Campus News

Internationally acclaimed climate change scholar joins UB


Published October 2, 2020

headshot of Sophie Nowicki.

Sophie Nowicki

Sophie Nowicki, an internationally recognized expert on global climate change, ice sheet modeling and sea level rise, has joined the UB faculty.

Nowicki is Empire Innovation Professor in the Department of Geology, College of Arts and Sciences, and in the RENEW Institute, an interdisciplinary institute dedicated to research and education on globally pressing problems in energy, environment and water.

Nowicki’s work focuses on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, their connections to the Earth’s climate system and their impact on sea level.

Prior to joining UB, Nowicki served as a research scientist and deputy chief for the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory (Code 615) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where her research included co-leading the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP6). This collaborative effort recently brought together more than 60 ice, ocean and atmosphere scientists from three dozen international institutions to generate new estimates — released in 2020 — of the impact that Earth’s melting ice sheets could have on global sea levels by 2100.

“We are delighted that Sophie Nowicki, an internationally recognized expert with an exemplary record of research and service, has joined the UB RENEW Institute and the Department of Geology,” Robin Schulze, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Amit Goyal, RENEW Institute director, said in a joint statement. “She will boost UB’s position as a premier public research university. Her international intellectual leadership in climate change modeling will help bring together transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary faculty across UB and further development of large grant proposals in this area.”

Nowicki’s work is aligned with the Climate Change and Socioeconomic Impacts focus area of the RENEW Institute. In the Department of Geology, she joins a climate change research group comprised of leading ice scientists who are engaged in international collaborations devoted to understanding the past, present and future of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets — and ultimately, sea level rise — through paleoclimate field work, aerial and satellite monitoring of ice sheets, and state-of-the-art computational modeling.

Nowicki’s extensive expertise and partnerships will enhance these efforts. She has been instrumental in organizing and leading large science projects, garnering $7.5 million in research funds since 2010.

While at NASA Goddard, she was a science team member for Operation IceBridge and co-lead for SeaRISE (Sea-level Response to Ice Sheet Evolution), an international effort that investigated the sensitivity of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to external environmental forcings. She led many projects, such as efforts to couple ice sheet models to the two Goddard climate models (i.e., GEOS-5 and ModelE), and an effort that investigated the feedbacks, processes and impacts of contemporary changes in the Arctic using satellite observations, ice sheet and climate models.

Additionally, Nowicki has served as a member of the NASA Sea Level Change Team; a member of the SEARCH Land Ice Action Team; an executive committee member for the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise phase 2; a member of the Community Earth System Model Scientific Steering Committee; division head for ice sheets for the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences; and a member of the World Climate Research Programme Sea Level Change and Coastal Impacts Grand Challenge. She was invited to be a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth Assessment Report’s chapter on ocean, cryosphere and sea level change.

Nowicki’s favorite projects are community efforts such as SeaRISE and ISMIP6. She has received numerous awards, including recognition as the NASA Cryospheric Sciences Most Valuable Player, and awards for outstanding publications and scientific achievements. She says she is most proud of receiving the Goddard Honor Award for Mentoring, which recognized not only her work with postdoctoral researchers and early-career scientists, but also the amazing work that they did.

Nowicki holds a PhD in theoretical glaciology from University College London, and an MSc in remote sensing and image processing, and a bachelor’s degree in geophysics from the University of Edinburgh.