Chat about Kansas University's efforts in Greenland to predict the effects of global warming

September 4, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

David Braaten

Data gathered at Kansas University's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets is helping answer one of the world's most pressing questions: How fast are the ice sheets melting and why?

Since the center was formed at KU two years ago, it has sent researchers to Antarctica and Greenland and collaborated with schools and organizations across the globe. The technology that is being developed at KU has uses that extend to other planets.

Chat with David Braaten, the deputy director of the Center on Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, at 1 p.m. Tuesday.


Hi. Thanks for joining us for today's chat. I'm Christine Metz and today's moderator. We have David Braaten with us today to talk about the work that the Center for Remote Sensing on Ice Sheets is doing and to answer you questions. Thanks for chatting with us David.


So David, to get us started can you give us an update on some of the projects that you have been working on?

David Braaten:

My pleasure. This is my first time answering questions via an online chat, so I hope my typing isn't too slow.

David Braaten:

The Center still has a field experiment to complete this season, so the Center Director Prasad Gogineni, a research faculty member and student will be leaving tomorrow for this work in Greenland.


Thanks David. Let's get started with some of the questions our readers have posted. Some of our readers want to know your thoughts on global warming.


Will the melting icesheets in Greenland & the Antarctic only affect coastal areas, or will there be effects for people living in places like Kansas? Thanks!

David Braaten:

I feel this is a critically important issue that must be addressed. At this point small steps are fine, but we have to start now. The science is very clear in many aspects of climate change, so the real questions are what are the implication of these changes to our weather, the ice sheets, etc.


Numerous studies like yours have been done already, and they have shown that global warming is the cause. But even with overwhelming evidence, some skeptics still say that global warming doesn't exist or is not the cause of ice reduction near the poles. Why are there still doubter's for this very real and serious problem? Plus, with all of the research and publicity global warming has received, including movies, specials on the Discovery channel, and many books, people still don't understand how big of a problem this is. What will it take for the world, particularly America, to begin to reverse the effects of global warming, to become "green", so that our Earth, are only place of inhabitance, is not changed forever or destroyed for all time? Brad


Your Center seems to be doing very timely and important work. Can you tell me what you hope will come of it? Is there commensurate research happening to address causes of and solutions to global warming?

David Braaten:

This is a classic issue where we are all in this together and we all have to contribute to its solution, otherwise we won't be able to solve the problem. It also has a long time horizon, but our kids and grandkids will have (with virtual certainty) a rough future if we choose to do nothing. This might be a message that motivates people to be part of the solution.

David Braaten:

We hope to understand the implications of a warming world on the ice sheets. This involves computer modeling, but we don't have enough information about the ice sheets below the surface to make good predictions yet. This information is what the Center is providing. We hope this will lead to more accurate predictions ice sheet change and hence tell us what will happen to global sea level.


How many years has KU been involved in this field of research?

David Braaten:

KU has been involved in the remote sensing of ice sheets since 1993.


To our readers, we have some more time for a question or two. So if you have them please send them in.


What graduate degree programs are available in your program? Has funding been made available to support those students with research interests that match the goals of your program? Where can one learn more about them? Thank you for your time.

David Braaten:

The Center involves graduate students from engineering, geology, geography, and education to accomplish all of the goals of the Center. Graduate students are supported as research assistants and we pay tuition in addition to their salary. The graduate students are an essential asset to the Center. You can get more information about our programs by contacting me, and I can pass on this on to the appropriate person.


Well those are all the questions we have for the day. Thanks David for taking the time to talk about CReSIS and the work it is doing. Any closing thoughts?

David Braaten:

Thanks for this new experience of "chatting" online about CReSIS.


SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 8 months ago

Wasn't Greenland named such because it was once quite green? If so, that would indicate that global temperatures hundreds/thousands of years ago were much warmer than they are today. And that would seem to indicate that the earth goes through natural cycles - some periods warmer, some periods cooler. Is it possible that today's temperatures are due in large part to natural planetary cycles?

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years, 8 months ago

Actually logicsound04, You're only part right. Erik the Red was trying to entice would-be travelers. However, from 800-1300, recent ice core studies say that the southern part of Greenland was in fact very green and sustained a very moderate environment including the growing of many crops and such.

devobrun 10 years, 8 months ago

The U of Ks Center for Research Inc. (CRINC) and the Remote Sensing Lab (RSL), and now CReSIS have been engaged in the development of sensors for about 40 years. This sensor development has always been a great way to teach students, but of limited real application.

Remote sensing has always been a technology that was all dressed up, but nowhere to go. The fundamental reason is that information and even knowledge doesn't mean that there is any wisdom involved. So, the remote sensing information was of little use to wise farmers, mariners, oil drillers, and many others who thought that remote sensing might solve their problems. One by one, the great hopes of remote sensing applications adding to our lives have faded away.

Hurricane Felix is being monitored by remote sensing (optical, IR, and others) as I write this. Will remote sensing save lives? Maybe, but the big wind will still hit, the big rain will still fall, people will still die because they are unwise.

So here we are again with climate change, full of information (sensor data), knowledge (computer models) and no wisdom.
As T S Eliot asked in Choruses from The Rock Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Sorry, Al Gore just doesn't seem like a wise person to me. So this too(climate information and modeling) will pass.

lounger 10 years, 8 months ago

Global warming is here. Denial will get you nowhere. Help solve the problem not be part of the problem.

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago


It seems funny to me that you're trying to dispute scientific research. It may not be the best piece of equipment but it's better than nothing. Your dispute of global warming is pretty much the same as the dispute of the theory of evolution by the religious group. I've just watched a program that showed that some families kept their kids at home just because they don't want them to be tainted by the wrong teaching in sciences!

I bet you only watch Al Gore's movie to come to know about Global Warming? Watch the more reliable news and programs by the Discovery Channel, and the Science Channel. He made that program just for ignorant people like yourself, who stayed nicely in your couch and keep saying that Global Warming is false. You gotta get out of your couch and get to Greenland, ends of Argentina to see how the ice melts so quickly, and the islands in the Pacific disappear... you gotta watch all the programs and scientific evidences that highlight the issues of global warming... and not just watch Al Gore on his television show? It's like watching Michael Moore's program on US Health issues but neglect all the other more reliable programs from Discovery Channel etc.. on Health Issues... I also think you should either travel or read more widely.

Till now, anti-GW people only "thinks" that there isn't GW. But GW scientists have proved that GW is taking place. If you understand statistics, GW skeptics are using the reason as "oh the technology is not up to date" or "the technology is not reliable" as excuses to rebut the GW scientists that found that GW is happening and is real.

I wonder why the whole world acknowledges GW except America.... Thanks Bush!

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago


It's really funny that most GW skeptics here kept quoting Al Gore but neglect the entire National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Nobel Prize etc. directions. But I'm glad there are people like you around (and we all know we're majority).

gr 10 years, 8 months ago

"But GW scientists have proved that GW is taking place."

Proof, please.

If you care to think, how would one go about seeing if global warming is taking place?
Would you measure the temperature of today and compare it with the temperature of yesterday?

What would you measure the temperature of? the air?
near cities? near the poles? the equator? the earth?
how deep in the earth?
the ocean?

How many measurement points would you take? what amount of extrapolation would yield better results than the census?

Given how old the earth is, what would be a reasonable timeframe for comparison? recently recorded weather reports because, "that's all we have"? is that reasonable to determine a "global" trend?

How would you determine "proof" rather than a cyclical phenomenon?

Don't go spouting out your endless meaningless non-related trivia. You've already done that. What you haven't done, I do believe, is shown where "95% of scientists believe...". Not likely you will show where scientists have "proved" it.

devobrun 10 years, 8 months ago

gr, there is no proof in science. There is evidence, deductive and inductive logic, hypothesis, testing and testing, and testing, and testing..... The true scientist is a confirmed sceptic.
One can only hope to approach the truth asymptotically.

livingstone, I am reticent to respond to your entry. You see, I have experience on these pages with people who are simply angry. Reasoned and simple discussion turns into rants. But here goes:

I know personally James Hansen and one of his righthand people, Marc Imhoff. Sold them equipment back in '83. I used to sit around Nichols Hall on west campus with Prasad Gogenini. We were colleagues. I know what they are doing not because I watch television, but because I did it with them for 25 years.

So you accuse me of ignorance. Not true. Cynical, yes.

For years I have witnessed communications and computers evolve into truly life-changing technologies. Meanwhile I developed instruments to fuel the present abomination called by various names: climate change, global warming, remote sensing of the environment, mission to planet earth. As a PhD in electrical engineering, I have seen first hand the limitation of top-down government imposition of rules regulations and stupidity.

The world is presently experiencing a lull in scientific paradigm shifting. That is, there has been nothing new out of science since Claude Shannon presented Information theory. DNA? Maybe it will someday yield something. Right now it is diverging, not converging. DNA and genetics are becoming so complex that the quaint notion that we are determined by our genes is anachronistic. The science is a mess and in need of a Feynman or Darwin to get these computer jockies off the continual sophistication of their work.

I find it odd that everybody knows about Watson and Crick, but very few know about Shannon. My life is little effected by knowledge of DNA. Telephones, computers, internet, etc are of more importance, Thanks to Mr. Shannon. My guess is that you never heard of him, livingstone. He hasn't been featured on NOVA, yet.

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago


Not sure if you know that I used to live in a country that is affected by rising sea level and global warming for 4 years. A whole island disappears and not in the memory of anyone living on the island has they seen an island disappear into the sea. I saw with my own eyes the flooding of an island republic and no one every recalled in their memory that flooding on the coast ever happened. I don't know how to explain such phenomenon other than rising sea level. I do know and visited the retreating ice sheets.

I'm an Engineer myself and had been part of EPA for many years. In part, I think an Engineer is often trapped within his/her own training and narrow viewpoint. As you wrote: "My life is little effected by knowledge of DNA. Telephones, computers, internet, etc are of more importance", it somehow really shows that things that are electrical has a lot of impact in your life, but not medical. In part, the engineer and scientist ourselves are to blame, for being so narrow minded and focus so much on what we actually know. I come to realize how little engineers from other fields know about the environmental damages we've caused and neglecting it can be disastrous.

True, internet has brought miracle to the world, but it has brought about environmental problems too. We don't see that problems, why? Well, we shipped all of the environmental problems overseas. Yeap, we shipped all the electronic goods overseas and then third world countries get all the pollutions from the recycling. If we'd have done it ourselves, we'd have protected our environment and impose non-mercury and non-lead in our electronic goods. The miracle brought about by internet also created the mess in the environment. Well, why should an electrical engineer cares about the environment? It's the job of the environmental engineer anyway?

Ethanol? Honestly, water naturally becomes the problem. It's not a sustainable product and we're really running short of drinking water. Global warming? If I read your posting correctly, it's a hoax, a new "creation" based on an old research? If you look through the eyes of an Electrical Engineer, it's one story. But if you look through the eyes of another engineer, it's a whole different story. I don't deny that science is in a mess, but our environment is far worst than science itself.

gr 10 years, 8 months ago

"gr, there is no proof in science."

I attempted to imply that by putting quotes around the word. Might have been wasted on the intended target.

'If you care to think,' Guess he didn't.

livingstone: "and no one every recalled in their memory that flooding on the coast ever happened." And no one ever recalled the great amount of snowstorms in the NE or the cold temperatures of recent years. Shall we conclude a coming ice age?
Think, man.

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago


It's not difficult to find on the internet that great amount of snowstorms and cold temperature in the United States, and the extremely warm and dry weather in Europe are the phenomenon of climate change. Some places will get more moisture and others will get a lot less. The snowstorm we had here is complimented by the drought in Australia. On the average, temperature climbs 1-2F and not a whole lot but the arctic has gained more heat than the tropics (the tropics experience a cooling effect).

In fact, many Southeast Asian countries reported a cooling effect with more frequent flooding while some parts of the United States had more wet seasons and snowstorm. You don't just look at one location or one country. The two flooding incidents come from two countries in two different continents.

Climate change is real, even if you doubt human causes it. Even the climate change skeptics acknowledge climate change but their argument is that human didn't cause it. Maybe we should argue on another front instead of me trying to prove climate change again?

gr 10 years, 8 months ago

livingstone, Your link didn't seem relevant to the position you placed it within your reponse.

"You don't just look at one location or one country." Now there's an example of thinking! How many locations and where and how should one take the temperature? What timeframe should one compare to base a conclusion on?

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago


Funny. You seems to contradict your own words:

I said: "You don't just look at one location or one country." You replied: "Now there's an example of thinking! How many locations and where and how should one take the temperature? What timeframe should one compare to base a conclusion on?"

It's global warming dude. It seems like your understanding of how global warming scientists conduct their tests is rather... I'd say weak. The timeframe that they are taking their reading is over millions of years. They use coring machine to bore holes in the Arctics. There are many laboratories around, not just here in the United States, that store these coring. The reason why they use Arctics, the reason is simple.. it's undisturbed and no one owns it. You cannot do that in Russian Siberia etc. Their finding shows that warming is cyclical, true, but they also found that the warming actually sped up since industrial age and much much faster in recent years.

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago

These scientists didn't simply sit at home to watch Al Gore, or like yourself, walking down Mass. St. or even visit Chicago to say: hey, there're bunch of snow! That's not how climate scientists do their work. Different science and engineering has different ways of doing their tests. The other observation I have made (I'm not a climate change scientist myself), is my two experiences on the two islands that I visited.

Other than coring the ice in the arctic, scientists around the world also did a bunch of other stuffs, including weather scientists who continuously measure temperature throughout history. They didn't use peaks or though to determine if the temperatures are warming or cooling. They use moving averages (if you're educated in statistics).

Well, it's hard for me to write all kinds of scientific techniques in one posting, I'm not an expert in this field, but I've watched the Science Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, even FoxNews... and read quite a lot. I was a skeptic just like yourself, until I really open my eyes.

It was like devoburn telling me in a previous post: "My life is little effected by knowledge of DNA. Telephones, computers, internet, etc are of more importance" when he said that he has a Phd in Electrical Engineering.... kindda tell you why he remains a skeptic.. well telephones, computer, internet... they're all EE, DNA? I'm not sure if an Electrical Engineer has anything to do with it, so an EE doesn't understand how important is DNA and it's not that DNA is not important, but to an EE, it is not important and has no meaning. A medical doctor will think that internet and computer are only useful to his job, but DNA impacts his life more than telephones or computer.

It's the same with climate science and how scientists conduct research. It may be something that some scientists or engineers failed to understand, cos they don't understand or have not read the whole stuffs. For example, sustainable development is not environmental protection, which some scientists and engineers continue to argue with me. Environmental protection is only part of sustainable development.

I think one shouldn't rely on Al Gore's message to pin point climate change and global warming. Honestly, it's happening, even if we're getting a lot more snow. The evidence is not in the air you breathe. Back in those days, people didn't believe that seat belts saved lives, didn't they? There are still skeptics about US landing on the moon? Get real gr!

gr 10 years, 8 months ago

I think you get your science from the Disney Channel.

"The timeframe that they are taking their reading is over millions of years. " So how come you promote 34 years? or as much as a few hundered?

"hey, there're bunch of snow!" Isn't that similar to what you do?

"The reason why they use Arctics, the reason is simple.. it's undisturbed and no one owns it." No one owns it? Really?

"You cannot do that in Russian Siberia etc." Hmmm. = Limited.

Did you believe in the Year 2000 catastrophe?

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago


You said: "I think you get your science from the Disney Channel." My reply: Hahahaha, very funny. But honestly, those who continue to dispute evolution and climate change only watch Disney Channel and Al Gore's movie to get their information. So you're talking about yourself?

I said: "The timeframe that they are taking their reading is over millions of years. " You replied: "So how come you promote 34 years? or as much as a few hundered?"

Here is my reply: I don't know what you're saying. History is documented in the ice core, it's the same way you can determine the age of a tree. It's the same way geologists determine the age of rocks, it's the same way forensic scientists determine the death of a victim. They use various techniques to draw the line backward. The science is already out there, with modification, climate change scientists do a bunch of work by coring the ice in North Pole. How come you don't know? I'm surprised. I'm not an expert, but I worked with scientists who do such thing.. quite a lot.

You said: "hey, there're bunch of snow!" Isn't that similar to what you do? My reply: As least my reply is smarter. There's more snow... sure, but I give you two examples of vanishing islands, extreme weather in Europe, and different types of weather in Asia. At least I go around the world, as I'm addressing Global Warming, and not regional warming. That's what you did. So it's not the same. Moreover, I went on to describe to you how Climate Change scientists do their work. It's really funny how people still dispute the discovery... it's the same, there are some flaws in the evolution theory, and there are some flaws in the climate change theory, as long as the R2 remains above 70%, we can say that there is a relationship. So people, like yourself, argued around that 30%... which is good, that's what science needs, self-inquiry. But again and again, the theories brought out by the other side haven't been sufficient to disprove the evidences.

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago

Again, it's so difficult to explain CC and GW in less than 3000 words, all gr did was to put questions on irrelevant stuffs.

You said: "The reason why they use Arctics, the reason is simple.. it's undisturbed and no one owns it." No one owns it? Really? I reply:,, I don't want to go on to argue about the ownership, what I was saying is that the ownership issue is easier if you conduct the test there, rather than Russia's Siberia. Russia will not let you do the study but a lot of information is buried in the ice in Siberia.

You said: "You cannot do that in Russian Siberia etc." Hmmm. = Limited. I reply: No, Russia is a soverign country. You Id....! See, you don't even know what I'm talking about. Thanks to your limited knowledge in science and the full scope of reserach that are currently underway on climate change.

You said: Did you believe in the Year 2000 catastrophe? I reply: I don't know how you draw that conclusion from my comments. Climate change will affect human beings, that's for sure, Year 2000 catastrophe's a religious prediction (so no scientific evidences), climate change is true, but no one really knows what will happen if the temperature on earth goes up by 1 degree. But it's already happening in some pacific countries (rising sea level). It won't be catastrophic for Kansans, definitely, rising sea level will have nothing to do with us, we're so inland. But there might be a migration wave... who knows, those are just predictions. But climate change and global warming are true.

gr 10 years, 8 months ago

"by coring the ice in North Pole. How come you don't know?" Perhaps you have forgotten my link: No millions of years there.

"You said: "You cannot do that in Russian Siberia etc." Hmmm. = Limited. I reply: No, Russia is a soverign country. " Hmmm? Sovereign or not has nothing to do with limiting the data.

"Year 2000 catastrophe's a religious prediction" Could you show me where it's a religious prediction? I thought it had to do with computers.

Did you believe in the Year 2000 computer problems?

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 8 months ago


"No millions of years there" So you agree 400,000 years.... you acknowledge the piece of information you're reading? Yeap, no millions, but 400,000 is enough.

"Hmmm? Sovereign or not has nothing to do with limiting the data." Sure, you see, why are you diverting from the real issue we're talking?

"Did you believe in the Year 2000 computer problems?" I didn't do anything to my computer, it survived. Hey, why are you comparing the Y2K thing with this environmental thing? It's pretty easy to do for the Y2K stuff, just bring your computer time forward and see what will happen if it hits the year 2000. I did that and nothing happened (after saving all my data). But I'd presume large companies need to do all their backing up of their data, if you lose your data, that will be catastrophic. It's more for companies and not for us, as small individual.

Gr, both are not the same.

gr 10 years, 8 months ago

"Yeap, no millions, but 400,000 is enough." You sure do backpedal a lot!

Is 400,000 reasonable? And, what does those 400,000 show compared to now?

"Sure, you see, why are you diverting from the real issue we're talking?" Um, you brought it up. Remember?

"Hey, why are you comparing" Later...

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