June 30, 2011 NASA Scientist to Discuss "Big Ice Sheets Doing Big Things: Why It's a Big Deal," July 20

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Science, Technology and Business Division (202) 707-5664; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (301) 614-6627

The great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking at an accelerating rate that has surprised experts. This loss of ice is causing an increasing rate of sea-level rise, making it critically important to provide accurate predictive models as a basis for policymakers and citizens to take action. The challenges to science are great, and a more detailed understanding of ice-sheet dynamics is urgently needed.

NASA scientist Robert Bindschadler, an expert on glaciers and ice sheets, will discuss “Big Ice Sheets Doing Big Things: Why it's a Big Deal” at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 20, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

The illustrated lecture, the fourth in a series of programs in 2011, is presented through a partnership between the Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The partnership is in its fifth year.

According to Bindschadler, direct field studies have identified a number of causes for the sudden awakening of ice sheets. Whether it is ponds of meltwater that destroy thick-floating ice shelves, flowing meltwater that cascades through nearly a mile of ice to lubricate the base of the ice sheet, or warmer water circulating beneath floating ice shelves and thinning them, water is the primary agent of change. In a warmer world, ice sheets will be forced to respond to even more water on top of, within and below them. Glaciologists paint a disheartening picture that suggests continued ice-sheet loss and consequent sea-level rise may well be irreversible.

Bindschadler has led 15 Antarctic field expeditions to study dynamics of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Throughout a career that spans 30 years at NASA, he has developed numerous unique applications of remote-sensing data for glaciological research, including measuring ice velocity and elevation using both visible and radar imagery, monitoring melt of the ice sheet by microwave emissions, and detecting changes in ice-sheet volume by repeat space-borne radar altimetry. He recently retired as the chief scientist of NASA’s Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Bindschadler is also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a past president of the International Glaciological Society. He is currently both a NASA emeritus scientist and a senior research scientist at Morgan State University. He has testified before Congress; briefed the U.S. vice president; published over 140 scientific papers, including numerous review articles; and is often quoted commenting on glaciological impacts of the climate on the world's ice sheets and glaciers.

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PR 11-126
ISSN 0731-3527