I spent the last week and a half modeling in Los Angeles. Rather than making my way through Hollywood studios, I spent days glued to my computer screen as I ran model simulations of Antarctica using the ice sheet system model (ISSM) developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL).
Situated in Pasadena, CA on the northern outskirts of the LA area, this NASA campus boasts over 5,000 employees working on everything from glaciology research to the Mars 2020 mission and beyond. Among scientists, I think it’s fair to say that Pasadena beats out Hollywood for its modeling claim to fame. (If you’re curious what all of the upcoming missions are, check out this link: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/)
My research visit was arranged to work with our collaborators who built and continue to develop the ISSM model. Much of my PhD research involves running model simulations of Antarctica so this visit was an opportunity for me to advance my capabilities using ISSM, report on my current research, and discuss the next modeling steps I plan to implement.
Why run an ice sheet model? We don’t have many tools to explore what the world will be like in the future. Models are one of the few ways we can capture the current physical state and then run experiments into the future to inform ourselves about the impacts of possible climate scenarios. In my case, I run model simulations of Antarctica to examine how climate forcing could affect the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet, especially at the bed of the ice sheet where the thermal state is very important. Models enable us to predict what regions are most vulnerable to collapse and how much sea level could rise. Many of the news reports you’ve probably seen about climate impacts are ultimately from models like ISSM that work to capture the future state we will experience.