Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Brief Bio

Michael Studinger received the Ph.D. degree in1998 from the Univeristy of Bremen, Germany, while working at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven. Before joining NASA's Cryospheric Sciences Lab he was a research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York for 12 years. His research interests include geophysical processes in polar regions, linking ice sheet dynamics with the subglacial environment, such as subglacial lakes. He is using integrated sets of aerogeophysical and remote sensing data, including gravity, magnetics, ice-penetrating radar, and laser altimeter measurements to answer key questions in glaciology and cryospheric sciences. More recently, his main research projects focus on surface characteristics of both land and sea ice such as supraglacial lakes and rivers in Greenland.

Current Projects

Understanding anomalous sea ice elevations in NASA's Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) lidar data with potential impacts to the ICESat-2 mission

Cryosphere / Earth's Ice Cover

Retrieval of sea ice thickness from airborne or spaceborne lidar data requires knowledge of freeboard and therefore sea-surface height. Sea surface height is typically estimated from the elevation of the water surface over leads and various methods exist to identify leads in sea ice using either lidar (ICESat/ICESat-2) or coincident optical imagery data (ATM). Preliminary analysis of 532 nm airborne lidar data has identified numerous leads where the surface elevation of thin ice and finger-rafted thin ice appears to be several tens of cm below the water surface of the surrounding leads. While there has been some published work on green penetration over land ice, green penetration over sea ice appears not to have received the same attention. These anomalous elevations have been observed both over Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, in various ATM instrument versions. We also observe areas of open water where returns appear to be dominated by scattered energy from below the water surface. In either case, these anomalous elevation measurements could bias sea surface height measurements from laser altimeters, impact sea-ice freeboard estimates and result in erroneous sea-ice thickness estimates. These elevation shifts appear not a simple artifact of a tracking flaw or instrument issue, although the phenomenon remains still to be studied systematically and an explanation is yet to be determined. The two main goals of this project are:

Goal 1: Quantify how frequently anomalous elevations related to open water and sea ice type occur.

Goal 2: Determine what is causing the anomalous sea ice elevations by doing an in-depth analysis of ATM waveform data that utilizes all available ATM ancillary data.

High-resolution imaging of supraglacial hydrological features on the Greenland Ice Sheet with NASA’s Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) instrument suite

Ice Sheets

Seasonal meltwater pools on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) during late Spring and Summer in lakes on the surface and transforms the ice sheet’s surface into a wet environment in the ablation zone below the equilibrium line. These supraglacial lakes in topographic lows on the ice surface are connected by a dendritic pattern of meandering streams and channels that together form a hydrological system consisting of supra-, en-, and subglacial components. I use lidar data from NASA’s Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) instrument suite and high-resolution optical imagery to develop methods for the study of supraglacial hydrological features that reveal a level of detail that is currently not obtainable from spaceborne measurements. The accuracy and resolution of airborne measurements complement spaceborne measurements, can support calibration and validation of spaceborne methods, and provide information necessary for high-resolution process studies of the supraglacial hydrological system on the GrIS that currently cannot be achieved from spaceborne observations alone. The MATLAB® code developed for this project for tracking lake surface and lake bottom returns, analyzing waveforms, geolocating ATM lidar footprints, and calculating water depths is available at


Research Physical Scientist

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, Greenbelt, MD

September 2012 - Present

Project Scientist, Operation IceBridge (OIB)

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, Greenbelt, MD

April 2010 - March 2015

Associate Research Scientist

Goddard Earth Sciences & Technology Center and JCET, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

2010 - 2012

Doherty Research Scientist

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University - Palisades, NY

2007 - 2010

PGI-Doherty Young Scientist

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University - Palisades, NY

2004 - 2007

Doherty Associate Research Scientist

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University - Palisades, NY

2000 - 2004

Post-Doctoral Research Scientist

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University - Palisades, NY

1998 - 2000

Graduate Research Assistant

Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research - Bremerhaven, Germany

1995 - 1998

Teaching Experience

E3221 Environmental Geophysics, Fall Semester 2001, co-taught with R.E. Bell. 2001 Columbia University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Earth2Class guest scientist and lecturer (


  • M.S. (Diplom Geophysiker) in Geophysics, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany 1993
    Master thesis: Cluster analysis of a micro-earthquake swarm in Northern Bohemia, Advisor: Frank Scherbaum
  • Ph.D. (Dr. rer. nat.) in Geophysics, Alfred Wegener Institute and University of Bremen, Germany 1998
    Doctoral thesis: Compilation and analysis of potential field data from the Weddell Sea, Antarctica: implications for the breakup of Gondwana, Advisor: Heinz Miller

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

1996 - Present

International Glaciological Society

2000 - Present

German Society for Polar Research

2000 - Present


2020 NASA Agency Honor Award: Group Achievement Award for Operation IceBridge
2019 NASA Wallops Peer Science Group Award for ATM Team
2019 NASA Special Act Team Award for EVS-3 GSFC PI Lead
2017 NASA Robert L. Krieger Award for ATM Team
2015 NASA Robert L. Krieger Award for ATM Team
2014 NASA Agency Honor Award: Group Achievement Award for P-3 Aircraft Mission Team
2013 NASA Special Act Individual Award for scientific leadership.
2013 NASA Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement Award to Operation IceBridge Leadership Team
2012 NSF Antarctic Service Medal
2012 NASA Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Award for Scientific Achievement
2011 NASA Agency Honor Award: Group Achievement Award for Operation IceBridge

Other Professional Information

Special Experience

• Project and Mission Scientist IceBridge annual airborne campaigns Arctic 2010 - 2015
• Project and Mission Scientist IceBridge annual airborne campaign Punta Arenas and Antarctica 2010 - 2015
• Co-leader AGAP Expedition Antarctica’s Gamburtsev Province, East Antarctic Plateau 2008
• Co-leader Airborne Geophysical Test Flights, Calgary and West Greenland 2008
• Chief Scientist and Expedition Leader: Gravimeter test flights to the North Pole from Ellesmere Island 2007
• Magnetic gradiometer survey of the Hudson River between 59th Street NYC and Tappan Zea 2002
• Magnetic survey of cultural targets in the Haverstraw Bay, Hudson River 2002
• Aerogeophysical survey at Vostok (East Antarctica) and deployment of broadband seismic stations 2002 and geodetic GPS measurements (2 months)
• Seismic reflection and refraction survey Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica (3 months) 1996
• Seismic reflection and refraction survey Filchner and Ronne Ice Shelves, Antarctica (2 months) 1995
• Seismic reflection and refraction survey Northeast Greenland (2 months) 1994
• Planning and carrying out a passive seismic experiment (60+ stations) for the 1994
German Continental Deep Drilling Program (KTB) (3 months)
• Operation of broadband seismological network at the KTB drill site (3 months) 1990
• Refraction seismic survey around the KTB drill site (1 month) 1990
• Wide angle and refraction seismic surveys around the KTB drill site (1 month) 1989



Smith, B., M. Studinger, T. Sutterley, Z. Fair, and T. Neumann. 2023. Understanding biases in ICESat-2 data due to subsurface scattering using Airborne Topographic Mapper waveform data [10.5194/tc-2023-147]

Studinger, M., B. E. Smith, N. Kurtz, et al. A. Petty, T. Sutterley, and R. Tilling. 2023. Estimating differential penetration of green (532 nm) laser light over sea ice with NASA’s Airborne Topographic Mapper: observations and models The Cryosphere [10.5194/tc-2023-126]

Frémand, A. C., P. Fretwell, J. A. Bodart, et al. H. D. Pritchard, A. Aitken, J. L. Bamber, R. Bell, C. Bianchi, R. G. Bingham, D. D. Blankenship, G. Casassa, G. Catania, K. Christianson, H. Conway, H. F. Corr, X. Cui, D. Damaske, V. Damm, R. Drews, G. Eagles, O. Eisen, H. Eisermann, F. Ferraccioli, E. Field, R. Forsberg, S. Franke, S. Fujita, Y. Gim, V. Goel, S. P. Gogineni, J. Greenbaum, B. Hills, R. C. Hindmarsh, A. O. Hoffman, P. Holmlund, N. Holschuh, J. W. Holt, A. N. Horlings, A. Humbert, R. W. Jacobel, D. Jansen, A. Jenkins, W. Jokat, T. Jordan, E. King, J. Kohler, W. Krabill, M. Kusk Gillespie, K. Langley, J. Lee, G. Leitchenkov, C. Leuschen, B. Luyendyk, J. MacGregor, E. MacKie, K. Matsuoka, M. Morlighem, J. Mouginot, F. O. Nitsche, Y. Nogi, O. A. Nost, J. Paden, F. Pattyn, S. V. Popov, E. Rignot, D. M. Rippin, A. Rivera, J. Roberts, N. Ross, A. Ruppel, D. M. Schroeder, M. J. Siegert, A. M. Smith, D. Steinhage, M. Studinger, B. Sun, I. Tabacco, K. Tinto, S. Urbini, D. Vaughan, B. C. Welch, D. S. Wilson, D. A. Young, and A. Zirizzotti. 2023. Antarctic Bedmap data: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) sharing of 60 years of ice bed, surface, and thickness data Earth System Science Data 15 (7): 2695-2710 [10.5194/essd-15-2695-2023]

Studinger, M., S. S. Manizade, M. A. Linkswiler, and J. K. Yungel. 2022. High-resolution imaging of supraglacial hydrological features on the Greenland Ice Sheet with NASA’s Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) instrument suite The Cryosphere 16 (9): 3649-3668 [10.5194/tc-16-3649-2022]

MacGregor, J. A., W. Chu, W. T. Colgan, et al. M. A. Fahnestock, D. Felikson, N. B. Karlsson, S. M. Nowicki, and M. Studinger. 2022. GBaTSv2: A revised synthesis of the likely basal thermal state of the Greenland Ice Sheet The Cryosphere [10.5194/tc-16-3033-2022]

MacGregor, J. A., M. Studinger, E. Arnold, et al. C. J. Leuschen, F. Rodríguez-Morales, and J. D. Paden. 2021. Brief communication: An empirical relation between center frequency and measured thickness for radar sounding of temperate glaciers The Cryosphere 15 (6): 2569-2574 [10.5194/tc-15-2569-2021]

MacGregor, J. A., L. N. Boisvert, B. Medley, et al. A. A. Petty, J. P. Harbeck, R. E. Bell, J. B. Blair, E. Blanchard‐Wrigglesworth, E. Buckley, M. S. Christoffersen, J. R. Cochran, B. M. Csathó, E. L. De Marco, R. T. Dominguez, M. A. Fahnestock, S. L. Farrell, S. P. Gogineni, J. S. Greenbaum, C. M. Hansen, M. A. Hofton, J. W. Holt, K. C. Jezek, L. S. Koenig, N. T. Kurtz, R. Kwok, C. F. Larsen, C. J. Leuschen, C. D. Locke, S. S. Manizade, S. Martin, T. A. Neumann, S. M. Nowicki, J. D. Paden, J. A. Richter‐Menge, E. J. Rignot, F. Rodríguez‐Morales, M. R. Siegfried, B. E. Smith, J. G. Sonntag, M. Studinger, K. J. Tinto, M. Truffer, T. P. Wagner, J. E. Woods, D. A. Young, and J. K. Yungel. 2021. The scientific legacy of NASA's Operation IceBridge Reviews of Geophysics (59): e2020RG000712 [10.1029/2020rg000712]

Studinger, M., B. C. Medley, K. M. Brunt, et al. K. A. Casey, N. T. Kurtz, S. S. Manizade, T. A. Neumann, and T. B. Overly. 2020. Temporal and spatial variability in surface roughness and accumulation rate around 88° S from repeat airborne geophysical surveys The Cryosphere 14 (10): 3287-3308 [10.5194/tc-14-3287-2020]

Kwok, R., S. Kacimi, T. Markus, et al. N. Kurtz, M. Studinger, J. Sonntag, S. Manizade, L. Boisvert, and J. Harbeck. 2019. ICESat‐2 surface height and sea‐ice freeboard assessed with ATM lidar acquisitions from Operation IceBridge Geophysical Research Letters 2019GL084976 [10.1029/2019gl084976]

MacGregor, J. A., W. F. Bottke, M. A. Fahnestock, et al. J. P. Harbeck, K. H. Kjaer, J. D. Paden, D. E. Stillman, and M. Studinger. 2019. A Possible Second Large Subglacial Impact Crater in Northwest Greenland Geophysical Research Letters 46 [10.1029/2018gl078126]

Licht, K. J., T. Groth, J. P. Townsend, et al. A. J. Hennessy, S. R. Hemming, T. P. Flood, and M. Studinger. 2018. Evidence for Extending Anomalous Miocene Volcanism at the Edge of the East Antarctic Craton Geophysical Research Letters [10.1002/2018gl077237]

Brunt, K. M., R. L. Hawley, E. R. Lutz, et al. M. Studinger, J. G. Sonntag, M. A. Hofton, L. C. Andrews, and T. A. Neumann. 2017. Assessment of NASA airborne laser altimetry data using ground-based GPS data near Summit Station, Greenland The Cryosphere 11 (2): 681-692 [10.5194/tc-11-681-2017]

Scheinert, M., F. Ferraccioli, J. Schwabe, et al. R. Bell, M. Studinger, D. Damaske, W. Jokat, N. Aleshkova, T. Jordan, G. Leitchenkov, D. D. Blankenship, T. M. Damiani, D. Young, J. R. Cochran, and T. D. Richter. 2016. New Antarctic gravity anomaly grid for enhanced geodetic and geophysical studies in Antarctica Geophysical Research Letters 43 (2): 600-610 [10.1002/2015gl067439]

Harpold, R., J. Yungel, M. Linkswiler, and M. Studinger. 2016. Intra-scan intersection method for the determination of pointing biases of an airborne altimeter International Journal of Remote Sensing 37 (3): 648-668 [10.1080/01431161.2015.1137989]

Onana, V., L. S. Koenig, J. Ruth, M. Studinger, and J. P. Harbeck. 2015. A Semiautomated Multilayer Picking Algorithm for Ice-Sheet Radar Echograms Applied to Ground-Based Near-Surface Data IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 53 (1): 51-69 [10.1109/TGRS.2014.2318208]

Yi, D., J. P. Harbeck, S. S. Manizade, et al. N. T. Kurtz, M. Studinger, and M. A. Hofton. 2014. Arctic sea ice freeboard retrieval with waveform characteristics for NASA's Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) and Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS) IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 53 (3): 1403-1410 [10.1109/TGRS.2014.2339737]

Kurtz, N. T., N. Galin, and M. Studinger. 2014. An improved CryoSat-2 sea ice freeboard retrieval algorithm through the use of waveform fitting The Cryosphere 8 (4): 1217-1237 [10.5194/tc-8-1217-2014]

Das, I., R. E. Bell, T. A. Scambos, et al. M. Wolovick, T. T. Creyts, M. Studinger, N. Frearson, J. P. Nicolas, J. T. Lenaerts, and M. R. van den Broeke. 2013. Influence of persistent wind scour on the surface mass balance of Antarctica Nature Geoscience 6 (5): 367-371 [10.1038/ngeo1766]

Blankenship, D. D., D. L. Morse, C. A. Finn, et al. R. E. Bell, M. E. Peters, S. D. Kempf, S. M. Hodge, M. Studinger, J. C. Behrendt, and J. M. Brozena. 2013. Geologic Controls on the Initiation of Rapid Basal Motion for West Antarctic Ice Streams: A Geophysical Perspective Including New Airborne Radar Sounding and Laser Altimetry Results Antarctic Research Series 105-121 [10.1029/ar077p0105]

Fretwell, P., H. D. Pritchard, D. G. Vaughan, et al. J. L. Bamber, N. E. Barrand, R. Bell, C. Bianchi, R. G. Bingham, D. D. Blankenship, G. Casassa, G. Catania, D. Callens, H. Conway, A. J. Cook, H. F. Corr, D. Damaske, V. Damm, F. Ferraccioli, R. Forsberg, S. Fujita, Y. Gim, P. Gogineni, J. A. Griggs, R. C. Hindmarsh, P. Holmlund, J. W. Holt, R. W. Jacobel, A. Jenkins, W. Jokat, T. Jordan, E. C. King, J. Kohler, W. Krabill, M. Riger-Kusk, K. A. Langley, G. Leitchenkov, C. Leuschen, B. P. Luyendyk, K. Matsuoka, J. Mouginot, F. O. Nitsche, Y. Nogi, O. A. Nost, S. V. Popov, E. Rignot, D. M. Rippin, A. Rivera, J. Roberts, N. Ross, M. J. Siegert, A. M. Smith, D. Steinhage, M. Studinger, B. Sun, B. K. Tinto, B. C. Welch, D. Wilson, D. A. Young, C. Xiangbin, and A. Zirizzotti. 2013. Bedmap2: improved ice bed, surface and thickness datasets for Antarctica The Cryosphere 7 (1): 375-393 [10.5194/tc-7-375-2013]

Kurtz, N. T., J. Richter-Menge, S. L. Farrell, et al. M. Studinger, J. Paden, J. G. Sonntag, and J. K. Yungel. 2013. IceBridge Airborne Survey Data Support Arctic Sea Ice Predictions Eos Trans. AGU 94 (4): 41 [10.1002/2013EO040001]

Onana, V., N. Kurtz, S. Farrell, et al. L. Koenig, M. Studinger, and J. Harbeck. 2013. A Sea-Ice Lead Detection Algorithm for Use With High-Resolution Airborne Visible Imagery IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sensing 51 (1): 38-56 [10.1109/TGRS.2012.2202666]

Kurtz, N., S. Farrell, M. Studinger, et al. N. Galin, J. Harbeck, R. Lindsay, V. Onana, B. Panzer, and J. Sonntag. 2013. Sea ice thickness, freeboard, and snow depth products from Operation IceBridge airborne data The Cryosphere 7 (4): 1035–1056 [10.5194/tc-7-1035-2013]

Schodlok, M., D. Menemenlis, E. Rignot, and M. Studinger. 2012. Sensitivity of the ice-shelf/ocean system to the sub-ice-shelf cavity shape measured by NASA IceBridge in Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica Annals of Glaciology 53 (60): 156-162 [10.3189/2012AoG60A073]

Bell, R., F. Ferraccioli, T. Creyts, et al. D. Braaten, H. Corr, I. Das, D. Damaske, N. Frearson, T. Jordan, K. Rose, M. Studinger, and M. Wolovick. 2011. Widespread Persistent Thickening of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet by Freezing from the Base Science 25 592-1595

MacGregor, J., K. Matsuoka, M. Studinger, E. Waddington, and D. Winebrenner. 2009. Millennially averaged accumulation rates for the Lake Vostok region inferred from deep internal layers Annals of Glaciology 50 (51): 25-34

MacGregor, J., K. Matsuoka, and M. Studinger. 2009. Radar detection of accreted ice over Lake Vostok Antarctica Earth Planet Sci Lett 282 (1-4): 222-233 [10.1016/j.epsl.2009.03.018]

Studinger, M., and P. Barrett. 2009. Tectonics: Antarctica sinking Nature Geoscience 2 (10): 671-672 [10.1038/ngeo644]

Block, A., R. Bell, and M. Studinger. 2009. Antarctic crustal thickness from satellite gravity: Implications for the Transantarctic and Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains Earth and Planetary Science Letters 288 (1-2): 194-203 [10.1016/j.epsl.2009.09.022]

Studinger, M., R. Bell, and N. Frearson. 2008. Comparison of AIRGrav and GT-1A airborne gravimeters for research applications GEOPHYSICS 73 (6): I51-I61 [10.1190/1.2969664]

Studinger, M., and R. Bell. 2007. Moho topography of the West Antarctic Rift System from inversion of aerogravity data: Ramifications for geothermal heat flux and ice streaming Antarctica: A Keystone in a Changing World--Online Proceedings of the 10th ISAES X, edited by A. K. Cooper and CR Raymond et al., USGS Open-File Report 1--4

Bell, R., M. Studinger, C. A. Shuman, and I. Fahnestock. 2007. Large subglacial lakes in East Antarctica at the onset of fast-flowing ice streams Nature 445 (7130): 904-907 [10.1038/nature05554]

Bell, R. E., M. Studinger, M. A. Fahnestock, and C. A. Shuman. 2006. Tectonically controlled subglacial lakes on the flanks of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, East Antarctica Geophysical Research Letters 33 (2): L02504 [10.1029/2005GL025207]

Studinger, M., D. Bromwich, B. Csatho, et al. R. Muench, T. Parish, and J. Stith. 2005. Science opportunities for a long‐range Antarctic research aircraft EOS, Transactions American Geophysical Union 86 (4): 39-40 [10.1029/2005eo040004]

Studinger, M., R. E. Bell, and A. A. Tikku. 2004. Estimating the depth and shape of subglacial Lake Vostok's water cavity from aerogravity data Geophysical Research Letters 31 (12): []

Studinger, M., R. E. Bell, D. D. Blankenship, et al. C. A. Finn, R. A. Arko, D. L. Morse, and I. Joughin. 2001. Subglacial sediments: A regional geological template for ice flow in West Antarctica Geophysical Research Letters 28 (18): 3493-3496 [10.1029/2000gl011788]