Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Nathan T Kurtz



Org Code: 615

Mail Code: 615
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Employer: NASA

Brief Bio

Nathan Kurtz received the B.S. degree in Physics from Iowa State University in 2004, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Atmospheric Physics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2007 and 2009, respectively. He worked on sea ice thickness retrievals from the original ICESat mission during his graduate school studies, and has since focused his work on improving model parameterizations and satellite-based retrievals of sea ice properties from NASA's Operation IceBridge mission as well as ESA's CryoSat-2 radar satellite. He joined the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in 2013 and led the IceBridge project from 2015-2018 before moving on to his current position as the ICESat-2 Deputy Project Scientist.

Research Interests

Sea ice thickness studies from airborne and satellite sensors

Earth Science: Sea Ice

Remote sensing of the polar regions with an emphasis on the use laser altimetry and model data to study the impact of sea ice on the climate. Development and validation of algorithms and models for the retrieval of sea ice properties through the combined use of satellite, airborne, model, and in-situ data. I am specifically working on retrieval algorithms for Arctic and Antarctic sea ice thickness from laser altimetry measurements from ICESat, ICESat-2, IceBridge, and radar altimetry measurements from CryoSat-2 and IceBridge.


Research Associate

Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center (GEST/UMBC) - Greenbelt, MD

February 2010 - February 2012

Physical Scientist

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

August 2013 - Present

Chief, Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

November 2021 - Present


Ph.D. Atmospheric Physics, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 2009.
Thesis: Application of satellite laser altimetry data to studies of sea ice properties and processes

M.S. Atmospheric Physics, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 2007.

B.S. Physics, Iowa State University, 2004.

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

2009 - Present



Neumann, T., L. Magruder, and N. Kurtz. 2022. ICESat-2 Mission: Contributions of a spaceborne lidar to ocean science OCEANS 2022, Hampton Roads [10.1109/oceans47191.2022.9977260]

Hu, Y., X. Lu, X. Zeng, et al. S. A. Stamnes, T. A. Neumann, N. T. Kurtz, P. Zhai, M. Gao, W. Sun, K. Xu, Z. Liu, A. H. Omar, R. R. Baize, L. J. Rogers, B. O. Mitchell, K. Stamnes, Y. Huang, N. Chen, C. Weimer, J. Lee, and Z. Fair. 2022. Deriving Snow Depth From ICESat-2 Lidar Multiple Scattering Measurements Frontiers in Remote Sensing 3 [10.3389/frsen.2022.855159]

Zheng, C., M. Ting, Y. Wu, et al. N. Kurtz, C. Orbe, P. Alexander, R. Seager, and M. Tedesco. 2022. Turbulent Heat Flux, Downward Longwave Radiation and Large-Scale Atmospheric Circulation Associated with Wintertime Barents-Kara Sea Extreme Sea Ice Loss Events Journal of Climate 1-55 [10.1175/jcli-d-21-0387.1]

Nicolaus, M., D. K. Perovich, G. Spreen, et al. M. A. Granskog, L. von Albedyll, M. Angelopoulos, P. Anhaus, S. Arndt, H. J. Belter, V. Bessonov, G. Birnbaum, J. Brauchle, R. Calmer, E. Cardellach, B. Cheng, D. Clemens-Sewall, R. Dadic, E. Damm, G. de Boer, O. Demir, K. Dethloff, D. V. Divine, A. A. Fong, S. Fons, M. M. Frey, N. Fuchs, C. Gabarró, S. Gerland, H. F. Goessling, R. Gradinger, J. Haapala, C. Haas, J. Hamilton, H.-R. Hannula, S. Hendricks, A. Herber, C. Heuzé, M. Hoppmann, K. V. Høyland, M. Huntemann, J. K. Hutchings, B. Hwang, P. Itkin, H.-W. Jacobi, M. Jaggi, A. Jutila, L. Kaleschke, C. Katlein, N. Kolabutin, D. Krampe, S. S. Kristensen, T. Krumpen, N. Kurtz, A. Lampert, B. A. Lange, R. Lei, B. Light, F. Linhardt, G. E. Liston, B. Loose, A. R. Macfarlane, M. Mahmud, I. O. Matero, S. Maus, A. Morgenstern, R. Naderpour, V. Nandan, A. Niubom, M. Oggier, N. Oppelt, F. Pätzold, C. Perron, T. Petrovsky, R. Pirazzini, C. Polashenski, B. Rabe, I. A. Raphael, J. Regnery, M. Rex, R. Ricker, K. Riemann-Campe, A. Rinke, J. Rohde, E. Salganik, R. K. Scharien, M. Schiller, M. Schneebeli, M. Semmling, E. Shimanchuk, M. D. Shupe, M. M. Smith, V. Smolyanitsky, V. Sokolov, T. Stanton, J. Stroeve, L. Thielke, A. Timofeeva, R. T. Tonboe, A. Tavri, M. Tsamados, D. N. Wagner, D. Watkins, M. Webster, and M. Wendisch. 2022. Overview of the MOSAiC expedition: Snow and sea ice Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 10 (1): [10.1525/elementa.2021.000046]

Glissenaar, I. A., J. C. Landy, A. A. Petty, N. T. Kurtz, and J. C. Stroeve. 2021. Impacts of snow data and processing methods on the interpretation of long-term changes in Baffin Bay sea ice thickness The Cryosphere 15 4909–4927 [10.5194/tc-15-4909-2021]

Bagnardi, M., N. T. Kurtz, A. A. Petty, and R. Kwok. 2021. Sea Surface Height Anomalies of the Arctic Ocean From ICESat‐2: A First Examination and Comparisons With CryoSat‐2 Geophysical Research Letters 48 (14): [10.1029/2021gl093155]

Fons, S. W., N. T. Kurtz, M. Bagnardi, A. A. Petty, and R. L. Tilling. 2021. Assessing CryoSat‐2 Antarctic Snow Freeboard Retrievals Using Data From ICESat‐2 Earth and Space Science 8 (7): [10.1029/2021ea001728]

Magruder, L., T. Neumann, and N. Kurtz. 2021. ICESat‐2 Early Mission Synopsis and Observatory Performance Earth and Space Science 8 (5): [10.1029/2020ea001555]

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]

Kwok, R., A. A. Petty, M. Bagnardi, et al. N. T. Kurtz, G. F. Cunningham, and A. Ivanoff. 2021. Refining the sea surface identification approach for determining freeboards in the ICESat-2 sea ice products The Cryosphere 15 821–833 [10.5194/tc-15-821-2021]

Petty, A. A., M. Bagnardi, N. Kurtz, et al. R. Tilling, S. Fons, T. Armitage, C. Horvat, and R. Kwok. 2021. Assessment of ICESat‐2 sea ice surface classification with Sentinel‐2 imagery: implications for freeboard and new estimates of lead and floe geometry Earth and Space Science [10.1029/2020ea001491]

Brunt, K. M., B. E. Smith, T. C. Sutterley, N. T. Kurtz, and T. A. Neumann. 2021. Comparisons of Satellite and Airborne Altimetry With Ground‐Based Data From the Interior of the Antarctic Ice Sheet Geophysical Research Letters 48 (2): [10.1029/2020gl090572]

Tilling, R., N. T. Kurtz, M. Bagnardi, A. A. Petty, and R. Kwok. 2020. Detection of Melt Ponds on Arctic Summer Sea Ice From ICESat‐2 Geophysical Research Letters 47 (23): [10.1029/2020gl090644]

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]

Allard, R., E. J. Metzger, N. Barton, et al. L. Li, N. Kurtz, M. Phelps, D. Franklin, O. M. Smedstad, J. Crout, and P. Posey. 2020. Analyzing the impact of CryoSat-2 ice thickness initialization on seasonal Arctic Sea Ice prediction Annals of Glaciology 1-8 [10.1017/aog.2020.15]

Kwok, R., G. F. Cunningham, S. Kacimi, et al. M. A. Webster, N. T. Kurtz, and A. A. Petty. 2020. Decay of the snow cover over Arctic sea ice from ICESat‐2 acquisitions during summer melt in 2019 Geophysical Research Letters 47 [10.1029/2020gl088209]

Petty, A. A., N. T. Kurtz, R. Kwok, T. Markus, and T. Neumann. 2020. Winter Arctic sea ice thickness from ICESat-2 freeboards Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 125 e2019JC015764 [10.1029/2019jc015764]

Kwok, R., S. Kacimi, M. Webster, N. Kurtz, and A. Petty. 2020. Arctic snow depth and sea ice thickness from ICESat‐2 and CryoSat‐2 freeboards: A first examination Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 125 e2019JC016008 [10.1029/2019jc016008]

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 Discussions 2020 1--25 [10.5194/tc-2020-51]

Martino, A. J., T. A. Neumann, N. T. Kurtz, and D. McLennan. 2019. ICESat-2 mission overview and early performance Sensors, Systems, and Next-Generation Satellites XXIII [10.1117/12.2534938]

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]

Magruder, L., T. Neumann, H. Fricker, et al. S. Farrell, K. Brunt, A. Gardner, D. Hancock, K. Harbeck, M. Jasinski, R. Kwok, N. Kurtz, J. Lee, T. Markus, J. Morison, A. Neuenschwander, S. Palm, S. Popescu, B. Smith, and Y. Yang. 2019. New Earth Orbiter Provides a Sharper Look at a Changing Planet Eos 100 [10.1029/2019eo133233]

Neumann, T. A., A. J. Martino, T. Markus, et al. S. Bae, M. R. Bock, A. C. Brenner, K. M. Brunt, J. Cavanaugh, S. T. Fernandes, D. W. Hancock, K. Harbeck, J. Lee, N. T. Kurtz, P. J. Luers, S. B. Luthcke, L. Magruder, T. A. Pennington, L. Ramos-Izquierdo, T. Rebold, J. Skoog, and T. C. Thomas. 2019. The Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite – 2 mission: A global geolocated photon product derived from the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System Remote Sensing of Environment 233 111325 [10.1016/j.rse.2019.111325]

Kwok, R., T. Markus, N. Kurtz, et al. A. Petty, T. Neumann, S. Farrell, G. Cunningham, D. Hancock, A. Ivanoff, and J. Wimert. 2019. Surface height and sea ice freeboard of the Arctic Ocean from ICESat‐2: Characteristics and early results Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 2019JC015486 [10.1029/2019jc015486]

Greeley, A. P., T. A. Neumann, N. T. Kurtz, T. Markus, and A. J. Martino. 2019. Characterizing the System Impulse Response Function From Photon-Counting LiDAR Data IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 57 (9): 6542 - 6551 [10.1109/tgrs.2019.2907230]

Dammann, D. O., L. E. Eriksson, S. V. Nghiem, et al. E. C. Pettit, N. T. Kurtz, J. G. Sonntag, T. E. Busche, F. J. Meyer, and A. R. Mahoney. 2019. Iceberg topography and volume classification using TanDEM-X interferometry The Cryosphere 13 (7): 1861-1875 [10.5194/tc-13-1861-2019]

Fons, S. W., and N. T. Kurtz. 2019. Retrieval of snow freeboard of Antarctic sea ice using waveform fitting of CryoSat-2 returns The Cryosphere 13 (3): 861-878 [10.5194/tc-13-861-2019]

Petty, A. A., M. M. Holland, D. A. Bailey, and N. T. Kurtz. 2018. Warm Arctic, increased winter sea-ice growth? Geophysical Research Letters [10.1029/2018gl079223]

Yi, D., N. Kurtz, J. Harbeck, et al. R. Kwok, S. Hendricks, and R. Ricker. 2018. Comparing Coincident Elevation and Freeboard From IceBridge and Five Different CryoSat-2 Retrackers IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 57 (2): 1219-1229 [10.1109/tgrs.2018.2865257]

Allard, R. A., S. L. Farrell, D. A. Hebert, et al. W. F. Johnston, L. Li, N. T. Kurtz, M. W. Phelps, P. G. Posey, R. Tilling, A. Ridout, and A. J. Wallcraft. 2018. Utilizing CryoSat-2 sea ice thickness to initialize a coupled ice-ocean modeling system Advances in Space Research 62 (6): 1265-1280 [10.1016/j.asr.2017.12.030]

Nghiem, S., T. Busche, T. Kraus, et al. M. Bachmann, N. T. Kurtz, J. G. Sonntag, J. Woods, S. Ackley, H. Xie, T. Maksym, K. Tinto, W. Rack, P. Langhorne, C. Haas, C. Panowicz, I. Rigor, P. Morin, L. Nguyen, and G. Neumann. 2018. Remote Sensing of Antarctic Sea Ice with Coordinated Aircraft and Satellite Data Acquisitions Proceedings of 38th 2018 IGARSS (International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium)

Nihashi, S., N. T. Kurtz, T. Markus, et al. K. I. Ohshima, K. Tateyama, and T. Toyota. 2018. Estimation of sea-ice thickness and volume in the Sea of Okhotsk based on ICESat data Annals of Glaciology 1-11 [10.1017/aog.2018.8]

Kwok, R., N. T. Kurtz, L. Brucker, et al. A. Ivanoff, T. Newman, S. L. Farrell, J. King, S. Howell, M. A. Webster, J. Paden, C. Leuschen, J. A. Macgregor, J. Richter-Menge, J. Harbeck, and M. Tschudi. 2017. Inter-comparison of snow depth retrievals over Arctic sea ice fromradar data acquired by Operation IceBridge The Cryosphere 2571-2593 [10.5194/tc-2017-103]

Petty, A. A., M. C. Tsamados, and N. T. Kurtz. 2017. Atmospheric form drag coefficients over Arctic sea ice using remotely sensed ice topography data, spring 2009-2015 Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 122 [10.1002/2017jf004209]

Petty, A. A., D. Schröder, J. C. Stroeve, et al. T. Markus, J. Miller, N. T. Kurtz, D. L. Feltham, and D. Flocco. 2017. Skillful spring forecasts of September Arctic sea ice extent using passive microwave sea ice observations Earth's Future 5 254–263 [10.1002/2016EF000495]

Petty, A. A., M. C. Tsamados, N. T. Kurtz, et al. S. L. Farrell, T. Newman, J. P. Harbeck, D. L. Feltham, and J. A. Richter-Menge. 2016. Characterizing Arctic sea ice topography using high-resolution IceBridge data The Cryosphere 10 (3): 1161-1179 [10.5194/tc-10-1161-2016]

King, J., S. Howell, C. Derksen, et al. N. Rutter, P. Toose, J. F. Beckers, C. Haas, N. Kurtz, and J. Richter-Menge. 2015. Evaluation of Operation IceBridge quick-look snow depth estimates on sea ice Geophysical Research Letters 42 (21): 9302-9310 [10.1002/2015gl066389]

Price, D., J. Beckers, R. Ricker, et al. N. Kurtz, W. Rack, C. Haas, V. Helm, S. Hendricks, G. Leonard, and P. Langhorne. 2015. Evaluation of CryoSat-2 derived sea-ice freeboard over fast ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica Journal of Glaciology 61 (226): 285-300 [10.3189/2015jog14j157]

Newman, T., S. L. Farrell, J. Richter-Menge, et al. L. N. Connor, N. T. Kurtz, B. C. Elder, and D. McAdoo. 2014. Assessment of radar-derived snow depth over Arctic sea ice Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 119 (12): 8578-8602 [10.1002/2014jc010284]

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]

Webster, M. A., I. G. Rigor, S. V. Nghiem, et al. N. T. Kurtz, S. L. Farrell, D. K. Perovich, and M. Sturm. 2014. Interdecadal changes in snow depth on Arctic sea ice J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 119 (8): 5395–5406 [10.1002/2014JC009985]

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]

Tsamados, M., D. Feltham, D. Schroeder, et al. D. Flocco, S. Farrell, N. Kurtz, S. Laxon, and S. Bacon. 2014. Impact of Variable Atmospheric and Oceanic Form Drag on Simulations of Arctic Sea Ice J. Phys. Oceanog. 44 (5): 1329-1353 [10.1175/JPO-D-13-0215.1]

Holland, P., N. Bruneau, M. C. Enright, et al. M. Losch, N. T. Kurtz, and R. Kwok. 2014. Modeled Trends in Antarctic Sea Ice Thickness J. Climate 27 (10): 3784-3801 [10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00301.1]

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]

Koenig, L., J. Box, and N. Kurtz. 2013. Improving Surface Mass Balance Over Ice Sheets and Snow Depth on Sea Ice Eos Trans. AGU 94 (10): 100 [10.1002/2013EO100006]

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]

Laxon, S., K. Giles, A. Ridout, et al. D. Wingham, R. Willatt, R. Cullen, R. Kwok, J. Zhang, C. Haas, S. Hendricks, R. Krishfield, N. T. Kurtz, S. L. Farrell, and M. Davidson. 2013. CryoSat-2 estimates of Arctic sea ice thickness and volume Geophysical Research Letters 40 (4): 732-737 [10.1002/grl.50193]

Kurtz, N. T., and T. Markus. 2012. Satellite observations of Antarctic sea ice thickness and volume J. Geophys. Res. 117 (C8): C08025 [10.1029/2012JC008141]

Farrell, S. L., N. T. Kurtz, L. Connor, et al. B. Elder, C. Leuschen, T. Markus, D. C. McAdoo, B. Panzer, J. Richter-Menge, and J. G. Sonntag. 2012. A First Assessment of IceBridge Snow and Ice Thickness Data Over Arctic Sea Ice IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sensing 50 (6): 2098-2111 [10.1109/TGRS.2011.2170843]

Lindsay, R., C. Haas, S. Hendricks, et al. P. Hunkeler, N. Kurtz, J. Paden, B. Panzer, J. Sonntag, J. Yungel, and J. Zhang. 2012. Seasonal forecasts of Arctic sea ice initialized with observations of ice thickness Geophysical Research Letters 39 (21): L21502 [10.1029/2012GL053576]

Markus, T., R. Massom, T. Worby, et al. V. Lytle, N. T. Kurtz, and T. Maksym. 2011. Freeboard, snow depth, and sea ice roughness in East Antarctica from in-situ and multiple satellite data Annals of Glaciology 52 (57):

Kurtz, N., T. Markus, S. Farrell, D. Worthen, and L. Boisvert. 2011. Observations of recent Arctic sea ice volume loss and its impact on ocean-atmosphere energy exchange and ice production J. Geophys. Res. 116 (C4): C04015 [10.1029/2010JC006235]

Kurtz, N., and S. Farrell. 2011. Large-scale surveys of snow depth on Arctic sea ice from Operation IceBridge Geophysical Research Letters 38 (20): L20505 [10.1029/2011GL049216]

Kurtz, N., T. Markus, D. J. Cavalieri, et al. L. Sparling, B. Krabill, A. Gasiewski, and J. G. Sonntag. 2009. Estimation of sea ice thickness distributions through the combination of snow depth and satellite laser altimetry data J Geophys Res 114 (C10): C10007 [10.1029/2009JC005292]

Kurtz, N., T. Markus, D. J. Cavalieri, et al. B. Krabill, J. G. Sonntag, and J. Miller. 2008. Comparison of ICESat Data With Airborne Laser Altimeter Measurements Over Arctic Sea Ice IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sensing 46 (7): 1913-1924 [10.1109/TGRS.2008.916639]


Petty, A. A., T. Markus, and N. T. Kurtz. 2017. Improving our understanding of Antarctic sea ice with NASA's Operation IceBridge and the upcoming ICESat-2 mission US CLIVAR Variations 15 (3):

Yi, D., N. T. Kurtz, J. P. Harbeck, et al. S. S. Manizade, M. A. Hofton, H. G. Cornejo, H. J. Zwally, and J. W. Robbins. 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]