Glaciologist and national weatherman Peter Kuipers Munneke has joined NESSC since April this year. Based at the Ice and Climate Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU) in Utrecht, Munneke will aim his research the coming years at understanding the physical processes playing a role in the melting of ice sheets.
Many people who watch him predict the weather on national television every week may not yet realise that Kuipers Munneke (born in 1980 in the city of Groningen) also has worked for years as glaciologist. Last year he stayed at Swansea University in Wales. Since April this year Kuipers Munneke continues his research at NESSC at IMAU, the institute where he was granted his PhD in 2009.
The common theme in his research across the years, Kuipers Munneke tells, is the coupling and interaction between the atmosphere and the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. “For my work at NESSC, I will firstly work at a project which aims to integrate ice sheet models into a brand new global climate model. There are a number of models for different ice sheets which simulate their melting behaviour in the future. But what the further impact of their melting behaviour on the global climate is, that’s not what these models simulate. For that purpose, we are going to integrate parts of already existing models of different ice sheets into the global climate model. That should allow us to also model the effects of the melting of ice sheets on global climate phenomena, like weather patterns or ocean currents.”
“In addition, I will work at the next successor of the latest IPCC-report, which will appear in 2018. This Special Report will focus on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. I will contribute to the part about ice and snow melt in Antarctica.”
It’s quite ironical that the continuing warming of the earth has led to so many new scientific insights about the consequences of climate change on large ice sheets, Kuipers Munneke muses. “So much knowledge has been gathered the past twenty years. In the past, an ice sheet was perceived as a static ice cube that would slowly lose its mass by melting. Presently, it’s clear that it doesn’t work like that. When temperatures rise, all sorts of processes start to come into play. Across the years, we’ve come to realise that ice sheets are responding to temperature rise much quicker. And the reason we know this is because these processes have manifested themselves as the climate has become warmer and warmer. We can simply observe these processes presently at work at the ice sheets.”
Both his work as weatherman at the national television and his climate research take him occasionally to the more desolate places of the planet. During his PhD-research he pitched his tent on Antarctica and Greenland. Earlier this month, he returned from a stay at Svalbard. Despite that, Kuipers Munneke wouldn’t want to call himself an adventurer. “Of course, I don’t shy away from the unknown, but I’m not going out of my way to find it. Certainly within the community of glacier researchers I am not an adventurer! I’m not going to call names, but there are a number of actual adventurers active within this field!”