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Evening at Egan lecture to focus on health of Alaska's glaciers

Posted: October 26, 2011 - 11:05pm

This week’s Evening at Egan lecture will focus on the current knowledge of the state of glacier health in Alaska. This presentation, “Widespread Changes to Alaska’s Glaciers,” will be led by Shad O’Neel, who has worked at the USGS Alaska Science Center in Anchorage since 2008. It begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at the Egan Lecture Hall on the University of Alaska Southeast campus.

The Alaska Region (including Canada) is one of the most heavily glacierized areas on Earth, excluding the polar ice sheets. Alaska’s glaciers are undergoing rapid change, and the uncertainty surrounding these changes is large. Unresolved physics and measurement challenges prevent experts from understanding the magnitude, trend and nature of the change, but progress is being made on all fronts.

This presentation will summarize the current knowledge of the state of glacier health in Alaska, paying close attention to the iceberg calving process and the socio-economic implications of changing glaciers.

“My research focuses on the importance of mountain glaciers, particularly how ice dynamics are involved with glacier mass balance,” said O’Neel in a press release. “Through the spectacular process of iceberg calving, tidewater glaciers can instantly transfer large masses from terrestrial storage to the sea. This poorly understood process plays an important role in the global sea level budget.”

One of the focal points of O’Neel’s work has been the Columbia Glacier.

“Time-lapse photography and passive seismology are essential tools that I use to provide glaciological constraints on ice dynamics and the tightly connected process of sea level rise,” O’Neel said. “Recently produced time-lapse sequences and narrative compiled by Extreme Ice Survey has drawn substantial attention to Columbia, resulting in outreach media by Nova, Scientific American, 60 minutes and Discovery channel.”

For more information on the Evening at Egan series, visit /www.uas.alaska.edu/eganlecture/.

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