Kathleen Ski

Internship at The Byrd Polar Reseach Center

      Having studied environmental issues of planet Earth and my concern about global warming led me to seek out a way to become involved and make a difference. I had attended a lecture presented by Dr. Jason Box of the Byrd Polar Research Center (BPRC) where he discussed his current research on the Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Balance. Increases in temperature during recent years have caused more melting than snow accumulation on the ice sheet. His research showed that the ice sheet is shrinking in size and more melt water is entering the Atlantic. His maps really intrigued me and visually enhanced his presentation of a complex topic. I gained an even greater understanding of the important work being done at the BPRC on the retreat of glaciers worldwide and the effects of global warming on polar ice. I learned that Dr. Box was seeking a student intern with GIS skills to assist on his current research project funded by NASA. I applied and he hired me.
The Greenland Supraglacial Melt Lake Study

     Melt lakes forming on the surface of the ice sheet are darker than the ice causing them to absorb more solar radiation, creating a feedback loop melting more ice and creating larger lakes. When these lakes abruptly drain the water makes it's way to the bottom of the ice sheet through moulins (tunnels through the ice) providing lubrication for glacier flow. Using MODIS satellite imagery, we studied the Greenland Ice Sheet melt lakes over the six year period from 2000 to 2005. As you can imagine, mounting a trip to Greenland to study the melt lakes is a rather chilly, difficult and expensive operation. The process for calculating how much melt water is forming in these lakes, by examining satellite images published in this article, will give scientists a better understanding of glacier dynamics without costly trips to the ice sheet itself. This region was chosen because the Jakobshavn Glacier is one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world (20-35 meters a day) and it produces around 20 billion tons of icebergs per year. The melt lake study map of the region around the Jakobshavn Glacier, was done using IDL, ENVI and ArcMap. I love the way this map turned out! Our research study is available for download here is titled "Remote sounding of Greenland supraglacial melt lakes: implications for subglacial hydraulics" was published in the Journal of Glaciology. For more about the Jakobshavn glacier changes over the years see this NASA article on the Jakobshavn Glacier. To learn more about glacial ice core research visit the Ice Core Paleoclimatology Research Group at the BPRC.

      This summer internship was a valuable experience for me. I learned all about the practical applications of using remote sensing (satellite imagery), a new software programming language and application (IDL and ENVI). I also gained insight into what it takes to produce and publish quality scientific research. This learning experience went both ways. Dr. Box learned more about the use of the projection tools in the latest version of the ENVI software and the ENVI developers received feedback and bug reports on the new version to help them enhance their software product. MeltLake.jpg
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