Big Ice

Meet Brooke Medley

I am a graduate student at UW in the department of Earth and Space Sciences with a focus in glaciology. My interests involve glacier-climate interactions with an emphasis on recent climate change. My research actually uses glaciological observations to learn about ice-sheet climate.


My current research involves reconstructing accumulation rates across the Greenland ice sheet using airborne radar collected by CReSIS to map near-surface firn layers. The airborne radar images give me a cross-section of the firn column, allowing me to track the thickness of these isochronous layers for several hundred kilometers. Converting the layer thickness into accumulation rates requires knowledge of layer density and age. Ages are determined from dated cores that lie along the radar flight lines. I am currently developing a method for determining the firn density profiles by combining the age-depth information previously mentioned and the Herron and Langway (1980) simple firn density model. When complete, I will have a spatio-temporal database of accumulation rates for much of the Greenland ice sheet. Preliminary work indicates the reconstruction will cover over 200 years of accumulation in Greenland.

In 2009, we will begin fieldwork in the Amundsen Coast region of West Antarctica to replicate the pilot study I described above. We will collect airborne radar images, dig snow pits to investigate firn densification, and retrieve and date several shallow cores. Using the methods that I developed on our Greenland study, we will similarly create a spatio-temporal database of accumulation rates for the Amundsen Coast region.


Before coming to Seattle, I received an M.S. in geography in 2008 at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. Working under Dr. Anne Nolin, I mapped glacier extent in Washington and Oregon using ASTER satellite imagery. I also used a simple mass balance model to investigate the impact of climate change on glaciers here in the Pacific Northwest. So as you can see, I am also interested in alpine glaciers as well.

I received my B.A. in geography at Middlebury College in Vermont, where I first discovered my interest in spatial patterns. I really consider myself a cross between a geologist and a geographer, so I guess that makes me a physical geographer. I am excited about my work here at UW because it is a good combination of the two.

Outside of school, I enjoy hiking, tinkering with bikes, and watching baseball (Go Cards!).