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

Michael Willis

Research Interests

I am an assistant professor of geodesy and remote sensing rostered in the department of geologcial sciences. I an expert on time-varying topography. I blend fieldwork with geodetic and remote sensing tools, and big-data to answer questions about the contribution of land based ice to sea level change, geodynamics, the evolution of megacities and landslides, earthquakes and volcano hazards. I am focused upon how problems scale both spatially and temporally and how computer vision algorithms can be applied to geophysical problems. I've published more than 30 peer reviewed papers on a wide range of subjects and was central to the success of the ArcticDEM project. Products from ArcticDEM have been downloaded more than 7 million times and resulted in more than 70 papers. I've worked for 13 field seasons on GNSS geodesy projects in polar regions and designed the network configurations and the equipment for POLENET and GNET. I enjoy collaborations and answering big societally relevant questions.


Teaching Profile

I teach classes on the Cryosphere and Natural Hazards in the department of geological sciences.

Current Research

My students and I are currently working on projects looking at:

  • Inundation threats at coastal cities around the globe.
  • Surface elevation changes of glaciers and ice sheets.
  • The elastic response of the crust to load changes.
  • Calibration and validation of satellite laser altimetry.
  • Automatic identification of post-earthquake landslides.
  • Leveraging machine learning and computer vision to understand volcanoes and landslides
  • Tsunami warning systems and GNSS reflectometry.

View Publications

  • Pitcher, LH; Smith, LC; Cooley, SW; Zaino, A; Carlson, R; Pettit, J; Gleason, CJ; Minear, JT; Fayne, JV; Willis, MJ; Hansen, JS; Easterday, KJ; Harlan, ME; Langhorst, T; Topp, SN; Dolan, W; Kyzivat, ED; Pietroniro, A; Marsh, P; Yang, DQ; Carter, T; Onclin, C; Hosseini, N; Wilcox, E; Moreira, D; Berge-Nguyen, M; Cretaux, JF; Pavelsky, TM (2020), Advancing Field-Based GNSS Surveying for Validation of Remotely Sensed Water Surface Elevation Products. Version: 1 FRONTIERS IN EARTH SCIENCE 8 , Art. No. 278, doi: 10.3389/feart.2020.00278
  • Hamlington, BD; Gardner, AS; Ivins, E; Lenaerts, JTM; Reager, JT; Trossman, DS; Zaron, ED; Adhikari, S; Arendt, A; Aschwanden, A; Beckley, BD; Bekaert, DPS; Blewitt, G; Caron, L; Chambers, DP; Chandanpurkar, HA; Christianson, K; Csatho, B; Cullather, RI; DeConto, RM; Fasullo, JT; Frederikse, T; Freymueller, JT; Gilford, DM; Girotto, M; Hammond, WC; Hock, R; Holschuh, N; Kopp, RE; Landerer, F; Larour, E; Menemenlis, D; Merrifield, M; Mitrovica, JX; Nerem, RS; Nias, IJ; Nieves, V; Nowicki, S; Pangaluru, K; Piecuch, CG; Ray, RD; Rounce, DR; Schlegel, NJ; Seroussi, H; Shirzaei, M; Sweet, WV; Velicogna, I; Vinogradova, N; Wahl, T; Wiese, DN; Willis, MJ (2020), Understanding of Contemporary Regional Sea-Level Change and the Implications for the Future. Version: 1 REVIEWS OF GEOPHYSICS 58 (3) , Art. No. e2019RG000672, issn: 8755-1209, doi: 10.1029/2019RG000672, PubMed ID: 32879921
  • Perkins, JP; Finnegan, NJ; de Silva, SL; Willis, MJ (2019), Controls on Eolian Landscape Evolution in Fractured Bedrock. Version: 1 GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS 46 (21) 12012-12020, issn: 0094-8276, doi: 10.1029/2019GL083955
  • Thomas, JL; Stutz, J; Frey, MM; Bartels-Rausch, T; Altieri, K; Baladima, F; Browse, J; DallOsto, M; Marelle, L; Mouginot, J; Jennifer, GM; Nomura, D; Pratt, KA; Willis, MD; Zieger, P; Abbatt, J; Douglas, TA; Facchini, MC; France, J; Jones, AE; Kim, K; Matrai, PA; McNeill, VF; Saiz-Lopez, A; Shepson, P; Steiner, N; Law, KS; Arnold, SR; Delille, B; Schmale, J; Sonke, JE; Dommergue, A; Voisin, D; Melamed, ML; Gier, J (2019), Fostering multidisciplinary research on interactions between chemistry, biology, and physics within the coupled cryosphere-atmosphere system. Version: 1 ELEMENTA-SCIENCE OF THE ANTHROPOCENE 7 , Art. No. 58, issn: 2325-1026, doi: 10.1525/elementa.396
  • Brideau, MA; Shugar, DH; Bevington, AR; Willis, MJ; Wong, C (2019), Evolution of the 2014 Vulcan Creek landslide-dammed lake, Yukon, Canada, using field and remote survey techniques. Version: 1 LANDSLIDES 16 (10) 1823-1840, issn: 1612-510X, doi: 10.1007/s10346-019-01199-3
  • Shugar, DH; Colorado, KA; Clague, JJ; Willis, MJ; Best, JL (2019), Boundary: mapping and visualizing climatically changed landscapes at Kaskawulsh Glacier and Kluane Lake, Yukon. Version: 1 JOURNAL OF MAPS 15 (3) 19-30, issn: 1744-5647, doi: 10.1080/17445647.2018.1467349
  • Macdonald, GJ; Banwell, AF; Willis, IC; Mayer, DP; Goodsell, B; MacAyeal, DR (2019), Formation of pedestalled, relict lakes on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Version: 1 JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY 65 (250) 337-343, issn: 0022-1430, doi: 10.1017/jog.2019.17
  • Bevis, M; Harig, C; Khan, SA; Brown, A; Simons, FJ; Willis, M; Fettweis, X; van den Broeke, MR; Madsen, FB; Kendrick, E; Caccamise, DJ; van Dam, T; Knudsen, P; Nylen, T (2019), Accelerating changes in ice mass within Greenland, and the ice sheets sensitivity to atmospheric forcing. Version: 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 116 (6) 1934-1939, issn: 0027-8424, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1806562116, PubMed ID: 30670639
  • Macayeal, DR; Banwell, AF; Okal, EA; Lin, JQ; Willis, IC; Goodsell, B; MacDonald, GJ (2019), Diurnal seismicity cycle linked to subsurface melting on an ice shelf. Version: 1 ANNALS OF GLACIOLOGY 60 (79) 137-157, issn: 0260-3055, doi: 10.1017/aog.2018.29
  • Willis, MJ, W Zheng, WJ Durkin, ME Pritchard, JM Ramage, JA Dowdeswell, TJ Benham, RP Bassford, LA Stearns, AF Glazovsky, YY Macheret and CC Porter (2018), Massive destabilization of an Arctic ice cap. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. Version: 1 502 146-155, issn: 0012-821X, ids: GX2RM, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.08.049
  • Higman, B, DH Shugar, CP Stark, G Ekstrom, MN Koppes, P Lynett, A Dufresne, PJ Haeussler, M Geertsema, S Gulick, A Mattox, JG Venditti, MAL Walton, N McCall, E Mckittrick, B MacInnes, EL Bilderback, H Tang, MJ Willis, B Richmond, RS Reece, C Larsen, B Olson, J Capra, A Ayca, C Bloom, H Williams, D Bonno, R Weiss, A Keen, V Skanavis and M Loso (2018), The 2015 landslide and tsunami in Taan Fiord, Alaska. Sci Rep Version: 1 8 , Art. No. 12993, issn: 2045-2322, ids: GS6JR, doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30475-w, PubMed ID: 30190595
  • Barletta, VR, M Bevis, BE Smith, T Wilson, A Brown, A Bordoni, M Willis, SA Khan, M Rovira-Navarro, I Dalziel, R Smalley, E Kendrick, S Konfal, DJ Caccamise, RC Aster, A Nyblade and DA Wiens (2018), Observed rapid bedrock uplift in Amundsen Sea Embayment promotes ice-sheet stability. Science Version: 1 360 (6395) 1335-+, issn: 0036-8075, ids: GK3JP, doi: 10.1126/science.aao1447, PubMed ID: 29930133
  • Zheng, W, ME Pritchard, MJ Willis, P Tepes, N Gourmelen, TJ Benham and JA Dowdeswell (2018), Accelerating glacier mass loss on Franz Josef Land, Russian Arctic. Remote Sens. Environ. Version: 1 211 357-375, issn: 0034-4257, ids: GH7RI, doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2018.04.004
  • Berthier, E, C Larsen, WJ Durkin, MJ Willis and ME Pritchard (2018), Brief communication: Unabated wastage of the Juneau and Stikine icefields (southeast Alaska) in the early 21st century. Cryosphere Version: 1 12 (4) 1523-1530, issn: 1994-0416, ids: GE2VZ, doi: 10.5194/tc-12-1523-2018
  • Dufresne, A, M Geertsema, DH Shugar, M Koppes, B Higman, PJ Haeussler, C Stark, JG Venditti, D Bonno, C Larsen, SPS Gulick, N McCall, M Walton, MG Loso and MJ Willis (2018), Sedimentology and geomorphology of a large tsunamigenic landslide, Taan Fiord, Alaska. Sediment. Geol. Version: 1 364 302-318, issn: 0037-0738, ids: FW3KQ, doi: 10.1016/j.sedgeo.2017.10.004
  • Durkin, WJ, TC Bartholomaus, MJ Willis and ME Pritchard (2017), Dynamic Changes at Yahtse Glacier, the Most Rapidly Advancing Tidewater Glacier in Alaska. Front. Earth Sci. Version: 1 5 , Art. No. UNSP 21, issn: 2296-6463, ids: EM5HZ, doi: 10.3389/feart.2017.00021
  • Smith, LC, K Yang, LH Pitcher, BT Overstreet, VW Chu, AK Rennermalm, JC Ryan, MG Cooper, CJ Gleason, M Tedesco, J Jeyaratnam, D van As, MR van den Broeke, WJ van de Berg, B Noel, PL Langen, RI Cullather, B Zhao, MJ Willis, A Hubbard, JE Box, BA Jenner and AE Behar (2017), Direct measurements of meltwater runoff on the Greenland ice sheet surface. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. Version: 1 114 (50) E10622-E10631, issn: 0027-8424, ids: FP7IJ, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1707743114, PubMed ID: 29208716
  • Shugar, DH, JJ Clague, JL Best, C Schoof, MJ Willis, L Copland and GH Roe (2017), River piracy and drainage basin reorganization led by climate-driven glacier retreat. Nat. Geosci. Version: 1 10 (5) 370-+, issn: 1752-0894, ids: ET6MY, doi: 10.1038/NGEO2932
  • Melkonian Andrew K., Willis Michael J., Pritchard Matthew E. (2016), Stikine Icefield Mass Loss between 2000 and 2013/2014. Front. Earth Sci. Version: 1 4 , issn: 2296-6463 , doi: 10.3389/feart.2016.00089
  • Khan, SA, I Sasgen, M Bevis, T van Dam, JL Bamber, J Wahr, M Willis, KH Kjaer, B Wouters, V Helm, B Csatho, K Fleming, AA Bjork, A Aschwanden, P Knudsen and PK Munneke (2016), Geodetic measurements reveal similarities between post-Last Glacial Maximum and present-day mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet. Sci. Adv. Version: 1 2 (9) , Art. No. UNSP e1600931, issn: 2375-2548, ids: DW6CQ, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1600931, PubMed ID: 27679819
  • Larsen, SH, SA Khan, AP Ahlstrom, CS Hvidberg, MJ Willis and SB Andersen (2016), Increased mass loss and asynchronous behavior of marine-terminating outlet glaciers at Upernavik IsstrOm, NW Greenland. J. Geophys. Res.-Earth Surf. Version: 1 121 (2) 241-256, issn: 2169-9003, ids: DH6UU, doi: 10.1002/2015JF003507
  • Melkonian, AK, MJ Willis, ME Pritchard and AJ Stewart (2016), Recent changes in glacier velocities and thinning at Novaya Zemlya. Remote Sens. Environ. Version: 1 174 244-257, issn: 0034-4257, ids: DB8DI, doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2015.11.001
  • Pope, A, TA Scambos, M Moussavi, M Tedesco, M Willis, D Shean and S Grigsby (2016), Estimating supraglacial lake depth in West Greenland using Landsat 8 and comparison with other multispectral methods. Cryosphere Version: 1 10 (1) 15-27, issn: 1994-0416, ids: DO2IF, doi: 10.5194/tc-10-15-2016
  • Willis, MJ, BG Herried, MG Bevis and RE Bell (2015), Recharge of a subglacial lake by surface meltwater in northeast Greenland. Nature Version: 1 518 (7538) 223-U165, issn: 0028-0836, ids: CA8SD, doi: 10.1038/nature14116, PubMed ID: 25607355
  • Willis, MJ, AK Melkonian and ME Pritchard (2015), Outlet glacier response to the 2012 collapse of the Matusevich Ice Shelf, Severnaya Zemlya, Russian Arctic. J. Geophys. Res.-Earth Surf. Version: 1 120 (10) 2040-2055, issn: 2169-9003, ids: CW3FE, doi: 10.1002/2015JF003544
  • Gomez, D, R Smalley, CA Langston, TJ Wilson, M Bevis, IWD Dalziel, EC Kendrick, SA Konfal, MJ Willis, DA Pinon, SR Cimbaro and D Caccamise (2015), Virtual array beamforming of GPS TEC observations of coseismic ionospheric disturbances near the Geomagnetic South Pole triggered by teleseismic megathrusts. J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys. Version: 1 120 (10) 9087-9101, issn: 2169-9380, ids: CY0ZI, doi: 10.1002/2015JA021725
  • Melkonian, AK, MJ Willis and ME Pritchard (2014), Satellite-derived volume loss rates and glacier speeds for the Juneau Icefield, Alaska. J. Glaciol. Version: 1 60 (222) 743-760, issn: 0022-1430, ids: AR0OV, doi: 10.3189/2014JoG13J181
  • Melkonian, AK, MJ Willis, ME Pritchard, A Rivera, F Bown and SA Bernstein (2013), Satellite-derived volume loss rates and glacier speeds for the Cordillera Darwin Icefield, Chile. Cryosphere Version: 1 7 (3) 823-839, issn: 1994-0416, ids: 174GX, doi: 10.5194/tc-7-823-2013
  • Willis, MJ, AK Melkonian, ME Pritchard and JM Ramage (2012), Ice loss rates at the Northern Patagonian Icefield derived using a decade of satellite remote sensing. Remote Sens. Environ. Version: 1 117 184-198, issn: 0034-4257, ids: 894WX, doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2011.09.017
  • Willis, MJ, AK Melkonian, ME Pritchard and A Rivera (2012), Ice loss from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, South America, between 2000 and 2012. Geophys. Res. Lett. Version: 1 39 , Art. No. L17501, issn: 0094-8276, ids: 003CK, doi: 10.1029/2012GL053136
  • Bevis, M, J Wahr, SA Khan, FB Madsen, A Brown, M Willis, E Kendrick, P Knudsen, JE Box, T van Dam, DJ Caccamise, B Johns, T Nylen, R Abbott, S White, J Miner, R Forsberg, H Zhou, J Wang, T Wilson, D Bromwich and O Francis (2012), Bedrock displacements in Greenland manifest ice mass variations, climate cycles and climate change. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. Version: 1 109 (30) 11944-11948, issn: 0027-8424, ids: 981TD, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1204664109, PubMed ID: 22786931
  • Barnhart, WD, MJ Willis, RB Lohman and AK Melkonian (2011), InSAR and Optical Constraints on Fault Slip during the 2010-2011 New Zealand Earthquake Sequence. Seismol. Res. Lett. Version: 1 82 (6) 815-823, issn: 0895-0695, ids: 841VX, doi: 10.1785/gssrl.82.6.815