifts through the day and frigid night, taking infrared images every half hour of the glacier and surrounding rock. Other instruments on and around the glacier’s tongue record solar radiation, wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity.

The researchers are studying how quickly the ice, rock and lake warm up during the day and cool at night. By correlating these detailed data with measurements of ice thickness and extent made remotely by satellite and planes, the team hopes to develop models for forecasting how quickly glaciers will retreat across the Cordillera Blanca and what the impacts will be.


May – August 2012

Significant Glaciers of Chile: Ice, Water and Community Survival near Santiago, Chile

Bryan Mark and Alfonso Fernández have scientifically supported Kurt Sanderson in his trip to Juncal Norte glacier, Central Chile. Kurt is one of the recipients of the AAC Nikwax Alpine Bellwether Grant. Kurt’s grant has implied a journey to chase some of Chile’s quickly melting glaciers to document any change in glacial mass recession over the decades.  The complete report can be seen here.

Glaciological dynamics of a debris-covered alpine glacier using Terrestrial Laser Scanning: Potential impacts for water resources and natural hazards

Jeff La Frenierre and Bryan Mark appear in UNAVCO highlights. As part of ongoing research that seeks to understand the implications of glacier retreat at Volcán Chimborazo, Ecuador, researchers from Ohio State University are attempting to quantify both the rate and extent of glacier retreat on the mountain in recent years. If successful, we will better understand the vulnerability of potential water resources of surrounding communities During the course of this investigation, it has been determined that 10-15% of the mountain’s remaining glaciers are comprised of debris-covered ice which cannot be monitored using traditional satellite-based remote sensing techniques. more?

Nathan Stansell co-author in several research papers

Our very own Nathan Stansell and their associates have published several papers during this year. One of them “1,500 year quantitative reconstruction of winter precipitation in the Pacific Northwest” was highlighted in the media. That paper is result of an ongoing research about droughts in American West (more details here).


Image credit: Steinman et al. (2012)

Journal of Glaciology paper translated to Spanish

As a way to share and communicate those problems that nowadays Cordillera Blanca faces as consequence of glacier changes, the Journal of Glaciology accepted a formal inquiry to format our paper “Glacier recession and water resources in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca” to Spanish.

Nathan Stansell faculty advisor for the 25th Keck Geology Undergraduate Symposium held at Amherst College in Amherst, MA.

The Keck Geology Consortium is a multi-college collaboration focused on enriching undergraduate education through development of high-quality research experiences. Now in its 20th year, the Consortium has been a fundamental component of the undergraduate-research landscape since its inaugural projects in 1987.

Here is a link to the published extended abstracts

Do you want to see our news archive? click here