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IGS International Symposium
Earth's Disappearing Ice
Drivers, Responses and Impacts

A celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Byrd Polar Research Center (formerly The Institute of Polar Studies)

August 15 – 20, 2010
OSU / Byrd Polar Research Center
Columbus, Ohio, USA

Glacier flyover by Ellen Mosley-Thompson Illulissat Forebay Ice by Tad Pfeffer Sea Ice by Dr. Martin Jakobsson

The International Glaciological Society (IGS) will hold an International Symposium on "Earth's Disappearing Ice" in 2010. The symposium will be held in Columbus, Ohio, USA, from 15 to 20 August 2010.


One of the most visible indicators of climate change is the response of Earth's ice cover. Over the second half of the 20th century alpine glaciers worldwide retreated. Satellite observations over the last two decades reveal rapid changes in many outlet glaciers that drain large sections of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Ice shelf disintegration is becoming more frequent with consequences for the discharge of land-based ice to the oceans. The extent of summer sea ice on the Arctic Ocean is declining and ice free summer conditions well before the end of the century are not outside the realm of possibility. This symposium will focus on the drivers for such changes, the potential feedbacks and responses of the climate system to these changes and the likely impacts that might be expected in response to the ongoing large-scale deglaciation of the planet. An additional goal of the symposium is to identify major gaps in our scientific understanding, observational databases, modeling approaches and the need for enhanced human capital and fiscal resources to advance our predictive capability.


Naimonaniya ice cap Credit: Lonnie Thompson
  1. Sea ice extent and thickness changes in the Arctic and Antarctic, focusing on the different driving mechanisms, responses in the Arctic versus the Antarctic, potential impacts on the ocean-atmosphere system, regional climate variability, polar ecosystems, human systems and infrastructure.
  2. Tidewater glacier dynamics, iceberg calving and sedimentation dynamics, including observations and parameterizations of calving from floating and grounded termini, the role of sedimentation in grounding line stability, and interactions between ice-marginal processes and glacier speed.
  3. Ice shelf dynamics, including oceanic forcing of basal melting and freezing, the preconditioning and eventual mechanisms by which breakup occurs, impacts of breakup on the ocean-atmosphere system and adjacent land-based ice, limitations to ice-shelf break-up suggested by past ice-sheet and ice-shelf configurations, and break-up scenarios under other climate regimes suggested by paleo-oceanographic and glacial geologic inference.
  4. Ice streams and outlet glacier dynamics, including observations and modeling to elucidate the key mechanisms controlling flow and discharge with particular emphasis on subglacial processes.
  5. Glacier and ice sheet mass balance, including a global inventory and assessments, atmospheric and oceanic forcing, response to large-scale modes of climate variability, observational methods, modeling approaches and predictions, upscaling, partitioning into climatic and dynamic mass balance components, key unknowns, critical observations and limitations to progress.
  6. Alpine glaciers (at all latitudes), including observations, driving mechanisms, modeling, impacts on associated watersheds and related societal impacts. Special emphasis on alpine glacier changes in regions where traditional forms of glaciological survey are limited and that may be especially vulnerable to climate change (such as the Himalayas and South American Andes).
  7. Records of past glacier changes, including proxy histories that elucidate key drivers, responses and response rates.



The symposium will be held at the new Ohio Union at The Ohio State University (OSU), in Columbus, Ohio. OSU is a public research university founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and is currently the second largest university campus in the United States. Columbus is the state capital, and the city has numerous historic areas including: German Village, the Short North, and Victorian Village. Other attractions include the Arena District, Franklin Park Conservatory, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus Art Museum and COSI. The city features restaurants of every cuisine — American, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Indian, etc. — with prices for all budgets. Weather in August can be very hot and humid, reaching 31°C (88°F), and on occasion even higher. Short sleeves and lightweight clothing is recommended. Be prepared for rain or a cool spell as in Columbus we say, "wait five minutes and the weather will change!"

Science Steering and Editorial Committee

Kees van der Veen, Chief Editor (U. Kansas), Gudfinna Adalgeirsdottir (Danish Meteorological Institute), Jason Box (Ohio State Univ.), Adrian Jenkins (British Antarctic Survey), Ian Joughin (U. of Washington), Nina Kirchner (Stockholm U.), Doug MacAyeal (U. of Chicago), Ellen Mosley-Thompson (Ohio State U.), Tad Pfeffer (U. of Colorado), Stephen Price (Los Alamos National Lab.), Leigh Stearns (U. Kansas), Lonnie Thompson (Ohio State U.), Slawek Tulaczyk (U. California Santa Cruz), Dirk van As (Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland).

Abstract and Paper Publication

Participants wishing to present a paper at the workshop are required to submit an abstract. A pre-print of submitted abstracts will be provided for all participants at the symposium. The International Glaciological Society will offer a volume of Annals of Glaciology on topics consistent with the Symposium themes. Although the final volume title is yet to be determined, participants are encouraged to submit manuscripts for this volume.