Sciences and Exploration Directorate

John W Robbins


John W Robbins's Contact Card & Information.
Org Code: 615
Mail Code 615
Greenbelt, MD 20771
Employer: Craig Technologies

Brief Bio

Mr. Robbins has provided expertise in various geodetic, tectonic and cryospheric research efforts since 1984. His main present interests include the analysis of spaceborne laser altimeter and terrestrial-based satellite laser range data as applied to the detection, estimation and monitoring of various components of Earth surface and planetary dynamics. He serves as principal scientist for Craig Technologies Inc., of Cape Canaveral, FL, and supports (under contract, via telecommuting) NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center’s Cryospheric Branch in Greenbelt, MD. He is presently active in research and development efforts involving ICESat data, including software development as applied to the estimation, analysis and mapping of ice sheet surficial changes in Greenland and Antarctica as well as monitoring sea ice variations in the Arctic Ocean and seas surrounding Antarctica.

Earlier in Mr. Robbins’ career, he provided scientific support, modeling and algorithm development for various NASA missions, including LAGEOS, SEASAT, TOPEX/Poseidon, as applicable to research in global gravitational modeling, tectonics, oceanography, as well as modeling non-conservative components of spacecraft dynamics. He has gained considerable experience in NASA mission preparation, investigating concept designs for geopotential research missions, TOPEX/Poseidon and Mars Observer.

Research Interests


Solar System: Geophysics

Studies of geodetic nature, including precision positioning, cartographic tools, gravity field modeling and mapping, time-dependent positioning and point tracking.


Earth Science: Cryosphere / Earth's Ice Cover

General cryospheric interests include ice sheet elevation monitoring, sea ice freeboard estimation and assessment, satellite instrumental bias estimation.

Current Projects


Cryosphere / Earth's Ice Cover

Investigations have included estimation of ice sheet heights and their variations through time, ice cap heights and time variations. Estimates of sea ice freeboard elevations and their implied volumes. Related oceanographic investigations.


Cryosphere / Earth's Ice Cover

Providing expertise in the area of geophysical modeling and corrections required for L2A science data products planned for the ICESat-2 mission.


SGT/Craig Technologies

SGT & Craig Technologies - GSFC (on site) & via telecommuting

January 2007 - Present

Part of the SGT GGSG team since about 1985. Returned in 2008.
Since 2008 I've been part of Code 615, Cryospheric Lab.

Title: Principal Scientist. Exmphasis in geodedic and cryospheric research.

EG&G/Hughes STX

EG&G/WASC Inc. & Hughes STX Inc. - Lanham, MD and Greenbelt, MD

June 1985 - May 1996

Title: ranged from Systems Analyst to Principal Analyst.

Worked for NASA/GSFC Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics (old code 620).

Provided geodetic and gravitational expertise applied to LAGEOS and Topex/Poseidon projects.


1981: Recieved BS in Surveying and Photogrammetry, California State Univ., Fresno, California.
1985: Received MS Geodetic Science, Ohio State Univ., Columbus, Ohio.

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

1980 - Present



2023. "Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD) for Mean Inland Surface Water Data ATL22 Release 003." NSIDC Release 3 42 [Full Text] [DOI: 10.5067/5AALHPWLMJ4D] [Report]

2021. "ATLAS/ICESat-2 L3B Mean Inland Surface Water Data, Version 2." NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt MD (Release 2): [10.5067/ATLAS/ATL22.002] [Dataset]

2021. "Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD) for Mean Inland Surface Water Data ATL22 ." National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder Co. Release 2 40 pp. [10.5067/T5E9DIITUDN4] [Report]

2021. "ATLAS/ICESat-2 L3A Along Track Inland Surface Water Surface Data Products, ATL13, Version 5." NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center, Boulder CO Version 5 [10.5067/ATLAS/ATL13.005] [Dataset]

2021. "Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD) for Along Track Inland Surface Water Data Products, ATL13 ." NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD Version 5 124 [Full Text] [10.5067/RI5QTGTSVHRZ] [Report]

2021. "Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet 1992–2016: reconciling results from GRACE gravimetry with ICESat, ERS1/2 and Envisat altimetry." Journal of Glaciology 67 (263): 533-559 [10.1017/jog.2021.8] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD) for Ocean Surface Height, Release 4." NASA Goddard Space Flight Center [Full Text] [Report]

2020. "ATLAS/ICESat-2 L3A Inland Water Surface Height Data Product, ATL13, Version 3." NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center, Boulder CO 89 [10.5067/ATLAS/ATL13.003] [Dataset]

2019. "Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD) for Ocean Surface Height, Version 2." ICESat-2 Data Products 129 [Full Text] [10.5067/O0KKOL752IM8] [Report]

2015. "Mass gains of the Antarctic ice sheet exceed losses." Journal of Glaciology 61 (230): 1019-1036 [10.3189/2015jog15j071] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "ICESat Elevations in Antarctica Along the 2007–09 Norway–USA Traverse: Validation With Ground-Based GPS." IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sensing 51 (3): 1578-1587 [10.1109/TGRS.2012.2207963] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Greenland ice sheet mass balance: distribution of increased mass loss with climate warming 2003-2007 versus 1992-2002." Journal of Glaciology [Full Text] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "ICESat observations of seasonal and interannual variations of sea-ice freeboard and estimated thickness in the Weddell Sea (2003-2009)." Annals of Glaciology 43-51 [Journal Article/Letter]

1997. "LAGEOS I once-per-revolution force due to solar heating." J. Geophys. Res. 102 (B1): 585-590 [10.1029/96JB02851] [Journal Article/Letter]

1993. "Horizontal crustal deformation and large scale plate motions inferred from space geodetic techniques, in Contributions of Space Geodesy to Geodynamics." AGU Geodynamics Series 21-49 10.1029/GD023 [Journal Article/Letter]


2016. "Antarctic sea-ice freeboard and estimated thickness from NASA's ICESAT and ICEBRIDGE observations." 2016 IEEE INTERNATIONAL GEOSCIENCE AND REMOTE SENSING SYMPOSIUM (IGARSS), Beijing, China, 10-15 July 2016 7682-7685 [10.1109/IGARSS.2016.7731003] [Proceedings]

Talks, Presentations and Posters


AGU: Geophysical Corrections and modeling for ICESat-2 Science

16, 2014

Poster showed various models and Corrections anticipated for use on the ICESat-2 ATL03 L2-level science product. These include ocean tides, solid earth tides, tidal loading, Inverted Barometer & Dynamic Atmospheric corrections, Earth reference models, such as geoid and mean sea surface.

AGU: ICESat Estimates of Elevation and Volume Changes of Greenland Ice Caps


Poster that showed ICESat estimated height variations across 20+ ice caps surrounding Greenland.

AGU: Antarctic Ice-Shelf Front Dynamics from ICESat


Poster showing horizontal estimates of ice shelf speed based on ICESat measurements of height. Technique utiized the motion of rift zones on the Ross ice shelf, Antarctica.


December 12, 1986: NASA group achievement award for Crustal Dynamics Project.
December 12, 1986: NASA group achievement award for Topex Earth gravity model development team.
March 27, 1992: NASA group achievement award for Goddard Earth Model GEM T3.
February 10, 1993: NASA group achievement award for Topex/Poseidon Mission Design.
May 18, 1993: NASA group achievement award for Joint Gravity Model-1 (JGM-1) Team.