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Polar Regions

Research Centers

Scripps Polar Center

The Scripps Polar Center brings together scientists from the three research sections of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. They investigate everything from ocean physics to the ecology of polar organisms. They address the complex questions of today's polar regions while training a new generation of scientists capable of interdisciplinary research.

Research Areas

Ice in the Climate System

The study of past, current and projected interactions between ice in the Arctic and Antarctic and the changing climate.

Past Climate Change

Researching how earth's climate changed in past eras by studying ocean sediment cores, ice cores and other scientific evidence.

Remote Sensing and Satellite Oceanography

Satellite remote sensing provides global observations of Earth to monitor environmental changes in land, ocean and ice through electromagnetic radiation, diffraction, electrooptical and microwave systems.

Southern Ocean and High-Latitude Climate Studies

Studying climate fluxes in the uniquely challenging environments of the Arctic and the Subarctic Ocean, and the Southern Ocean.

Labs, Projects, Programs and Collaborations

Lubin Lab

Researchers in the Lubin Lab study fundamental physical processes that govern terrestrial climate change, emphasizing observations and particular attention to the Earth’s polar regions.

Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations Modeling (SOCCOM)

Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations Modeling (SOCCOM) is a group of universities, including Scripps Oceanography, studying the Southern Ocean and its influence on global climate.

Underwater Acoustic Signatures of Glacier Calving

Calving, the splitting and shedding of ice glaciers, is a poorly understood process involving the complex nature of ice-water interactions. Understanding this process is essential to estimate and predict mass lost from ice glaciers. In our approach, we present hydroacoustics methods' potential to investigate modes of ice detachments.

Featured Researchers and Professors

Helen Amanda Fricker

Professor Geophysics in the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Co-Director of Scripps Polar Center

Helen Amanda Fricker is a glaciologist whose research focuses on ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland and their role in the climate system. She uses a combination of satellite radar and laser altimetry and other remote-sensing data to understand ice sheet processes. Fricker is widely recognized for her discovery of active subglacial lakes. She has shown that these lakes form dynamic hydrologic systems, where one lake can drain into another quickly. She is also known for her innovative research into Antarctic ice shelf mass budget processes such as iceberg calving and basal melting and freezing.

Mark Thiemens

Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Mark Thiemens studies how the isotope makeup of nitrates helps identify environmental and climate changes in the past and present, mainly as they exist in the ice packs and glaciers of the Himalayas and the South Pole.

Jeffrey Severinghaus

Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography 

Jeff Severinghaus’ current research interests center on using trapped bubbles of gases contained in ice cores to track changes in ancient climate.


Academic Degree Programs

Undergraduate Minor

Featured Courses

SIO 115. Ice and the Climate System

This course examines the Earth’s cryosphere, including glaciers, ice sheets, ice caps, sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow, and permafrost. We cover the important role of the cryosphere in the climate systems and its response to climate change.

SIO 121. Biology of the Cryosphere

The cryosphere comprises sea ice, glaciers, snow, and other frozen environments. Changing rapidly in the face of global climate change, these environments host unique and highly adapted ecosystems that play an important role in the global earth system. In this course we will explore the physiology and ecology of organisms in the cryosphere and peripheral habitats. A special emphasis will be placed on sea ice as a habitat archetype, but glacier, snow, and permafrost will also be covered.