University of Colorado at Boulder

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Waleed Abdalati

Remote Sensing of Earth’s Ice Cover

Professor of Geography 

Physical Geography
Director of CIRES
303-492-5087 Ekeley 305  
Ph.D. University of Colorado at Boulder, 1996

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. Toward that end, I have been heavily involved in the development of NASA's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and its successor, ICESat-II, and I have worked on cryospheric applications of various other satellites and aircraft instruments. Most of my research is supported by NASA, where I worked as a scientist for 12 years, before joining CIRES.

Labs & Facilities

KESDA Ken Erickson Spatial Data Analysis Lab

KESDA Lab is an instructional computer lab with advanced software and hardware used to teach technique (skills) courses in geography.

Recent Courses Include

Graduate Students

Sea ice; glacier melt; climate change
Ice sheets & glaciers, climate change, remote sensing, machine learning
Cryosphere-sea, earth, ice interactions; remote sensing; GIS
M.A. Alumni
Accuracy of interpolated bathymetric digital elevation models
M.A. Alumni
Investigation of Multi-Decadal Outlet Glacier Surface Ice Velocities in Greenland
Ph.D. Alumni
Quantifying supraglacial lake volumes on the Greenland ice sheet from spaceborne optical sensors

What's New

I joined the department in Summer, 2008, when I took over as director of what is now known as the Earth Science and Observation Center (ESOC). My research focuses on the use of remote sensing observations to understand the Earth's changing ice cover, but my interests span many aspects of Earth system science and the use of remote sensing as a tool to understand our changing Earth. In December I was selected to lead NASA's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) science definition team, which defines the mission's science objectives and requirements. ICESat-2 is a laser altimetry mission that precisely measures elevation changes of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet to determine their contributions to sea level rise. Other research projects for which I have recently received funding include: the analysis of data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to determine how and why the glaciers of Alaska, Canada, Patagonia and Greenland are changing, studying the behavior of melt and the movement of melt water on the Greenland ice sheet, and examining flow history of some of Greenland's more dynamic outlet glaciers.

"What's New" updated February 2009

More Info

I received my MS in Aerospace Engineering Sciences and Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Colorado in 1991 and 1996 respectively.  From 1996 through 2008, I worked in various positions at NASA, ranging from a research scientist, to program manager, to head of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Cryospheric Sciences Branch.  In 2008, I had the good fortune of being able to return "home" to serve as director of the Earth Science and Observation Center at CU and join the faculty of the Geography Department.   I am very glad to have the opportunity to bring the experiences and perspectives that I have acquired during my tenure at NASA back to the academic environment.  I believe that when students can see the practical value of what they are learning, they are more motivated and the concepts resonate more effectively.  My hope is that the perspective I can bring to the classroom will enable me to provide a unique learning opportunity for the students by infusing real-world experience into the concepts I am teaching them.

Current Research

Application of data from the GRACE mission to understanding changes in glaciers in Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, and Patagonia (NASA Cryospheric Sciences Program); Multi-sensor assessment of Greenland ice sheet mass balance (NASA Interdisciplinary Studies Program); Greenland ice sheet seasonal mass loss due to melting (NASA Terrestrial Hydrology Program); Decadal changes in Greenland ice sheet melt and accumulation zones (NASA GSFC); Changes in Greenland ice sheet outlet glacier velocities prior to 1995 (NASA PECASE award); Satellite laser altimetry mission requirements for ICESat-II (NASA ICESat-II Project).