Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

CIRES Special Seminar: Michael Willis

CIRES Special Seminar: Michael Willis

Here’s Looking at You: Geodetic Imaging of the Earth Using Surveillance Satellites

by Michael Willis - Cornell & University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Abstract: A revolution is occurring in the geospatial sciences, enabled by ever increasing data streams and the expansion of high performance computing. Once the domain of large institutions and governments, geospatial information is becoming increasingly democratized, as anyone with a data connection can now access a huge array of openly-available spatial information. Thus far the geographical information revolution has been limited to two dimensions (the map plane). I access the third dimension, time-varying surface topography, with geodetic imaging. My talk will cover the methods and techniques I use and have developed to answer questions on climate change, geodynamics and geo-hazards. The convergence of surveillance satellite imaging capabilities, opening data access and high performance computing allow me to examine vast swaths of the Earth using frequent observations. I will show examples from my recent research on the changing cryosphere and geodynamics, while also highlighting some of the advances made in support of the ArcticDEM project. This “big data” project has, at times, used 315,000 compute cores to produce digital surface models over the Arctic with an equivalent area of the continental USA, in a single weekend. These models will be publicly available and can be used to examine problems concerning changing glaciers, permafrost, coastal erosion rates, geomorphology and geo-hazards.

Bio: Michael Willis (Mike) is a research associate at Cornell and adjunct research professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His broad research interests include ice dynamics and the contribution of land ice to sea level, Earth deformation, geophysics and structural geology of rifting areas, geodynamic, hazards, remote sensing, visualization and data fusion. He received his BSc in physical geography from Glasgow University in Scotland in 1997. He studied glaciology and geodesy at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, where he earned both his MSc (2000) and PhD (2008). He did Postdoctoral work at both Ohio State and Cornell University working on a variety of Earth science problems. He still really, really likes it when it snows.


CIRES Auditorium


Refreshments provided