Douglas E. Kowalewski
Worcester State University
Department of Physical & Earth Sciences
486 Chandler Street
Worcester, MA 01602
Phone: (508) 929-8646
Ph.D., Boston University
B.S., Virginia Tech
Doug Kowalewski studies the interactions between changing climate conditions and the response of landforms. In particular, Doug looks into the stability of glacial and periglacial landforms including permafrost, buried ice, and glaciers. Some of his most recent projects include:
- Understanding past and future climate change in Antarctica and the response of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Such research has resulted in numerous trips with students to Antarctica where he is uncovering secrets regarding the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheets.
- Quantifying the stability of ancient buried ice in temperate versus polar environments.
- Using Antarctica and other terrestrial landforms as an analogue to glacial and periglacial features observed on Mars.
- Locally, Doug Kowalewski is applying similar climate modeling studies and field techniques for understanding the impacts of climate change on stability of slopes and other landscapes in and around Worcester, MA.
See below for further details on existing projects and student opportunities.
Kowalewski emphasizes applying the scientific method in his intro and upper level classes where he introduces students to fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and computational modeling for understanding earth’s major systems and the dynamic interactions between the solid earth, the frozen earth, the atmosphere, and anthropogenic forcing. Kowalewski currently teaches the following courses: Physical Geography, Global Warming and Energy Resources, Geomorphology, Climate Change in Earth’s History, Hydrogeology, Introduction to Soil Science, and Modeling in the Geosciences.
Doug Kowalewski launched a program in 2005 entitled “AntarcticKids” that introduces young students to Antarctica through participating (remotely) in field research and conducting experiments with exciting discoveries. The program incorporates the scientific method, highlighting data collection, synthesis, and interpretation. The students “take part” in Antarctic research (as least through satellite phone conversations with researchers in the field and direct email communication), and ask hypothesis to be tested. The program strives to complement class curriculum and comply with State requirements while enhancing hands-on learning. Please contact Doug to learn more about this interactive science program for your K-12 classroom.
For videos Kowalewski created while he was in Antarctica, please visit the Ice Stories Web Page.
Validating contrasting climate-sensitive Pliocene deposits
A divergence in interpretation of paleoclimate reconstructions occurs in one of the most thoroughly studied sectors of Antarctica: the McMurdo Sound region of southern Victoria Land. Exceptionally high-quality Neogene sediment records recently recovered by ANDRILL (ANtarctic DRILLing) suggests multiple events of open-water conditions and elevated sea-surface temperatures at times when terrestrial data, through linking landforms with climate, from the McMurdo Dry Valleys (~100 km distant) call for enduring hyper-arid cold desert conditions These two records have resulted in vastly differing interpretations concerning regional Pliocene climate and the associated stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheets. I have collected meteorological data mapping micro-climatic zones in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and determining conditions required for long-term stability of landforms.
Evolution and sublimation of ancient buried glacier ice
Growing interest in our planet’s climate history has placed a premium on acquiring detailed records of past climate change. Of considerable interest are archives of ancient atmosphere trapped within the debris-covered alpine glaciers of the western Dry Valleys region of Antarctica. I established a model explaining the development of the sublimation till. This till caps and protects the underlying glacier ice from rapid rates of sublimation. To better examine the rates of ice loss in the McMurdo Dry Valleys I use a 2D vapor transport model investigating rates of ice loss through the sublimation till. Overall, model results are consistent with an inferred Miocene age for distal portions of the Mullins Valley debris-covered glacier and for a stagnant lobe of glacier ice in central Beacon Valley. The results suggest that ancient atmosphere may be preserved in buried glaciers in the western Dry Valleys.
Influence of West Antarctic Ice Sheet on Antarctic climate past and future
Strong evidence from off-shore sediment cores in the Ross Embayment (i.e. the ANDRILL record) suggests periodic retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) during warmer periods in the Pliocene. Similarly, ice sheet models predict potential instability of WAIS during warm Neogene interglacials. Here I investigate regional Antarctic climate with removal of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to look at climate modifications and the response of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. This will help scientists understand stability of the Ice Sheets for the current warming trend.
The regional climate model simulation focuses on a warmer timeframe (Marine Isotope Stage 31), where there is an absence of ice shelves yet carbon dioxide levels are similar to that of today. Initial climate model simulations with a reduced WAIS suggest an inherent stability exists (i.e. cold climate conditions) within the Transantarctic Mountains (TAM) and predicts greater precipitation in the form of snow. The climate model predicts that variability in ice sheet configuration has a high impact on wind magnitude and seasonal sea ice extent.
The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica have commonly been used as an analog for Mars; analogies are due in part to the regions hyper-arid and cold climate as well as its abundance of similar-appearing microscale and macroscale morphological features such as gullies, lineated valley fill, and polygons. With the recent direct observations of water ice on Mars from the NASA Phoenix lander and MRO Satellite images, a complete understanding of the physics of buried-ice preservation in Antarctica is becoming increasingly important in helping to model the stability and age of buried ice deposits on Mars.
Kowalewski, D.E., Marchant, D.R., Head, J.W.III, Jackson, D.W., 2012. Modeling the effects of thermal contraction-crack polygons on sublimation of buried glacier ice, Antarctica. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes.
Kowalewski, D.E., Marchant, D.R., Swanger, K.M., Head, J.W. III, 2011. Modeling vapor diffusion within cold and dry supraglacial tills of Antarctica: Implications for the preservation of ancient ice. Geomorphology, 126, p. 159-173.
DeConto, R.M., Pollard, D., Kowalewski, D.E., 2011, in press. Modeling Antarctic ice sheet and climate variations during Marine Isotope Stage 31. Global and Planetary Change.
Swanger, K.M., Marchant, D.R., Kowalewski, D.E., Head, J.W. III, 2010. Viscous flow lobes in central Taylor Valley, Antarctica: origin as remnant buried glacier ice. Geomorphology, 120(3-4), p. 174-185.
Levy, J.S., Head, J.W. III, Marchant, D.R., Kowalewski, D.E., 2008. Identification of sublimation-type thermal contraction crack polygons at the proposed NASA Phoenix landing site: Implications for substrate properties and climate-driven morphological evolution. Geophysical Research Letters 35, L04202.
Kowalewski, D.E., Marchant, D.R., Levy, J.S., Head, J.W. III, 2006. Quantifying summertime sublimation rates for buried ice in Beacon Valley, Antarctica. Antarctic Science 18 (3), p. 421-428.
Lewis, A.R., Marchant, D.M., Kowalewski, D.E., Baldwin, S.L., Webb, L.E, 2006. The age and origin of the Labyrinth, western Dry Valleys, Antarctica: Evidence for extensive middle Miocene subglacial floods and freshwater discharge to the Southern Ocean. Geology 34 (7), p. 513–516.
De Paor, D.G., Brenton, B.M., Cox, K.F., Duplantis, S.R., Egan, P.T., Kowalewski, D.E., Lancaster, P.J., Masaric-Johnson, C.A., Melanson, H., Orlando, A.J., Sauer, L.M., Witkowski, C.M., 2004. Structural Analysis of Eagle Crater, Meridiani Planum, Mars: New Challenges for the Extraterrestrial Field Geologist. Journal of the Virtual Explorer 14.