Big Ice

Meet Twila Moon

I am a graduate student working toward a PhD in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences (ESS) at the University of Washington, Seattle. In 2008, I received my Masters degree working with Ian Joughin on Greenland outlet glaciers, and now I'm continuing to explore the cryosphere. Along with my involvement in ESS and the Polar Science Center, I'm also active in the Program on Climate Change, a fantastic program bringing together climate scientists from multiple disciplines.


I'm still discovering exactly what I'll be working on for my PhD, but it is likely to focus on the Greenland Ice Sheet in one form or another. Some of my interests include looking at the supraglacial lakes that form on the ice sheet during the melt season and examining the interaction of ocean, ice and atmosphere at the ice edge. I enjoy a combination of time in the field and in front of the computer.

How have Greenland outlet glaciers changed?

My MS work focused on the changes — advance and retreat — of Greenland outlet glaciers from 1992-2007. This research examined more than 200 glaciers (tidewater, land-terminating, and terminating in large ice shelves) to understand glacier behavior over three periods: 1992-2000, 2000-2006, and 2006-2007. We observed synchronous, ice sheet—wide increases in tidewater retreat during 2000 — 2006 relative to 1992 — 2000, coinciding with a 1.1°C increase in mean summer temperature at coastal weather stations. Rates of retreat for the southeast and east slowed during 2006 — 2007 when temperatures were slightly cooler than the 2000 — 2006 average. Most of the work was done using synthetic aperture radar images and Landsat satellite images.

Here's the paper that covers the results: Moon, T. and I. Joughin (2008). "Changes in ice front position on Greenland's outlet glaciers from 1992 to 2007." Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 113(F2): 10.


My undergraduate degree is in Geologic and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University. I became interested in glaciology while still an undergraduate and spent time using fracture mechanics to explore crevasse patterns in Antarctica. I arrived at UW in 2005 and completed a MS in 2008. During 2008-2010, I worked as Assistant Director-Big Sky for Montana State University's Big Sky Institute, a science research and education institute focused on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Alas, I missed science research too much, and returned to work with Ian Joughin on a PhD in the beginning of 2010.