|  April 23, 2014  |  
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UAF researchers poised to gain international partnerships

Fairbanks, Alaska— When a small team of glaciologists and mathematicians at the University of Alaska 
Fairbanks Geophysical Institute developed the Parallel Ice Sheet Model in 2003, they had no idea that the 
software program would rise to international prominence.

They created the model, commonly referred to as PISM, in an effort to better understand the physics of ice 
sheets, whose flow is difficult to observe in the field. Researchers incorporated ice physics, the effects of
 snow, air temperature, ocean temperature and other environmental influencesinto the program and then offered
 it free to the world.

“We made it available for public use and we documented it well,” said Ed Bueler, an associate professor of 
mathematics at UAF and amember of the Geophysical Institute glaciers group. The model’s accessibility, 
improved physics and ability to look at large ice sheets at a high resolution attracted the attention of 
institutions in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. Now those users are helping to improve the model.

Since 2003, PISM has undergone several upgrades to better model specific ice sheet behaviors, which has added
 to its popularity. Notably, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany 
improved how the model tracks ice shelves and the behaviors of floating ice. For scientists tracking the 
floating ice shelves of Antarctica—some as big as California—the model forecasts the effects of rising ocean 
temperatures.

The programming additions made by Potsdam researchers highlight the program’s wide range of adaptability and 
reinforce the benefits of making it widely available.

“Having more international users and co-developers is a step in the right direction,” said Bueler, who 
recently returned from the first European PISM Workshop in Germany. The technical conference was hosted at 
the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Amy Hartley, Geophysical Institute information officer, 907-474-5823, 
amy.hartley@gi.alaska.edu. Ed Bueler, associate professor, 907-474-7199, elbueler@alaska.edu.

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