Nichols College News

Findings of Nichols Scientist Published by NASA

The work of Mauri Pelto, a Nichols Environmental Sciences professor and expert on glaciers, was featured last month on the Landsat Web site of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Landsat program focuses on images of Earth and detailed measurements collected by government satellites.

Over the past two months, Pelto—one of the world’s leading glaciologists and a specialist in the shrinking of glaciers due to changes on the ground and in the atmosphere—also has published three articles about his work in well-known scientific journals. For his NASA report he chronicled changes in the glaciers of the Juneau Icefield in Alaska.

Pelto found that 14 of 15 glaciers in the area have retreated. “The ongoing warming of our globe will continue to lead to retreat,” he concludes. He plans a follow-up article that will appear in the “People of Landsat” section of the NASA site and will talk more broadly about his use of satellite imagery.

A recent article by Pelto for the journal Hydrological Processes focuses on the thinning of the Brady Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. The Nichols glaciologist has recorded a drop of between 65 and 330 feet of snow and ice depth along the glacier over the past 60 years. He predicts that the glacier will retreat rapidly in coming years. An article for the Journal of Glaciology, meanwhile, details the decrease of snow levels on two Arctic glaciers.

Pelto also studies changes in glaciers firsthand, travelling every August to—and camping on—a group of glaciers in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains, where he directs the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project. For the past 30 years there, Pelto has taken extensive measurements of snow depth, even next to large crevasses (pictured), to determine how much the glaciers have changed over the past year.

Pelto also maintains a blog detailing his work and findings. The site receives 10,000 visitors a month.