Meeting Information

Sea Ice, Ice Sheets, and the Larger Issue of Global Climate Change

October 20, 2010
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Date: October 20, 2010

Speaker: Dr. Claire L. Parkinson, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Topic: Sea Ice, Ice Sheets, and the Larger Issue of Global Climate Change

Time and Location: Talk starts at 1:00 pm with Q&A to follow. It will be held in one of the first floor conference rooms at the American Center for Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD. This is located off River Road, between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: Satellite data have provided a record of both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice distributions and extents since the late 1970s. This record details many variabilities in the ice covers of both polar regions but also reveals a substantial long-term trend toward decreasing sea ice coverage in the Arctic and a lesser trend toward increasing sea ice coverage in the Antarctic. The record for ice thickness is considerably less substantial, but a combination of in situ, submarine, and satellite data reveal a marked thinning of the Arctic ice. Satellite data are also revealing changes in the Earth's two remaining massive ice sheets, with thinning particularly apparent around the edges of Greenland and in the Peninsula and Pine Island Glacier regions of Antarctica, and thickening apparent in some of the other regions. The sea ice and ice sheet changes are part of a much broader pattern of changes in global climate, many of which are also being examined through satellite observations. Concerns about current and predicted future climate changes -- including increased loss of Arctic sea ice and global land ice coverage -- are leading to a variety of proposals to use engineering with the express purpose of modifying future climates. These 'geoengineering' proposals have potentially serious unintended consequences, adding to the importance of recognizing the limitations as well as strengths of our current understandings, data sets, and model simulations.

Biography: Claire Parkinson has been a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center since the late 1970s, with a research emphasis on polar sea ice and climate change. She developed one of the earliest computer models of sea ice and has done field work in both the Arctic and Antarctic, but her research centers mostly on satellite data analysis, which she has used, with others, to establish many details of the long-term trends and interannual variabilities in the Earth’s sea ice covers. Since 1993, Claire has additionally been Project Scientist for NASA’s Aqua satellite, which launched in May 2002 and is transmitting data on many atmosphere, ocean, land, and ice variables. She has written books on the history of science, satellite observations, and climate change, as well as coauthoring and co-editing additional books. Her most recent book, "Coming Climate Crisis? Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix", puts current considerations of geoengineering in the context of current climate understandings and the 4.6-billion-year record of climate change. Claire is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Philosophical Society, is on the Council of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and Phi Beta Kappa.