I am a glaciologist, geophysicist, and photographer.
My research is focused on glacier mechanics and dynamics, and particularly on the behavior of ocean-ending glaciers and glacier contributions to sea level. I have done field research for more than 30 years in glacier regions from Alaska to Antarctica to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. For about a decade starting in the late 1990s, I led the long-term study of Columbia Glacier, on Alaska’s South Central Coast, a research program started by glaciology pioneers Mark Meier (also an INSTAAR Director, from 1985 to 1994) and Austin Post. Columbia Glacier is one the world’s most extensively studied and most rapidly changing glaciers, and has been the source of many crucial insights about glacier-ocean interaction. I have served as an advisor to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), and was a Lead Author for Chapter 13 (Sea Level Change) in the IPCC Fifth Assessment/Working Group I (2010-2014). I also operate WT Pfeffer Geophysical Consultants, LLC, providing consulting modeling, analysis, and assessments on sea level rise and glacier-related hazards.
In addition to my scientific work, my photography has appeared in many publications in the US and Europe. I am the author of The Opening of a New Landscape: Columbia Glacier at Mid-Retreat, published by the American Geophysical Union in 2007. My most recent book, The Hand of the Small Town Builder, published by David R. Godine, was published in Spring 2014.
I also served as a 2015-16 Jefferson Science Fellow at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, DC.
- PhD: University of Washington, 1987
- MS: University of Maine, 1981
- BS: University of Vermont, 1976
- Jefferson Science Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, 2015
- Nye Lecture, American Geophysical Union, 2011
- University of Colorado Council on Research and Creative Work, Sabbatical Year Support, 2007
Glaciology, continuum mechanics, heat transfer, analysis and numerical methods.
Sea level rise, hydrology, natural hazards, geophysical and architectural photogrammetry, science policy.
- CVEN 3698: Engineering Geology
- CVEN 4718/5718: Mechanics/Dynamics of Glaciers
- CVEN 5838: Mechanics/Dynamics of Landslides and Rockfalls