Project Info

Investigating Antarctic subglacial lake dynamics using satellite altimetry

Matthew Siegfried

Project Goals and Description:

The research project combines remote sensing of Antarctic active subglacial lakes and statistical analysis to enhance our understanding of the subglacial environment, the cryosphere, and the Southern Ocean. Specifically this research will investigate subglacial water fluxes through lakes using satellite radar and laser altimetry. The MURF student researcher will use this data source to investigate active subglacial lake dynamics including shoreline variability due to drain-fill cycles and assemble a time-series inventory of lake volume estimates. This effort will provide refined assessments of subglacial water quantity and response to forcing. Ultimately this work will enhance our understanding of the roles and interactions of ice, freshwater, and ocean by quantifying the spatiotemporal variability of subglacial water’s linkages to ice streams, groundwater reservoirs, and the Southern Ocean.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Not applicable.
Livingstone, S. J., Y. Li, A. Rutishauser, R. J. Sanderson, K. Winter, J. Mikucki, H. Björnsson, J. S. Bowling, W. Chu, C. Dow, H. A. Fricker, M. McMillan, F. Ng, N. Ross, M. J. Siegert, M. R. Siegfried and A. J. Sole, 2022. Global synthesis of subglacial lakes and their changing role in a warming climate, Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 3, 106–124, doi:10.1038/s43017-021-00246-9.
Siegfried, M. R. and H. A. Fricker, 2021. Illuminating active subglacial lake pro- cesses with ICESat-2 laser altimetry, Geophysical Research Letters, 48(14), doi: 10.1029/2020GL091089.
Siegfried, M. R. and H. A. Fricker, 2018. Thirteen years of subglacial lake activity in Antarctica from multi-mission altimetry, Annals of Glaciology, 59(76), 42–55, doi:10.1017/aog.2017.36. Fricker, H. A., Siegfried, M. R., Carter, S. P., & Scambos, T. A. (2016). A decade of progress in observing and modelling Antarctic subglacial water systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 374(2059), 20140294. Smith, B. E., Fricker, H. A., Joughin, I. R., & Tulaczyk, S. (2009). An inventory of active subglacial lakes in Antarctica detected by ICESat (2003–2008). Journal of Glaciology, 55(192), 573–595.
ICESat-2 laser altimeter website (

Primary Contacts:

<span style="font-weight: 400">Wilson Sauthoff </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400"></span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> | Dr. Matthew Siegfried, </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400"></span></a>

Student Preparation


  • Background knowledge or interest in learning about cryospheric processes, hydrology, and climate science
  • Exerpience or interest in learning computer programming (ideally Python)
  • Background knowledge in or interest in learning about statistics




  • Cryosphere, hydrology, and climate science knowledge
  • Computational Earth science experience including data access, manipulation, and visualization of large data sets based in Python programming
  • Spatial statistics and geostatistics


Mentoring will take the form of meetings between the MURF student researcher and MURF primary mentor, Hydrologic Science and Engineering PhD student Wilson Sauthoff, and Geophysics Dept. faculty mentor, Dr. Matthew Siegfried. In meetings, the MURF student researcher will set the agenda, which will typically include project updates, questions for mentors, etc. Mentors will provide feedback and assistance with the research project. Mentors will work the student researcher to scope achievable project goals, track progress, overcome roadblocks, and discuss interesting results. In all likelihood, the student researcher will have the option to author and submit a scientific abstract to deliver a poster or oral presentation at a scientific conference. Additional mentoring support is available to the student through engagement in a weekly group meeting of the Mines Glaciology Laboratory of researchers, which includes research talks from group members and guests as well as professional development and scientific article discussions. This group will consist of master’s, PhD, post-doctoral researchers, and other undergraduate student researchers. Optional participation in this meeting will offer the chance to learn how to approach scientific literature, overcome research problems, make professional decisions, and interact with other scholars researching the cryosphere.


Share This