University of Colorado at Boulder

Dept Theme

Physical Geography

Climatology, geomorphology, biogeography, arctic and alpine systems, hydrology, and global change

Physical geography integrates and inter-relates landforms, water, soils, climate, and vegetation as the major natural elements of the environment. The focus of physical geography is on the zone of the land, ocean, and atmosphere containing most of the world's organic life. Physical geography not only describes natural phenomena near the surface of the earth but, more importantly, seeks explanations of how and why the physical and biological processes act as they do. Physical geography includes processes studied in other physical and natural sciences such as meteorology, geology, biology, and soil science, however, physical geography is more than a mere composite of these other sciences. It takes a uniquely comprehensive approach to the processes of the natural environment, often with an emphasis on human modifications to the environment.

Faculty teaching and/or performing research in Physical Geography

Remote Sensing of Earth’s Ice Cover
Geomorphology; Weathering; Hydrology; Glaciology
Jennifer K.
Fire ecology; Land use/landcover change; Global change ecology; Tropical forest ecology
Holly R.
Ecohydrology; Stable Isotope Geochemistry; Forest Hydrology; Tree Physiology
Arctic Climate; Cryosphere-Climate Interactions; Mountain Climate; Climate Change Emeritus
Plant ecology, soil science, disturbance ecology, biogeography, conservation and restoration ecology Emeritus
Climatology;  Biometeorology
T. Nelson
Geomorphology and hydrology Emeritus
Spatial-Temporal Dynamics, Computational GIScience, Spatial Interactions, Transportation
Biogeography, Dendrochronology Post-Doctoral
Climate; hydrology Adjunct
Surface Water and Snow Hydrology; Remote Sensing; Ecohydrology
Geomorphology; Water Resources; Natural Hazards
Disturbance ecology; climate change; landscape modeling Adjunct
Arctic climate; global implications; and climate warming in the Arctic
Climatology, Remote Sensing; Emeritus
Biogeography; Conservation
Earth analytics Adjunct
Alpine Biogeochemistry; Hydrology; Snow Hydrology; and Nutrient Cycling.

Graduate Students in Physical Geography

36 students total. TIP: To sort by more than one column, hold down the shift key while clicking an additional column header.

Name Degree     Specialties
Amante, Christopher Ph.D. Sea ice; glacier melt; climate change
Andrus, Robert Ph.D. biogeography; dendrochronology; disturbance ecology; forest ecology
Barnhart, Theodore Ph.D. terrestrial hydrology
Birch, Andrew Ph.D. Tropical Hydrology and Biogeochemistry in Panama Canal Watershed
Bobeck, Jessica M.A. Remote sensing; cryosphere; geophysics
Burns, Sean Ph.D. Subalpine Forest Carbon and Water Cycling
Bush, Sidney M.A. Hydrology; ecohydrology; geochemical transport processes
Cavitt, Jonathon Ph.D. Climatology, Arctic climate, Sea ice dynamics, Sea level affect of climate change on weather pattern
Chai, Rachel M.A. Biogeography and entomology
Chapman, Teresa Ph.D. Biogeography
Crawford, Alexander Ph.D. climate change; polar research; snow and ice
Crepinsek, Sara M.A. Climatology; Arctic Meteorology
Curtis, John M.A. Biometerology, Land-Atmosphere Interactions
Dadashi, Sepideh Ph.D. GIS, remote sensing
Eddy, Alex Ph.D. Geomorphology; hydrology
Grant, Glenn Ph.D. Remote sensing, Polar climate
Grigsby, Shane Ph.D. Ice sheets & glaciers, climate change, remote sensing, machine learning
Helmberger, Meghan Ph.D. Arctic Climate, GIS, Climate/Human Connection
Hill, Alice Ph.D. snow and ice; water resources and repurcussions in a changing climate
Jarvis, Stephanie Ph.D. Hydrology, Ecohydrology, geology
Jennings, Keith Ph.D. Snow and floods in mountain environments
Kelly, Julia Ph.D. Biogeography, Conservation Biology, Forest Ecology, Avian Diversity
Klein, Trevor Ph.D. Hydrology, Biogeochemistry
Longenecker, H.E. Ph.D. Climatology; Climate Change; Hazard/Risk Vulnerability
MacFerrin, Michael Ph.D. Cryosphere-sea, earth, ice interactions; remote sensing; GIS
Mahood, Adam M.A. Plant ecology; remote sensing
Mills, Taylor Ph.D. Small-scale hydrologic systems; water chemistry
Naficy, Cameron Ph.D. Disturbance ecology; tree ecophysiology; climate variability; restoration; remote sensing
Rodman, Kyle Ph.D. Biogeography, climate spatial analysis; forest ecology
Schneider, Dominik Ph.D. mountain and snow hydrology, interaction between vegetation and snowmelt runoff, water resources
Schreiber, Erika Ph.D. Climatology; Cryosphere
Selander, Brittany Ph.D. Fluvial geomorphology
Snow, Tasha Ph.D. Cryosphere remote sensing; glaciology
Weber, Kristy M.A. Climate change, carbon flux, micrometeorology and instrumentation
Wilson, Alana Ph.D. climate change, water resources and the cryosphere
Zhang, Qinghuan Ph.D. hydrology and water resources

News and Events related to Physical Geography


Aug 2016
Geography graduate students conduct water sampling and offer training in Cental Asia-Summer 2016

Apr 2016
Seth Spielman wins 2016 Distinguished Scholar Award

Aug 2015
NEW BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT—Mountains: A Very Short Introduction, by Martin F. Price, PhD, CU Geog

Dec 2013
River research by Erich Mueller and John Pitlick featured in EOS, 3 December 2013

Oct 2013
Mark Williams Receives Fulbright Award for 2013-2014

Jun 2013
Monica T. Rother and Thomas T. Veblen receive a Colorado Mountain Club Foundation Fellowship

Oct 2012
Verdict’s still out on pine-beetle-kill fire effects

Sep 2012
CU-led mountain forest study shows vulnerability to climate change

Aug 2012
Monica T. Rother receives NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant

Jun 2012
John Pitlick Named GSA Fellow

Jun 2012
Monica T. Rother receives an award from the John W. Marr Ecology Fund

Jun 2012
Monica T. Rother receives a Colorado Mountain Club Foundation Fellowship

Aug 2011
Southern South American wildfires expected to increase

Jun 2011
NSF awards CU-Boulder $5.9 million grant for alpine ecosystem research

Jun 2011
Monica T. Rother receives a Colorado Mountain Club Foundation Fellowship

Apr 2011
Erich Mueller and Andrew Linke win Gilbert White Fellowships

Apr 2011
Sarah Hart Receives John Marr Ecology Fund Award

Apr 2011
Adina Racoviteanu Receives Outstanding Student Oral Presentation Award

Apr 2011
Danielle Perrot Receives Outstanding Student Poster Award

Mar 2011
Morgan Zeliff Receives the Young Investigator’s Award from the 2011 BASIN Isotope Conference

More News >>


Apr 2017
Wildfire regime shifts in Patagonian-Andean forest ecosystems: Feedbacks and consequences in the face of climate and land-use changes

Jan 2016
Global records of lake surface temperature reveal a century of warming

Sep 2013
Post-fire vegetation dynamics and feedbacks on fire susceptibility in Nothofagus forests of New Zealand

Sep 2013
Climate change, disturbance interactions and adaptive forest management in Central Europe and Colorado

Sep 2011
CU Museum of Natural History exhibit Burning Issues: The Fourmile Canyon Fire

Dec 2010
Sedge Meadows of the Wyoming Basin Shrub-Steppe—Are they Wetlands?

Nov 2010
A Hydrologic Perspective on Land-Atmosphere Interactions: Moving from Point Observations to Watershed Fluxes

Nov 2010
Spatial-complexity in scenarios of eco-hydrologic responses to warming in the Western US

Oct 2010
From research to service: Informing adaptation in a changing climate

Oct 2010
Info session for undergraduates.

Sep 2010
Chemical potamology: Balancing the dissolved and solid river flux

Apr 2010
Small Scale Snowpack Surface Roughness Variability Measurements

Apr 2010
Contribution of melting glaciers to the hydrology of Nepal

Mar 2010
Himalayan glaciers and 'voodoo science': Integrating remote sensing, field methods and indigenous knowledge about climate change

Jan 2010
Ice Sheets, Sea Ice and Satellites: Transforming Polar Paradigms

Nov 2009
Soil and snow avalanches: A connected system in the Italian Alps

Oct 2009
From the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada rises the city of Los Angeles: new tools for water resource management at a time of crisis

Oct 2009
Sediment supply to channels: How coarse is it, and how coarse is too coarse for salmon spawning substrates?

Oct 2009
Not All Water Becomes Wine: Sulfur as an Opportune Tracer of Hydrochemical Losses

Sep 2009
Signals and noise: examining media representations of climate change

More Events >>

Selected Publications by Faculty and Graduate Students associated with Physical Geography


 Waleed Abdalati

 Suzanne Anderson

Anderson, RS, Anderson, SP, and Tucker, GE . (2013). Rock damage and regolith transport by frost: An example of climate modulation of critical zone geomorphology. . Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 38: 299-316. doi:10.1002/esp.3330

Anderson, SP, Anderson, RS, and Tucker, GE . (2012). Landscape scale linkages in critical zone evolution. Comptes rendus- Geoscience 344: 586-596. doi:10.1016/j.crte.2012.10.008

Hinckley, E.-L., Ebel, B.A., Barnes, R.T., Anderson, R.S., Williams, M.W., and Anderson, S.P. (2012). Aspect control of water movement on hillslopes near the rain-snow transition of the Colorado Front Range, U.S.A. Hydrological Processes. doi:10.1002/hyp.9549

Frederick, ZA, Anderson, SP, and Striegl, R. (2011). Annual estimates of water and solute export from 42 tributaries to the Yukon River. Hydrological Processes. 10.1002/hyp.8255

Riggins, SG, Anderson, RS, Anderson, SP, and Tye, AM. (2011). Solving a conundrum of a steady-state hillslope with variable soil depths and production rates, Bodmin Moor, UK. Geomorphology, 128: 73-84.

 Jennifer K. Balch

Balch, J.K. (2014). Drought and fire change sink to source. Nature 506: 41-42.

Brando*, P.M., J.K. Balch*, D.C. Nepstad*, D.C. Morton, F.E. Putz, M.T. Coe, D. Silvério, M.N. Macedo, E.A. Davidson, C. Nóbrega, A. Alencar, B. Soares-Filho. (2014). Abrupt increases in Amazonian tree mortality due to drought-fire interactions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111: 6347-6352. *Co-lead authors contributed equally .

Balch, J.K., B.A. Bradley, C. D’Antonio, and J. Gomez-Dans. (2013). Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980-2009). Global Change Biology 19:173-183.

Davidson, E.A., A. Araujo, P. Artaxo, J.K. Balch, I.F. Brown, M. Bustamante, M.T. Coe, R.S. DeFries, M. Keller, M. Longo, J.W. Munger, W. Schroeder, B.S. Soares-Filho, and C.M. Souza, and S.C. Wofsy. (2012). The Amazon basin in transition. Nature 481: 321-328.

Bowman, D.M.J.S.*, J.K. Balch*, P. Artaxo, W.J. Bond, J.M. Carlson, M.A. Cochrane, C.M. D’Antonio, R.S. DeFries, J.C. Doyle, S.P. Harrison, F.H. Johnston, J.E. Keeley, M.A. Krawchuk, C.A. Kull, J.B. Marston, M.A. Moritz, I.C. Prentice, C.I. Roos, A.C. Scott, T.W. Swetnam, G.R. van der Werf, and S.J. Pyne. (2009). Fire in the Earth system. Science 324:481-484. Selected for “Faculty of 1000 Biology” list of important articles. *Co-lead authors contributed equally.

 Holly R. Barnard

 Peter Blanken

Knowles, J.F., Blanken, P.D., Williams, M.W., and Chowanski, K.M. (2012). Energy and surface moisture seasonally limit evaporation and sublimation from snow-free alpine tundra. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 157, 106-115.

Blanken, P.D., Spence, C., Hedstrom, N., and Lenters, J. (2011). Evaporation from Lake Superior: 1. Physical controls and processes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 37(4), 707-716.

Liu, H., Blanken, P.D., Weidinger, T., Nordbo, A., and Vesala, T. (2011). Variability in cold front activities modulating cool-season evaporation from a southern inland water in the USA. Environmental Research Letters, 6(2). DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/6/2/024022

Petchprayoon, P., Blanken, P.D., Ekkawatpanit, C., and Hussein, K. (2010). Hydrological impacts of land use/land cover change in a large river basin in central-northern Thailand. International Journal of Climatology, 30(13), 1917-1930. DOI:10.1002/joc.2131

Alfieri, J.G., Blanken, P.D., Smith, D. and Morgan, J.A. (2009). Concerning the measurement and magnitude of heat, water vapor and carbon dioxide exchange from a semiarid grassland. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 48(5), 982-996.

 Sarah Hart

 John Lenters

Lenters, J. D. (2015). The Global Lake Temperature Collaboration (GLTC). LakeLine, 35(3): 9-12.

O’Reilly, C. M., et al. . (2015). Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe. . Geophysical Research Letters, 43. doi:10.1002/2015GL066235

Sharma, S., et al. (2015). A global database of lake surface temperatures collected by in situ and satellite methods from 1985-2009. . Scientific Data, 2:150008. doi:10.1038/sdata.2015.8

Van Cleave, K., Lenters, J. D., Wang, J., and Verhamme, E. M. (2014). A regime shift in Lake Superior ice cover, evaporation, and water temperature following the warm El Niño winter of 1997-1998. . Limnology and Oceanography. 59(6): 1889-1898. doi:10.4319/lo.2014.59.6.1889

Spence, C., Blanken, P. D., Lenters, J. D., and Hedstrom, N. (2013). The importance of spring and autumn atmospheric conditions for the evaporation regime of Lake Superior. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 14: 1647-1658. . doi:10.1175/JHM-D-12-0170.1

 Noah Molotch

Perrot, D., N.P. Molotch, K.N. Musselman, E. Pugh. (2014). Modeling the effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle on snowmelt in a subalpine forest. Ecohydrology, 7(2), 226 – 241. doi:10.1002/eco.1329

Guan, B., N.P. Molotch, D.E. Waliser, E.J. Fetzer, and P.J. Neiman. (2013). The 2010/11 Snow Season in California’s Sierra Nevada: Role of Atmospheric Rivers and Modes of Large-scale Variability. Water Resources Research, 49, 6731–6743. doi:10.1002/wrcr.20537

Musselman, K.N., N.P. Molotch, S.A. Margulis, M. Lehning, D. Gustafson. (2012). Improved snowmelt simulations with a canopy model forced with photo-derived direct beam canopy transmissivity. Water Resources Research, 48, 10. doi:10.1029/2012WR012285

Musselman, K.N., N.P. Molotch, S.A. Margulis, P.B. Kirchner, R.C. Bales. (2012). Influence of canopy structure and direct beam solar irradiance on snowmelt rates in a mixed conifer forest. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, VOL. 161, Pgs. 46-56. DOI:10.1016/j.agrformet.2012.03.011

Trujillo, E., N.P. Molotch, M. Goulden, A. Kelly, R. C. Bales. (2012). Elevation-dependent influence of snow accumulation on forest greening. Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo1571

 John Pitlick

Anderson, S., and J. Pitlick. (2014). Using repeat lidar to estimate sediment transport in a steep stream . Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface, v. 119, p. 621-643. doi:10.1002/2013JF002933

Mueller, E.R. and J. Pitlick. (2014). Sediment supply and channel morphology in mountain river systems: 2. Single thread to braided transitions. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface, v. 119, p. 1516–1541. doi:10.1002/2013JF003045

Mueller, E.R., and J. Pitlick. (2013). Sediment supply and channel morphology in mountain river systems: 1. Relative importance of lithology, topography, and climate . Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface, v. 118, p. 2325–2342. doi:10.1002/2013JF002843

Pitlick, J., J. Marr, and J. Pizzuto. (2013). Width adjustment in experimental gravel-bed channels in response to overbank flows. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface, v. 118, p. 553-570. doi:10.1002/jgrf.20059

Segura C., J. H. McCutchan, W. M. Lewis, and J. Pitlick. (2011). The influence of channel bed disturbance on algae biomass in a Colorado mountain stream. Ecohydrology, v. 4, p. 411-421. doi:10.1002/eco.142

 Tania Schoennagel

 Mark Serreze

Serreze, M.C., A.P. Barrett, J.C. Stroeve, D.N. Kindig and M.M. Holland. (2009). The emergence of surface-based Arctic amplification. The Cryosphere, 3, 11-19.

Serreze.,M.C. and A.P. Barrett. (2008). The summer cyclone maximum over the central Arctic Ocean. J. Climate, 21, 1048-1065.

Serreze, M.C., A.P. Barrett, A.G. Slater, M. Steele, J. Zhang and K.E. Trenberth. (2007). The large-scale energy budget of the Arctic. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D11122. doi:10.1029/2006JD008230

Serreze, M.C., M.M. Holland and J. Stroeve. (2007). Perspectives on the Arctic's rapidly shrinking sea-ice cover. Science, 315, 1533-1536.

Serreze, M.C., A.P. Barrett, A.G. Slater, R.A. Woodgate, K. Aagaard, R.B. Lammers, M. Steele, R. Moritz, M. Meredith and C.M. Lee. (2006). The large-scale freshwater cycle of the Arctic. J. Geophys. Res., 111, C11010. doi:10.1029/2005JC003424

 Tom Veblen

 Mark Williams

Leopold M, Williams MW, Caine N, Volkel J, Dethier D. (2011). Internal Structure of the Green Lake 5 Rock Glacier, Colorado Front Range, USA. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes. Published online in Wiley Online Library ( DOI:10.1002/ppp.706

Freppaz M, D Godone, G Filippa, M Maggioni, S Lunardi, MW Williams, E Zanini. (2010). Soil Erosion Caused by Snow Avalanches: A Case Study in the Aosta Valley (NW-ITALY). Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp. 412-421.

Schmidt S.K., R.C. Lynch, A.J. King, D. Karki, M.S. Robeson, L. Nagy, M.W. Williams, M.S. Mitter, and K.R. Freeman. (2010). Phylogeography of microbial phototrophs in the dry valleys of the high Himalayas and Antarctica. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B, pp 1-7. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1254

Williams MW, TA Erickson, and JL Petrzelka. (2010). Visualizing meltwater flow through snow at the centimetre-to-metre scale using a snow guillotine. Hydrological Processes. DOI:10.1002/hyp.7630

Filippa G, M Freppaz, MW Williams, E Zanini. (in press). Major Element Chemistry in inner-alpine Snowpacks (Aosta Valley Region, North Western Italy). Cold Regions Science and Technology. doi:10.1016/j.coldregions.2010.07.005

Grad Students