November 18, 2011

Colloquium Speaker: Dr. Kelly Brunt

Dr. Kelly Brunt is an Assistant Research Scientist with the Morgan State University GESTAR program at NASA. Her research interests involve measuring and modeling the interaction between the ocean and Antarctic ice shelves as part of the effort to understand the role of ice margins in climate change. Her dissertation developed a model to assess the flow of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, in response to ocean tides and then validated the model results based on GPS data collected in the field. Her most recent projects use Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) laser altimetry data to examine the character of the grounding zones of Antarctic ice shelves, which are some of the most sensitive indicators of climate change. At NASA, she provides support for the upcoming ICESat-2 mission, including the coordination of plans for the calibration and validation of the data and work with an airborne simulator of the ICESat-2 altimeter. Dr. Brunt obtained a B.S. in Geology from Syracuse University and an M.S. in Geology from the University of Montana. She received her Ph.D. in Geophysics from the University of Chicago in 2008 and was formerly a postdoctoral scholar at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Colloquium Topic: Antarctic Ice-Shelf Calving Triggered by the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, March 2011

European Space Agency Envisat data was used to present the first observational evidence that a Northern Hemisphere tsunami triggered Antarctic ice-shelf calving, more than 13,000km away. The Honshu tsunami of 11 March 2011 traversed the Pacific Ocean in ~18 hours where it impinged on the Sulzberger Ice Shelf, resulting in the calving of an area of ice roughly twice the size of Manhattan, from a shelf front that had previously been stable for more than 46 years. The timing of the calving event occurred when the region was devoid of sea ice, suggesting the importance of the role of sea ice in ice-shelf stability, as it can 1) dampen incident ocean swell and 2) provide a mechanical buttress for the ice shelf. This event further illustrates the growing evidence of ocean-wave impact on Antarctic calving and emphasizes the teleconnection between the Antarctic ice sheet and events as far away as the Northern Hemisphere.