Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Waleed Abdalati

Research Interests

My research interests are in the use of satellite and airborne remote sensing techniques, integrated with in situ observations and modeling, to understand how and why the Earth's ice cover is changing, and what those changes mean for life on Earth. In particular, my research focuses on the contributions of ice sheets and high-latitude glaciers to sea level rise and their relationship to the changing climate. In addition, I focus on improving the ways in which sea level rise information is packaged and presented in ways that can maximize its use by and policy-makers

Current Research

Using satellites and in situ measurements to study polar ice, my group works with space-based, airborne, and in situ observations to study changes in Earth’s glaciers and ice sheets, with a focus on understanding the characteristics of the seas surrounding Greenland and how their interactions with the outlet glaciers that drain the ice sheet impact the ways in which the sea/ice exchanges affect the discharge of ice from the ice sheets. The melting and retreat of floating ice (ice tongues) at the glacier fronts comprise the greatest uncertainty in determining how much and how fast the Greenland ice sheet will contribute to sea level rise.  Understanding the thermodynamic and dynamic processes where the ice meets the water is critical to reducing that uncertainty and developing more reliable forecasts. Satellite observations of temperature, combined with in situ observations of temperature, salinity, and circulation, as well as ocean modeling results provide the opportunity to gain new insights into the processes that occur at these critical interfaces. 

In a more general sense, I work to advance the development of satellites and the use of satellite observations to understand the overall Earth System behavior, leading community efforts to engage leaders and inform investments in such capabilities.  

Finally, in addition to these areas, my work is also focused on engaging decision-makers, planners, and policy-makers to ensure that the users of sea level rise data are aware of and understand the current state of scientific knowledge and that the producers of sea level rise information understand user needs and communicate the state of scientific knowledge in ways that are most effective and useful. More broadly, I work to communicate the importance of Earth system knowledge in meeting the challenges associated with environmental change, in terms of mitigating change, anticipating change, and adapting to change in its various forms.  

icy, cracked field

Crevasse field on the western Greenland ice sheet near Melville Bay showing the difference in topography between crevassed areas (lower two thirds of the image) and smooth non-crevassed areas. Photo: NASA

cracked, washed out road covered in water

Washed out road resulting from storm surges. As sea levels rise, the frequency and inland extent of storm surges increases. Image: U.S. Department of Transportation

Honors and Awards

  • Selected to serve as NASA Chief Scientist, 2011–2012
  • NASA GSFC Center Director Team Recognition Award, 2007
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronaustics Space Systems Award, 2006
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration Exceptional Service Medal, 2004
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, ICESat Science Team, 2004
  • NASA Office of Earth Science Award, 2003
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, Honor Award Team 2003
  • NASA Office of Earth Science Terra Peer Award, 2002
  • NASA Office of Earth Science Award, 2002
  • NASA Office of Earth Science Award, 2001
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, 1999
  • Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honor Society (since 1985)

View Publications

  • Scambos T; Abdalati W. (Dec 2022). How fast is sea level rising?. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research , 54(1), 123-124. 10.1080/15230430.2022.2047247
  • MacFerrin MJ; Stevens CM; Vandecrux B; Waddington ED; Abdalati W. (Mar 2022). The Greenland Firn Compaction Verification and Reconnaissance (FirnCover) dataset, 2013–2019. Earth System Science Data , 14(2), 955-971. 10.5194/essd-14-955-2022
  • Snow T; Zhang WG; Schreiber E; Abdalati W; Scambos T. (May 2021). Alongshore winds force warm Atlantic Water toward Helheim Glacier in southeast Greenland. 10.1002/essoar.10507001.1
  • Box JE; Stroeve JC; Abdalati W. (Apr 2021). Steffen K, Abdalati W and Stroeve J (1993) Climate sensitivity studies of the Greenland ice sheet using satellite AVHRR, SMMR SSM/I and in situ data. Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics 51(3-4): 239-258. DOI:10.1007/bf01030497. Progress in Physical Geography: an international review of geographical work in the natural and environmental sciences , 632-638. 10.1177/03091333211011368
  • Snow T; Straneo F; Holte J; Grigsby S; Abdalati W; Scambos T. (Apr 2021). More than Skin Deep: Sea Surface Temperature as a Means of Inferring Atlantic Water Variability on the Southeast Greenland Continental Shelf Near Helheim Glacier. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans , 126(4). 10.1029/2020JC016509
  • Moon T; Scambos T; Abdalati W; Ahlstrom AP; Bindschadler R; Gambill J; Heimbach P; Hock R; Langley K; Miller I. (Sep 2020). Ending a Sea of Confusion: Insights and Opportunities in Sea-Level Change Communication. Environment: science and policy for sustainable development , 62(5), 4-15. 10.1080/00139157.2020.1791627
  • Moussavi M; Pope A; Halberstadt ARW; Trusel LD; Cioffi L; Abdalati W. (Jan 2020). Antarctic Supraglacial Lake Detection Using Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2 Imagery: Towards Continental Generation of Lake Volumes. Remote Sensing , 12(1). 10.3390/rs12010134
  • MacFerrin, M; Machguth, H; van As, D; Charalampidis, C; Stevens, CM; Heilig, A; Vandecrux, B; Langen, PL; Mottram, R; Fettweis, X; van den Broeke, MR; Pfeffer, WT; Moussavi, MS; Abdalati, W. (Sep 2019). Rapid expansion of Greenlands low-permeability ice slabs. NATURE , 573(7774). 10.1038/s41586-019-1550-3
  • Bayram, H, AK Bauer, W Abdalati, C Carlsten, KE Pinkerton, GD Thurston, JR Balmes and TK Takaro. (Mar 2017). Environment, Global Climate Change, and Cardiopulmonary Health. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF RESPIRATORY AND CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE , 195(6). 10.1164/rccm.201604-0687PP
  • Markus, T, T Neumann, A Martino, W Abdalati, K Brunt, B Csatho, S Farrell, H Fricker, A Gardner, D Harding, M Jasinski, R Kwok, L Magruder, D Lubin, S Luthcke, J Morison, R Nelson, A Neuenschwander, S Palm, S Popescu, CK Shum, BE Schutz, B Smith, YK Yang and J Zwally. (Mar 2017). The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2): Science requirements, concept, and implementation. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT , 190. 10.1016/j.rse.2016.12.029
  • Moussavi, MS, W Abdalati, A Pope, T Scambos, M Tedesco, M MacFerrin and S Grigsby. (Sep 2016). Derivation and validation of supraglacial lake volumes on the Greenland Ice Sheet from high-resolution satellite imagery. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT , 183. 10.1016/j.rse.2016.05.024
  • Colgan, W, H Rajaram, W Abdalati, C McCutchan, R Mottram, MS Moussavi and S Grigsby. (Mar 2016). Glacier crevasses: Observations, models, and mass balance implications. REVIEWS OF GEOPHYSICS , 54(1). 10.1002/2015RG000504
  • Colgan, W, W Abdalati, M Citterio, B Csatho, X Fettweis, S Luthcke, G Moholdt, SB Simonsen and M Stober. (Oct 2015). Hybrid glacier Inventory, Gravimetry and Altimetry (HIGA) mass balance product for Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT , 168. 10.1016/j.rse.2015.06.016
  • Colgan, W, A Sommers, H Rajaram, W Abdalati and J Frahm. (Jul 2015). Considering thermal-viscous collapse of the Greenland ice sheet. EARTHS FUTURE , 3(7). 10.1002/2015EF000301
  • McGrath, D, K Steffen, PR Holland, T Scambos, H Rajaram, W Abdalati and E Rignot. (Mar 2014). The structure and effect of suture zones in the Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE , 119(3). 10.1002/2013JF002935
  • Moussavi, MS, W Abdalati, T Scambos and A Neuenschwander. (Jan 2014). Applicability of an automatic surface detection approach to micropulse photon-counting lidar altimetry data: implications for canopy height retrieval from future ICESat-2 data. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF REMOTE SENSING , 35(13). 10.1080/01431161.2014.939780
  • Painter, TH, MG Flanner, G Kaser, B Marzeion, RA VanCuren and W Abdalati. (Sep 2013). End of the Little Ice Age in the Alps forced by industrial black carbon. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA , 110(38). 10.1073/pnas.1302570110
  • Phillips, T, H Rajaram, W Colgan, K Steffen and W Abdalati. (Sep 2013). Evaluation of cryo-hydrologic warming as an explanation for increased ice velocities in the wet snow zone, Sermeq Avannarleq, West Greenland. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE , 118(3). 10.1002/jgrf.20079
  • Arendt, A, S Luthcke, A Gardner, S ONeel, D Hill, G Moholdt and W Abdalati. (Jan 2013). Analysis of a GRACE global mascon solution for Gulf of Alaska glaciers. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 59(217). 10.3189/2013JoG12J197
  • Colgan, W, S Luthcke, W Abdalati and M Citterio. (Jan 2013). Constraining GRACE-derived cryosphere-attributed signal to irregularly shaped ice-covered areas. CRYOSPHERE , 7(6). 10.5194/tc-7-1901-2013
  • McGrath, D, K Steffen, H Rajaram, T Scambos, W Abdalati and E Rignot. (Aug 2012). Basal crevasses on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica: Implications for meltwater ponding and hydrofracture. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS , 39. 10.1029/2012GL052413
  • Liang, YL, W Colgan, Q Lv, K Steffen, W Abdalati, J Stroeve, D Gallaher and N Bayou. (Aug 2012). A decadal investigation of supraglacial lakes in West Greenland using a fully automatic detection and tracking algorithm. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT , 123. 10.1016/j.rse.2012.03.020
  • Colgan, W, H Rajaram, RS Anderson, K Steffen, HJ Zwally, T Phillips and W Abdalati. (Jan 2012). The annual glaciohydrology cycle in the ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet: Part 2. Observed and modeled ice flow. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 58(207). 10.3189/2012JoG11J081
  • Colgan, W, WT Pfeffer, H Rajaram, W Abdalati and J Balog. (Jan 2012). Monte Carlo ice flow modeling projects a new stable configuration for Columbia Glacier, Alaska, c. 2020. CRYOSPHERE , 6(6). 10.5194/tc-6-1395-2012
  • Colgan, W, K Steffen, WS McLamb, W Abdalati, H Rajaram, R Motyka, T Phillips and R Anderson. (Sep 2011). An increase in crevasse extent, West Greenland: Hydrologic implications. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS , 38. 10.1029/2011GL048491
  • Phillips, T, S Leyk, H Rajaram, W Colgan, W Abdalati, D McGrath and K Steffen. (Sep 2011). Modeling moulin distribution on Sermeq Avannarleq glacier using ASTER and WorldView imagery and fuzzy set theory. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT , 115(9). 10.1016/j.rse.2011.04.029
  • Colgan, W, H Rajaram, R Anderson, K Steffen, T Phillips, I Joughin, HJ Zwally and W Abdalati. (Jan 2011). The annual glaciohydrology cycle in the ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet: Part 1. Hydrology model. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 57(204). 10.3189/002214311797409668
  • Abdalati, W, HJ Zwally, R Bindschadler, B Csatho, SL Farrell, HA Fricker, D Harding, R Kwok, M Lefsky, T Markus, A Marshak, T Neumann, S Palm, B Schutz, B Smith, J Spinhirne and C Webb. (May 2010). The ICESat-2 Laser Altimetry Mission. PROCEEDINGS OF THE IEEE , 98(5). 10.1109/JPROC.2009.2034765
  • Joughin, I, BE Smith and W Abdalati. (Jan 2010). Glaciological advances made with interferometric synthetic aperture radar. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 56(200). 10.3189/002214311796406158
  • Swetnam MS; McBride DK; Colwell RR; Swetnam T; Abdalati; Meier W; Gannon J; Sample T. (Jan 2009). Global climate change and national security: the Science and Impact - A Panel Discussion. Technology , 11(3), 78-119.
  • Arendt, AA, SB Luthcke, CF Larsen, W Abdalati, WB Krabill and MJ Beedle. (Jan 2008). Validation of high-resolution GRACE mascon estimates of glacier mass changes in the St Elias Mountains, Alaska, USA, using aircraft laser altimetry. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 54(188).
  • Tedesco, M, W Abdalati and HJ Zwally. (Sep 2007). Persistent surface snowmelt over Antarctica (1987-2006) from 19.35 GHz brightness temperatures. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS , 34(18). 10.1029/2007GL031199
  • Luthcke, SB, HJ Zwally, W Abdalati, DD Rowlands, RD Ray, RS Nerem, FG Lemoine, JJ McCarthy and DS Chinn. (Nov 2006). Recent Greenland ice mass loss by drainage system from satellite gravity observations. SCIENCE , 314(5803). 10.1126/science.1130776
  • Abdalati W. (Apr 2006). Recent changes in high-latitude glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets. Weather , 61(4), 95-101. 10.1256/wea.221.05
  • Krabill, W, E Hanna, P Huybrechts, W Abdalati, J Cappelen, B Csatho, E Frederick, S Manizade, C Martin, J Sonntag, R Swift, R Thomas and J Yungel. (Dec 2004). Greenland Ice Sheet: Increased coastal thinning. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS , 31(24). 10.1029/2004GL021533
  • Joughin, I, W Abdalati and M Fahnestock. (Dec 2004). Large fluctuations in speed on Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier. NATURE , 432(7017). 10.1038/nature03130
  • Abdalati, W, W Krabill, E Frederick, S Manizade, C Martin, J Sonntag, R Swift, R Thomas, J Yungel and R Koerner. (Nov 2004). Elevation changes of ice caps in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE , 109(F4). 10.1029/2003JF000045
  • Jacka, TH, W Abdalati, I Allison, F Carsey, G Casassa, M Fily, M Frezzotti, HA Fricker, C Genthon, I Goodwin, Z Guo, GS Hamilton, RCA Hindmarsh, CL Hulbe, TH Jacka, KC Jezek, TA Scambos, C Shuman, P Skvarca, S Takahashi, RSW van de Wal, DG Vaughan, WL Wang, RC Warner, DJ Wingham, NW Young and HJ Zwally. (Jul 2004). Recommendations for the collection and synthesis of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance data. GLOBAL AND PLANETARY CHANGE , 42(4-Jan). 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2003.11.008
  • Thomas, RH, W Abdalati, E Frederick, WB Krabill, S Manizade and K Steffen. (Jan 2003). Investigation of surface melting and dynamic thinning on Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 49(165). 10.3189/172756503781830764
  • Krabill, WB, W Abdalati, EB Frederick, SS Manizade, CF Martin, JG Sonntag, RN Swift, RH Thomas and JG Yungel. (Dec 2002). Aircraft laser altimetry measurement of elevation changes of the greenland ice sheet: technique and accuracy assessment. JOURNAL OF GEODYNAMICS , 34(4-Mar). 10.1016/s0264-3707(02)00040-6
  • Abdalati, W, W Krabill, E Frederick, S Manizade, C Martin, J Sonntag, R Swift, R Thomas, W Wright and J Yungel. (Dec 2002). Airborne laser altimetry mapping of the Greenland ice sheet: application to mass balance assessment. JOURNAL OF GEODYNAMICS , 34(4-Mar). 10.1016/s0264-3707(02)00048-0
  • Zwally, HJ, B Schutz, W Abdalati, J Abshire, C Bentley, A Brenner, J Bufton, J Dezio, D Hancock, D Harding, T Herring, B Minster, K Quinn, S Palm, J Spinhirne and R Thomas. (Dec 2002). ICESat's laser measurements of polar ice, atmosphere, ocean, and land. JOURNAL OF GEODYNAMICS , 34(4-Mar). 10.1016/S0264-3707(02)00042-X
  • Zwally, HJ, W Abdalati, T Herring, K Larson, J Saba and K Steffen. (Jul 2002). Surface melt-induced acceleration of Greenland ice-sheet flow. SCIENCE , 297(5579). 10.1126/science.1072708
  • Wang WL; Zwally HJ; Abdalati W; Luo S. (Jan 2002). Modeling of ice flow and internal layers along a flowline through Swiss Camp, West Greenland. Annals of Glaciology , 34, 303-308. 10.3189/172756402781817644
  • Fahnestock MA; Abdalati W; Shuman CA. (Jan 2002). Long melt seasons on ice shelves of the Antarctic Peninsula: an analysis using satellite-based microwave emission measurements. Annals of Glaciology , 34, 127-133. 10.3189/172756402781817798
  • Thomas RH. (Dec 2001). Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment (PARCA): Goals, key findings, and future directions. Journal of Geophysical Research , 106(D24), 33691-33705. 10.1029/2001jd900042
  • Abdalati, W and K Steffen. (Dec 2001). Greenland ice sheet melt extent: 1979-1999. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-ATMOSPHERES , 106(D24). 10.1029/2001JD900181
  • Abdalati, W, W Krabill, E Frederick, S Manizade, C Martin, J Sonntag, R Swift, R Thomas, W Wright and J Yungel. (Dec 2001). Outlet glacier and margin elevation changes: Near-coastal thinning of the Greenland ice sheet. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-ATMOSPHERES , 106(D24). 10.1029/2001JD900192
  • Fahnestock, M, W Abdalati, S Luo and S Gogineni. (Dec 2001). Internal layer tracing and age-depth-accumulation relationships for the northern Greenland ice sheet. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-ATMOSPHERES , 106(D24). 10.1029/2001JD900200
  • Fahnestock, M, W Abdalati, I Joughin, J Brozena and P Gogineni. (Dec 2001). High geothermal heat row, basal melt, and the origin of rapid ice how in central Greenland. SCIENCE , 294(5550). 10.1126/science.1065370
  • Larson KM; Plumb J; Zwally J; Abdalati W. (Jan 2001). Analysis of gps data collected on the Greenland ice sheet1. Polar Geography , 25(1), 22-40. 10.1080/10889370109377703
  • Krabill, W, W Abdalati, E Frederick, S Manizade, C Martin, J Sonntag, R Swift, R Thomas, W Wright and J Yungel. (Jul 2000). Greenland ice sheet: High-elevation balance and peripheral thinning. SCIENCE , 289(5478). 10.1126/science.289.5478.428
  • Thomas, RH, W Abdalati, TL Akins, BM Csatho, EB Frederick, SP Gogineni, WB Krabill, SS Manizade and EJ Rignot. (May 2000). Substantial thinning of a major east Greenland outlet glacier. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS , 27(9). 10.1029/1999gl008473
  • Abdalati, W and WB Krabill. (Feb 1999). Calculation of ice velocities in the Jakobshavn Isbrae area using airborne laser altimetry. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT , 67(2). 10.1016/S0034-4257(98)00086-8
  • Steffen, K, W Abdalati and I Sherjal. (Jan 1999). Faceted crystal formation in the northeast Greenland low-accumulation region. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 45(149). 10.3189/S002214300000304X
  • Abdalati, W and K Steffen. (Jan 1998). Accumulation and hoar effects on microwave emission in the Greenland ice-sheet dry-snow zones. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY , 44(148). 10.3189/S0022143000002045
  • Abdalati, W and K Steffen. (Jul 1997). The apparent effects of the Mt Pinatubo eruption on the Greenland ice sheet melt extent. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS , 24(14). 10.1029/97GL01706
  • Abdalati, W and K Steffen. (Feb 1997). Snowmelt on the Greenland ice sheet as derived from passive microwave satellite data. JOURNAL OF CLIMATE , 10(2). 10.1175/1520-0442(1997)010<0165:SOTGIS>2.0.CO;2