Student projects


PROJECT 1: Surface energy balance and sensitivity of melt to climate change
STUDENTS: Smarika Kulshreshtha, Isabel Ramos Parado
ADVISOR: Regine Hock
DESCRIPTION: The project involves calculating the energy balance at the surface of a glacier using data over one melt season from an automatic weather station on a glacier. The next steps will evolve with student interests. For example, the project may compare different parameterizations for various components of the energy balance or explore the sensitivity of energy components and glacier to melt to changes in meteorological input variables.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Any programming language, e.g. Matlab. Project can in principle also be done using spreadsheets (e.g. Excel)
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Basic knowledge of any of the software requirements above.

PROJECT 2: A simple flowline model
STUDENTS: Anushilan Acharya, Quentin Dalaiden
ADVISOR: Regine Hock
DESCRIPTION: We will investigate the behavior of an idealized simple one-dimensional glacier model which describes the changes in glacier topography with time. You will code the model, preferably in Matlab, and then explore the behavior of the glacier in response to varying mass balance gradients and equilibrium lines. You may also investigate the sensitivity of the glacier evolution in time to changes in glacier bed, ice softness etc.
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: The project does not require prior ice flow modeling experience, but some basic knowledge of calculus/differential equations and Matlab is needed (or sufficient programing skills in another programing language so that you can code the model without help).

PROJECT 3: Ice shelves with side-wall stresses
STUDENTS: Marko Closs, Indraneel Kasmalkar
ADVISOR: Ed Bueler
DESCRIPTION: Recent theoretical and laboratory work by Pegler (2016) examines steady-state ice shelf shapes including side-wall stresses. As a result of this and related work, a wide range of theoretical ice shelf profiles have now been analyzed. These profiles are a toolset for understanding the dynamical configuration of the present-day ice shelves in Antarctica. We will explore these ideas via by-hand analysis and numerical computations, and using observations of ice shelves in Antarctica. The starting point will be a numerical solution of a standard model of a steady-state ice shelf.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Matlab/Octave or (numerical) Python.
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Exposure to differential equations and linear algebra. Basic programming with Matlab/Octave or Python.

PROJECT 4: Glacier flow over a cliff
STUDENTS: Jacob Downs, Aaron Stubblefield
ADVISOR: Ed Bueler
DESCRIPTION: How does a glacier flow over a submerged cliff or step in the bedrock? This geometry can be put into in a complete Stokes flow model. We will work with one of such a model and thereby get a pretty good answer. On the other hand, the shallow models used for large-scale ice sheet studies must also produce reasonable results for bedrock configurations including such steep cliffs and other bad bedrock topography. This project will work with the equations and numerical models associated to both Stokes and shallow stress balances. We aim to build an understanding of the flow and glacial profiles associated to bad topography, and perhaps figure out good ways to modify a shallow model so as to handle bed cliffs effectively.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Numerical Python (Python+numpy+matplotlib). The Firedrake finite element Python library will also be used, but that will come installed on a provided laptop.
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Exposure to differential equations and linear algebra. Basic programming with numerical Python.

PROJECT 5: Formation of ogives
STUDENTS: Inigo Irarrazaval Bustos, Federico Covi
ADVISOR: Martin Truffer
DESCRIPTION: Ogives form a wave-like pattern of topography at the bottom of ice falls. The formation appears to have seasonality with one new wave formed each year. We will use a simple kinematic model to investigate the formation of ogives and the sensitivity of their formation to various environmental and geometrical factors.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Matlab, Python or similar software
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Some familiarity with Matlab, Python or similar software.

PROJECT 6: Tidewater glacier cycle
STUDENTS: Wei Ji Leong, Whyjay Zheng
ADVISOR: Martin Truffer
DESCRIPTION: We will play around with the coupled ice-sediment model of Brinkerhoff et al. (2017, Nat. Comms.). In particular we will investigate the influence of seasonality on the stability of tidewater glaciers. An updated version of the model code used in the paper will be available for the project.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Python, the Finite Element package fenics is required.
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Python; Finite Element methods background is desirable, but not absolutely necessary.

PROJECT 7: Laser altimetry
STUDENTS: Allison Chartrand, Anna Serdetchnaia
ADVISOR: Kelly Brunt
DESCRIPTION: We will learn how to work with satellite and airborne altimetry data and assess how to evaluate data corrections and potential sources of error. We will use ground-based data to evaluate altimetry data and and develop a similar understating of the quality of those data. We will examine altimetry data on the interior of the ice sheets and on the flanks of the ice sheets, where change determination becomes more complex.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Matlab or equivalent (e.g. Octave); QGIS
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Some familiarity with Matlab or similar software, some basic statistics. Some experience with a GIS.

PROJECT 8: Outburst flood dynamics
STUDENTS: Jade Cooley, Alexander Hager
ADVISOR: Matthew Hoffman
DESCRIPTION: What role do reservoir and glacier geometry, channel configuration and properties, and the implementation of model boundary conditions have on simulated glacier outburst floods? We will use a one-dimensional hydraulic model to explore these (and possibly other) aspects of jokulhlaups.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Matlab, Octave, Python, or equivalent
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Basic physics and calculus, some familiarity with differential equations and programming.

PROJECT 9: Simple models of subglacial drainage
STUDENTS: Steven Bernsen, Miriam Sroková
ADVISOR: Matthew Hoffman
DESCRIPTION: The morphology and efficiency of subglacial drainage are first-order controls on glacier and ice-sheet dynamics. We will use simple (0-D to 1-D) models of distributed and channelized flow to explore the interaction and evolution of these two drainage types and their implications for basal water pressure and sliding. There is also room to explore different representations of distributed and channelized drainage in these models or investigate parameter uncertainty.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Matlab, Octave, Python, or equivalent
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Basic physics and calculus, some familiarity with differential equations and programming.

PROJECT 10: Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry to derive geodetic mass balance time series from historical aerial imagery
STUDENTS: Maya Becker, Eric Johnson
ADVISOR: Erin Whorton
DESCRIPTION: We will learn how to use SfM software to reconstruct three-dimensional models of Pacific Northwest glaciers and their surrounding landscapes from historical aerial imagery. Combined with the provided additional elevation data (National elevation dataset and commercial satellite data), these digital elevation models (DEMs) can be co-registered, then differenced to determine geodetic mass balance time series to examine glacier volume change in the conterminous U.S.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Python, SfM software is TBD, a GIS software package is also helpful to have (QGIS or ArcGIS)
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: Some Python programming or GIS experience will be helpful.

PROJECT 11: Feedbacks between orographic precipitation, subglacial erosion, and glacier flow
STUDENTS: Reba McCracken, Costanza Del Gobbo
ADVISOR: Andy Aschwanden
DESCRIPTION: We will investigate how the feedbacks between orographic precipitation, which occurs when moist air is forced upwards over rising terrain, can lead to asymmetric ice flow if the ice overtops the mountain. The Antarctic Peninsula is an extreme case of these feedbacks because the peninsula extends north-south across the prevailing winds and precipitation changes from as high as 10 m/yr on the windward side of the mountain range to 10 cm/yr on lee side, over less than 50 km. Despite the low snowfall on the leeward side, the northern Antarctic Peninsula has large trunk glaciers on the lee side. This asymmetry is driven by feedbacks between glacier dynamics and orographic precipitation. On long (10s of millennia) time scales, glacier erosion sculpts landscapes yet developing erosion theories is challenging because of the complex nature of the erosion processes. It is commonly assumed that the erosion rate is proportional to some power of the basal sliding velocity. In this project we will use the combination of a model of orographic precipitation and an ice flow model that includes erosion on an idealized geometry to better understand these feedbacks. The model is already implemented in python and uses the Finite Element package “Dolfin/FeNICS”.
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Python with dolfin/fenics installed
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: basic programming (Python, Matlab)

PROJECT 12: The effect of “cryo-hydrologic” warming
STUDENTS: Andreas Alexander, Maria Zeitz
ADVISOR: Andy Aschwanden
DESCRIPTION: A few years ago, a mechanism for warming of the ice in the ablation zone of a glacier has been proposed “Cryo-hydrologic warming, as this mechanism has been named, allows englacial meltwater generated during the melt season to slowly refreeze during the winter months and the latent heat released from refreezing to warm the ice. Warming the ice makes it less viscous and thus higher flow speeds are expected. As this occurs near the upper surface of the ice and not in the shearing layer near the bed, the actual consequences of cryo-hyrologic warming remain unclear. Here we will investigate the effect of cryo-hydrologic warming on ice flow using a modified version of the Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM).
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: We will provide an Ubuntu disk image for VirtualBox ( that contains all the required software
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: basic programming (Python, Matlab)

PROJECT 13: Landsat-based characterization of glaciers in the Wrangells
STUDENTS: Johannes Landmann, David Rounce
ADVISOR: Mark Fahnestock
DESCRIPTION: This project will develop a set of tools, and base maps of the glaciers in the park from Landsat 8 and Sentinel 2 imagery, and combine time series of images to map presence of water and changes in seasonal snow lines on these glaciers, developing code for delimiting snow lines and water where possible. This result will be combined with an existing digital elevation model and glacier mask, resulting in a spatial picture of the distribution of the late season snow line in the park over the last three years. Students will become familiar with open-source command-line tools for mosaicking and remote sensing analysis.
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: basic programming (Python, Matlab)

PROJECT 14: Evolution of current surges in space and time
STUDENTS: Sophie Goliber, Yara Mohajerani
ADVISOR: Mark Fahnestock
DESCRIPTION: Using an extensive collection of image-derived velocity fields from Landsat 8 and Sentinel 2, students will develop a history of flow speed changes for several of the glaciers currently surging in Alaska and the Yukon, from slow-moving surges to annually evolving speedups, and compare this to our limited knowledge about the basics of surging. Velocity time series for these glaciers will be updated for the spring using feature tracking code in python if needed. The goals of this project include developing facility with remote sensing tools, analysis of collections of noisy data, and adding to our limited understanding of surging.
REQUIRED STUDENT BACKGROUND: basic programming (Python, Matlab)