Ice Research

What melting glaciers and ice sheets mean for us

In Antarctica, a Rhode Island-sized ice shelf collapses into the ocean. Glaciers throughout the American West disappear. Thawing ice in the Arctic creates a new Northwest Passage. Such conspicuous consequences of climate change signal new challenges that extend well beyond polar bears and ski conditions.

Researchers at Portland State University are leading efforts to understand what's happening to Earth's largest ice masses, and what those changes portend for the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland remain a great unknown when it comes to climate change. Geology professor Christina Hulbe studies the properties of these frozen masses to understand how they fracture and flow.

She's among a small group of scientists worldwide who build and use computer models to study how ice sheets are changing. Their goal: transform that understanding into better projections of future ice sheet and climate change.

Andrew Fountain, professor of geography and geography, heads up long-term tracking and regional variation of glaciers,one of the clearest indicators of warming temperatures.

Comparing historic records to more recent data, Fountain and his team have produced stunning evidence of glaciers in retreat in the American West, from California's Sierra Nevadas to Montana's Glacier National Park, where glaciers have receded by 67 percent over the last century.

Fountain and Hulbe have both worked with the U.S. Geological Survey's Oregon Water Science Center to assess how warming trends may impact future water projections for the Northwest.

Funding for glacier and ice sheet research at PSU has come from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, and others, providing additional field-based training for many graduate students.

Portland State University will host over 1,000 researchers at the biennial  Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research Open Science Conference in July 2012.

Glacier Research at PSU:
Glacier Change in the American West:


Glaciologist Christina Hulbe (above) was recently appointed to a National Research Council committee that will estimate sea level rise over the next century for Oregon, Washington, and California.

Andrew Fountain

The prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) elected Andrew Fountain (above) as a 2010 AAAS Fellow, recognition of his contributions to teaching and research from the world's largest general scientific society.