Media Advisory
2 December 2010

NSIDC at AGU 2010

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) scientists will present new research at the 2010 American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, California, from December 13 to 17. Below, find highlights of potential interest to journalists. For updates from the meeting, follow NSIDC on Twitter. For a full list of presentations by NSIDC scientists and staff, see the NSIDC Events Web page. For more information about the presentations highlighted below, contact Katherine Leitzell at +1 303.492.1497 or

We also invite you to visit NSIDC in the AGU Exhibit Hall at booth numbers 320 and 322, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Tuesday through Friday. We offer information on new and updated data sets and tools, data resources for cryospheric and Earth science researchers, and information for journalists, educators, and the general public.

Response of Colorado River runoff to dust radiative forcing in snow

Tom Painter (NSIDC Affiliate Scientist)
Oral presentation (Invited) PP11F-04

By reducing dust emissions from western deserts, snow cover in the Rocky Mountains could last longer and contribute more water to rivers in the western United States. Since the 1800s, soil disturbance in western deserts has led to dust storms that coat snow-covered mountains with dark dust. That dust makes the snow more absorbent to solar radiation, and causes it to melt earlier in the spring. Researchers from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NSIDC, and other institutions are working on an interdisciplinary study to identify the factors that lead to dusty snow, and the impacts of dust on snowmelt and rivers.

8:45 a.m. December 13
Moscone West 2007

Determining 1960s Sea Ice Extent from Early Nimbus Satellite Data

Dave Gallaher
Oral presentation C21D-07

Satellite sea ice records go back only to 1979, but early NASA satellites collected data over the Arctic that was never processed, because of the limitations of early computers. NSIDC researchers have now shown that they can derive sea ice extent data from an archive of data from the Nimbus satellites, launched in the 1960s and 1970s. The new research could extend the satellite record of sea ice data by 17 years.

9:30 a.m. December 14
Moscone West 3011

Tributary Glacier Elevation and Mass Loss in the Larsen A and B Ice Shelf Embayments, 2001-2009

Ted Scambos
Oral presentation C22B-04

New research using a combination of satellite sensors shows that the glaciers that used to flow into the Larsen A and B Ice Shelves have shrunk in size, retreating and falling in elevation by in some cases greater than 100 meters in less than 10 years. The Larsen A and B ice shelves broke up in 1995 and 2002, leaving open water where a thick sheet of ice once buttressed the glaciers that flowed into the ice shelves. Previous research showed that following the ice shelf loss, the glaciers sped up their flow of ice towards the ocean. Tracking elevation and volume loss of the glaciers helps scientists better estimate how much ice has moved into the ocean from the Larsen A and B system since the breakup.

11:05 a.m. December 14
Moscone West 3011

The Role of Glaciers in the Hydrology of Nepal

Richard Armstrong
Oral presentation (Invited) GC44B-02

How important are Himalayan glaciers to the water supplies in the region? Results of a new study suggesting that continued retreat of glaciers is not a major concern for water supply in Nepal. The hydrology of the Himalaya was not well understood, so scientists had been concerned that glacial loss could have a big impact on water supply in the region. However, the new study showed that glacial melt contributes only an average of 10 percent of annual water flow to streams in the Himalayas.

4:30 p.m. December 16
Moscone West 3001

Changing dynamics in the Arctic sea ice system.

Walt Meier
Oral presentation C53A-05

The loss of sea ice in the Arctic is leading to changes in the movement and dynamics of the ice. Arctic sea ice extent has declined by more than 11 percent per decade since 1979, and the ice has also become thinner and younger. Recent studies of ice age fields show that the less consolidated ice pack is becoming more responsive to winds. But it is not clear what the effect will be—changes in sea ice dynamics could lead to feedbacks that either accelerate or slow down ice loss.

2:40 p.m. December 17
Moscone West 3011

Strength and Timing of the Permafrost Carbon Feedback

Kevin Schaefer
Oral presentation GC52A-02

NSIDC scientists project that thawing permafrost could release as much as 190 gigatons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by the year 2200, equivalent to an 87 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Kevin Schaefer and Tingjun Zhang used IPCC models of temperature to project the changing landscape of Arctic permafrost in the next two centuries. The study suggests that thawing permafrost could lead to a positive feedback loop, in which the increased release of carbon stores from frozen ground leads to further warming, which then accelerates permafrost thawing.

10:35 a.m. December 17
Moscone West 3001

For further inquiries, please contact the NSIDC press office at or +1 303.492.1497.

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