UD Geologist Partners With NASA To Study Climate Change Through Glaciers

Jan 27, 2020

A University of Dayton geologist has been selected to work with NASA to study how climate change is impacting glaciers.

Scientists are working on a new type of data during the 18-month project using Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR), an imaging tool that can penetrate through clouds and thick snow, which will allow them to detect and understand how climate change is affecting glaciers.

"The glaciers can really teach us - show us - how much melting is happening; how the melting is taking place; how the glaciers are growing or reducing," Associate Professor Umesh Haritashya says. "Glaciers in general do not respond to the daily changes in the climate or weather. They respond in a long-term scale."

The project Haritashya pitched to NASA is one of 11 it selected to study hazards and global environmental change. The other studies focus on landslides, oil spills and other aspects. Some of his collaborators, who are not funded by NASA, include people from The Ohio State University and a scientist from the Indian Space Research Organization, which Haritashya says widens their perspective.

"As we work together in a multi-disciplined way - where different people can contribute from a different scientific background from different places in the world - it helps us better understand the complex problems in the modern world that we are facing."

The ASAR system will allow the team to see below the thin layer of sediment on the surface of the glacier.

"This synthetic aperture radar data is a lot more complex than what I've used in the past," Haritashya says in a press release. "In many ways, it's the future of satellite remote sensing for improved detection, characterization and understanding of Earth processes."

Haritashya says he's expecting the first set of data to come in the next few weeks. In two years, NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization will fly over Alaska, the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges to collect images that show a detailed view of Earth.