Steig Research Group

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A FEW SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

Journal names are hyperlinks. Complete list at Google Scholar.

Holland PR, Bracegirdle TJ, Dutrieux P, Jenkins A, Steig EJ. Climate forcing of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet: anthropogenic trends and internal variability. Nature Geoscience 12: 718-724 (2019).
Markle BR, Steig EJ, Buizert C, Schoeneman SW, Bitz CM, Pedro J, Ding Q, Sowers T. Global atmospheric teleconnections during Dansgaard-Oeschger event Nature Geoscience 10: 36-40 (2016).
Steig EJ, Huybers K, Singh HA, Ding Q, Frierson DMW, Popp T, White JWC. Influence of West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse on Antarctic surface climate. Geophysical Research Letters 42: 4862-4868 (2015).
WAIS Divide Project Members. Precise interpolar phasing of abrupt climate change during the last ice age. Nature 520: 661-665 (2015).
Steig EJ, Gkinis V, Schauer AJ, Schoenemann SW, Samek K, Hoffnagle J, Dennis KJ, Tan SM. Calibrated high-precision 17O-excess measurements using cavity ring-down spectroscopy with laser-current-tuned cavity resonance. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 7: 2421-2435 (2014).
Steiger N, Hakim G, Steig EJ, Battisti DS, Roe G. Assimilation of time-averaged pseudoproxies for climate reconstruction. Journal of Climate 27: 426-441 (2014).
Dutrieux P, de Rydt J, Jenkins A, Holland PR, Ha HK, Lee SH, Steig EJ, Ding Q, Abrahmansen EP, Schröder M. Strong sensitivity of Pine Island ice shelf melting to climatic variability. Science 343: 174-178 (2014).
Steig EJ, Ding Q, White JCW, Küttel M, Rupper SB, Neumann TA, Neff P, Gallant A, Mayewski PA, Taylor DC, Hoffmann G, Dixon DA, Schoenemann S, Markle B, Schneider DP, Fudge TJ, Schauer AJ, Teel RP, Vaughn B, Burgener L, Williams J, Korotkikh E. Recent climate and ice-sheet change in West Antarctica compared to the past 2000 years. Nature Geoscience 6: 372-375 (2013).
Schoenemann SW, Schauer AJ, Steig EJ. Measurement of SLAP2 and GISP δ17O and proposed VSMOW-SLAP normalization for δ17O and 17Oexcess. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometery 27: 582-590 (2013).
Neff PD, Steig EJ, Clark DH, McConnell JR, Pettit EC, Menounos B. Ice-core records of net snow accumulation and seasonal snow chemistry at a temperate-glacier site: Mount Waddington, southwest British Columbia, Canada. Journal of Glaciology 58: 1165-1175 (2012).
Steig EJ, Ding Q, Battisti DS, Jenkins A. Tropical forcing of circumpolar deep water inflow and outlet glacier thinning in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology 53: 19-28 (2012).
Hastings MG, Jarvis JC, Steig EJ. Anthropogenic impacts on nitrogen isotopes of ice-core nitrate. Science 324: 1288 (2009).
Steig EJ, Schneider DP, Rutherford SD, Mann ME, Comiso JC, Shindell DT. Warming of the Antarctic ice sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year. Nature 457: 459-462 (2009).

Highlights from some of our publications.    


Image ©Eric Steig

Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year (Nature, 2009)

This was the first study to make the case that Antarctica was warming up, not cooling as was commonly believed. It received a lot of criticism when originally published, but has stood the test of time, having been validated by borehole thermometry and independent evaluation of weather station data. The most important finding is not actually the warming overall, but the significant difference in the magnitude of climate change between West Antarctica (in red) and the rest of the ice sheet where warming trends were relatively small (though that now appears to be changing too). The figure, on the cover on Nature, shows the rate of warming in °C per decade. The contributions of my coauthors, particularly David Schneider (my former student, now at NCAR) and Mike Mann (who helped me manage the barrage of criticism about this work from so-called "skeptics"), is gratefully acknoweleged.

 

 


Photo by Pierre Dutrieux

Strong Sensitivity of Pine Island Ice-Shelf Melting to Climatic Variability (Science, 2014)

This paper, led by my colleague Pierre Dutrieux (Columbia University) demonstrated for the first time that changes in the regional winds near the edge of the ice shelves in West Antarctica (associated with the warming pattern shown in our earlier work) cause significant changes in the flow of warm circumpolar deep water onto the continental shelf. This warm water melts the ice shelves from below, and is the driver of ongoing ice loss from Antarctica, which contributes to sea level rise. The ideas in this paper had been established earlier from numerical modeling work, but this was the first time that observations (made with a remote-controlled submarine) was able to demonstrate the tight coupling between winds and ice shelf melt. The photo is of Getz Ice Shelf, which is near the large Pine Island Glacier that was the focus of our study.

David Schneider was not a co-author on this paper but he had a huge influence on my thinking, through his discovery of the 1940's warming event in Antarctica (see Schneider and Steig, 2008, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

 


Illustration ©Nature

Global atmospheric teleconnections during Dansgaard-Oeschger events (Nature Geoscience, 2017)

This is probably the most important paleoclimate paper I've ever been involved with. The paper was led and conceived by Brad Markle, my grad student at the time. (Brad is now at CalTech). During the last glacial period, the North Atlantic region experienced a series of Dansgaard–Oeschger event in which climate abruptly alternated between warm and cold periods. It has long been known that changes in ocean circulation are involved in these events, because corresponding variations in Antarctic surface temperature are lagged a century or two behind the events recorded in Greenland (only the ocean, as far as we know, can provide this sort of phase lag). Yet it has long been thought that there must be a rapid connection between the northern and southern hemispheres, involving the atmosphere. Climate models show that when you warm the northern hemisphere, the position of the ITCZ (the tropical rain belt) shifts northward, and so do the westerly winds around Antarctica. Brad's work was the first to show definitively that this is true. We used the high-resolution deuterium-excess record that we developed from the West Antarctic Ice Divide ice core to show that the latitude of the mean moisture source for Antarctic precipitation changed in phase with abrupt shifts in Northern Hemisphere climate. Thus both oceanic and atmospheric processes, operating on different timescales, link the hemispheres during abrupt climate change. There is an excellent summary of our results by Nerelie Abram, from whom the figure above is borrowed.


Photo by Eric Steig

Ice-core net snow accumulation and seasonal snow chemistry at a temperate-glacier site (Journal of Glaciology, 2012)

I grew up in British Columbia, and have long admired the early mountaineering pioneers, Phyllis and Don Munday, who discovered British Columbia's highest* peak, Mt. Waddington. You can see the bulky flanks of Mt. Munday to the right in the photo, which looks over the Tiedemann Glacier. When I took the photo, I was standing in Combatant Col, a broad flat plain of ice below the 4000 m summit of Mt. Waddington. Combatant Col is probably the lowest latitude site in North America from which an annually resolved ice core record can be obtained. We drilled a 140-m core there in 2010, and M.S. student Peter Neff (soon to be on the faculty at U. Minnesota) led the first paper. We showed that there are beautiful annual cycles, and we were even able to obtain a record of led concentrations going back to the 1970s, and showing the rapid decline in atmospheric Pb that resulted from the Clean Air Act. Drilling in temperate ice is challenging, and we failed to reach the bottom, but new a new thermal drill should enable us to retrieve another 150 m of ice amd obtain the likely 500 to 1000-year long climate record awaiting discovery.

*Purists will tell you the highest peak in B.C. is Mt. Fairweather, but most of that mountain is in Alaska.