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April 11, 2018

Stanford Libraries and Stanford EARTH partner to present Understanding Ice

Understanding Ice

Ice becomes a topic of conversation when glaciers recede or ice sheets break off, but what are the processes governing these changes? What role does ice play in the behavior, evolution, and stability of the earth system? Stanford Libraries in partnership with Stanford EARTH explore these questions and more in the upcoming Understanding Ice: The James B. Case Memorial Symposium on April 24, 2018 in the David Rumsey Map Center, located on the fourth floor of the Cecil H. Green Library.  The afternoon symposium is in honor of James B. Case (Stanford BS - Civil Engineering '50), a glacial surveyor, and expert in photogrammetry, who donated his glacier map collection to Stanford Libraries in 2017.

Julie Sweetkind-Singer, Assistant Director of Geospatial and Cartographic Services notes, “Jim spent his career surveying glaciers, which fit him to a T.  He loved being outdoors and this work allowed him to incorporate that into his day to day life.” 

According to Sweetkind-Singer, in his spare time, Case collected glacier maps, journals, books, and technical reports. “This collection gives one a comprehensive view of the history of glacier mapping in the 20th century,” said Sweetkind-Singer.  “Given the researchers working at Stanford on ice, this is a perfect place for the collection to reside.”

 Jim Case in a slot canyon in Utah.Sweetkind-Singer will kick off the event with a talk about the history of mapping glaciers and ice and the changes in cartographic representation over time.  Western mapping has a long history of mapping ice from the Abraham Ortelius Iceland map 1587 to the work of scientists using aerial photography, satellite imagery, and radar to map the surface and subsurface of Antarctica.

Stanford Professors Dustin Schroeder and Rob Dunbar will provide an introduction to fundamentals and current state of cryospheric science – Glaciology 101.  Schroeder will then follow with a talk about ice penetrating radar, a powerful tool that allows scientists to look beneath icy surfaces.  He explores how this technology works and what it can teach us about the past, present and future behavior of ice sheets and glaciers.

In an article featured in Stanford Earth Matters Magazine about Schroeder’s radar research, he emphasizes the importance of collaboration and an interdisciplinary approach to climate change, specifically as it relates to his research on understanding the changes to the Antarctic Ice Sheet, “By training engineering students that can think like Earth scientists and Earth science students that can think like engineers, our group is creating an environment where instruments can be built for exactly the specific scientific problem at hand,” Schroeder said. 

Professor Dunbar will highlight new findings on the dynamic behavior of Antarctica’s ice sheet in the past and what constraints these place on forward models of sea level and ice retreat at both poles, in his lecture “Back to the Future: How Knowing the past Changes in the Antarctic Ice Sheet our View of the Greenhouse Future.” Dunbar’s work focuses on climatic and oceanic variability now and into the deep past 12,000 years ago.  His work in Antarctica is designed to assess the impacts of climate change on the Southern Ocean ecosystems.

Professor Jenny Suckale concludes the afternoon by discussing the physical processes governing ice sheet dynamics. Using satellite imagery it is now understood that instead of melting continuously along the edges, ice sheets lose most of their ice through arterial drainage routes, called ice streams, which connect the center of the ice sheet directly to the ocean.  Suckale will show that meltwater generation and percolation at the scale of individual sand grains can affect continental scale ice dynamics. 

The event occurs just following Earth Day and is designed to draw a diverse crowd with the talks designed for a general audience interested in how changes in glaciers and ice affect the planet at large.  The event is free but registration is required.

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