Science provides a way of understanding the world in a quantitative, measurable way, and mathematics is an intricate, elegant language for describing phenomena of the natural world.
As a modeler, I use mathematical equations written into computer code to simulate complex behavior of the earth system. In my current research as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), I am working on modeling the Greenland ice sheet during the Last Interglacial (about 127,000 years ago), when the Earth’s climate was several degrees warmer than it currently is, due to our orbital configuration at the time. By studying past climates (paleoclimate), we get a better understanding of how different parts of the Earth system behave and how they interact – which allows us to understand and better predict what changes we can expect to come in the future. Paleoclimate research ultimately informs scientific predictions of global sea level rise, ocean and atmospheric patterns, and much more.
A combination of field observations and numerical modeling is essential for improving our understanding the rapid changes that are occurring now in the polar ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.
Did you know that the ice in Greenland is equivalent to ~ 24 feet of sea level rise? And the ice in Antarctica is much larger, ~ 197 feet. A big question is how much these ice sheets will melt in the near future as the Earth’s climate changes.
My PhD research focused on processes that influence behavior of the Greenland ice sheet, particularly under a changing climate, including thermo-mechanical ice sheet modeling, subglacial hydrology modeling, a detailed look at heat transfer coefficients in glacier drainage, and a new field method to measure permeability of firn.
- Sommers, Aleah N., “Insights into Processes Affecting Greenland Ice Sheet Dynamics in a Changing Climate: Firn Permeability, Interior Thermal State, Subglacial Hydrology, and Heat Transfer Coefficients” (2018). Civil Engineering Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 346.
- Sommers, A., Rajaram, H., and Morlighem, M. (2018). SHAKTI: Subglacial Hydrology and Kinetic Transient Interactions v1.0, Geoscientific Model Development.
- de Fleurian, B., Werder, M.A., Beyer, S., Brinkerhoff, D.J., Delaney, I., Dow, C.F., Downs, J. Gagliardini, O., Hoffman, M.J., Hooke, R.L., Seguinot, J., and Sommers, A.N. (2018). SHMIP: The Subglacial Hydrology Model Intercomparison Project, Journal of Glaciology.
- Sommers, A. N., Rajaram, H., Weber, E. P., MacFerrin, M. J., Colgan, W. T., and Stevens, C. M. (2017). Inferring Firn Permeability from Pneumatic Testing: A Case Study on the Greenland Ice Sheet, Frontiers in Earth Science.
- Colgan, W., Sommers, A., Rajaram, H., Abdalati, W. and Frahm, J. (2015). Considering thermal-viscous collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, Earth’s Future.
- Sommers, A.N. and Viswanadham, B.V.S. (2009). Centrifuge model tests on the behavior of strip footing on geotextile-reinforced slopes, Geotextiles and Geomembranes.