ICE AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Ice and Climate Research addresses the effects of ice on sea level, the history of Earth’s climate, especially as recorded in ice cores, and interactions of ice with its surroundings. Even small changes in glaciers and ice sheets can greatly affect sea level. Penn State researchers are active in field-based as well as model-based studies focused on changes in large-scale ice sheets in West Antarctica, Greenland, and other locations around the world.
Ice cores contain detailed histories of past climates including startling revelations about abrupt climate changes. Penn State geoscientists use knowledge of the physical properties of ice to interpret past climates and ice-flow processes. Glacially-sculpted landscapes record the power of ice to modify the landscape and perturb biogeochemical cycles, another focus of Penn State research.
Recent student projects include geophysical surveys of ice-stream initiation in West Antarctica, measuring ice motion in Alaska, characterizing ice cores at the National Ice Core Laboratory in Denver and at remote Antarctic sites, and modeling of the future of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Faculty members Richard Alley, Sridhar Anandakrishnan and Byron Parizek lead the Penn State Ice and Climate Exploration (PSICE) Group, together with important continuing contributions from recently-retired researchers Don Voigt, David Pollard, Todd Sowers, and others. Ties to many other disciplines, and especially cooperation with Profs. Shujie Wang and Luke Trusel in Geography, broaden the field greatly.
Learn more about Penn State Ice and Climate Research.
CLIMATE IMPACTS AND RISK MANAGEMENT
Changes in average land surface and ocean temperatures, sea-level rise, and increasingly persistent droughts are some of the increasingly prominent stressors brought about by anthropogenic climate change. Understanding and planning for the impacts of these changes on people and ecosystems requires input from and advances in many disciplines (physical and natural sciences, social sciences, and engineering) as well as tight integration between them.
Geosciences faculty in this area (e.g., Antonia Hadjimichael, Richard Alley) engage in multidisciplinary collaborations within the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and across Penn State, in centers and institutes such as the Penn State Center for Climate Risk Management, the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, the Penn State Climate Consortium, and the Penn State Water Consortium.
The hydrogeology program dates from the early 1960s and enjoys a national reputation. Its many graduates are among the nation's most outstanding hydroscientists, academics and consultants.
Faculty in this area include Parizek and Housego, and opportunities exist to develop projects in a wide range of topics, over a range of scales. Hydrogeology today is a quantitative discipline, and we train and educate our students to think quantitatively.
Research within the group includes controls on fluid flow in aquifers, solute transport, and groundwater-surface-water interactions; coastal hydrogeology; critical zone hydrology, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem function; water resource sustainability; impacts of climate change and groundwater pumping on freshwater systems; and characterization of feedbacks between groundwater, soil geotechnical properties, and geomorphological evolution; among others.
Penn State has an active group of water-focused scientists in various departments around campus, and is one of the best places in the world to study hydrologic processes.
WHO WE ARE
Learn more about our faculty and research groups:
Dr. Richard Alley combines modeling, remote sensing, field, and laboratory studies to understand ice behavior and history, with special focus on the potential for rapid ice-sheet changes to drive larger, faster sea-level rise than generally expected. Dr. Alley’s work is heavily collaborative with other PSICE members and colleagues elsewhere, and seeks to understand the processes that control ice behavior. Again in collaboration with other PSICE members, Dr. Alley also works to communicate the results of this research to policymakers and the general public.
Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan applies geophysical tools to solve leading problems in glacial behavior and interactions with the Earth, oceans and atmosphere. He has led more than 30 field expeditions, mostly in Antarctica but also Greenland, Norway, and Iceland, with more planned. Using seismic, radar, and other techniques, including some instruments he designed and built at Penn State, his teams are discovering new phenomena and testing the leading hypotheses for ice-sheet behavior in new places.
Dr. Antonia Hadjimichael’s group focuses on interactions between human and Earth systems, particularly in how climate affects the availability of water resources and respective human adaptation. The research group uses tools like modeling and simulation, high performance computing, artificial intelligence and data visualization to understand how climate impacts manifest and to inform decision making for the future. More information about the Hadjimichael Research group can be found here: https://www.hadjimichael.info/.
Dr. Byron Parizek works with members of the PSICE group to conduct ice sheet and outlet glacier modeling research that focuses on process understanding. Accurate reconstructions and predictions of glacier movement on timescales of human interest require a better understanding of available observations and the ability to model the key processes that govern ice flow. The fact that many of these processes are interconnected, are loosely constrained by data, and involve not only the ice, but also the atmosphere, ocean, and solid Earth, makes this a challenging endeavor, but one that is essential for Earth-system modeling and the resulting climate and sea-level forecasts that are provided to policymakers worldwide.
Dr. Rachel Housego uses in situ field measurements and numerical simulations to study groundwater processes in complex environments, from the mountains to the coasts. Groundwater affects ecosystem health, water resource sustainability, and contributes to environmental hazards, such as flooding, erosion and pollution. Dr. Housego’s research group aims to better characterize these risks by studying the interactions between surface water forcings, climate forcings, morphological evolution and groundwater dynamics, which act across a broad range of spatial and temporal scales throughout the hydrosphere.