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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Academics & Research

Glacier researcher hot on climate issues’ trail

Glacier photo resize

Assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering Hyongki Lee was awarded a $145,000 grant to study glacier shrinkage. | Courtesy of

A UH assistant professor is joining an international team to study the shrinking of mountain glaciers using satellite remote sensing measurements.

Hyongki Lee, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, has once again found himself working with his doctoral alma mater, Ohio State University, which is leading the initiative.

OSU recently received a three-year, $600,000 grant from NASA, with approximately $145,000 of that given to Lee’s part of the project.

“My role is to process satellite radar altimetry data over the mountain glaciers and ice caps to generate their elevation change time series, from which we eventually computer their mass changes,” Lee said.

The satellites used in this project are those of NASA, European Space Agency, Centre national d’études spatiales — a French government space agency — and Indian Space Research Organization.

“Dr. Lee’s glacier research is a shining example of the diverse, collaborative and cutting-edge projects our faculty members are taking on,” said Cullen College of Engineering Dean Joseph Tedesco.

With the role glaciers play in ecosystems and societies, it is important to understand the implications of glacial melting.

“It can provide researchers worldwide with a better understanding of the contributors to climate-change-based sea level rises,” Lee said in a statement.

Once the model is developed to interpret the altimeter data, the algorithm can be extended to be used for altimeter measurements over non-oceanic surfaces such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, ice sheets and topographic surfaces.

Lee described a satellite radar altimeter tailored to measure the height based on how radio waves scatter when they bounce off objects.

According to a press release, Lee is developing a new model for interpreting altimeter data that is tailored specifically for glacier surfaces and will provide more accurate height information, as well as developing a technique to measure height changes along the entire path of each satellite.

The readings collected by the team can then be used to calculate the mass of the ice lost over the past few decades, leading to a better understanding of climate change and rising sea levels.

“I take great pride in our faculty researchers’ boundless ambition to make the world a better place, and this study seeks to do exactly that,” Tedesco said.

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