Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

Waleed Abdalati

CIRES and CIESRDS Director, Professor of Geography

Headshot of Waleed Abdalati
  • Ph.D., University of Colorado, 1996
Office Location
CIRES - 309
Director Tenure
2013 to Current Director

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. 


Research Categories

Climate and Weather, Cryosphere, Science Policy, Space

Research Images

Honors and Awards

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

CECA connects and creates a supportive environment for graduate students and postdocs who come from various academic units to do research in CIRES.