Dr. Rignot works to understand the interactions of ice and climate, in particular to determine how the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland will respond to climate change in the coming century and how they will affect global sea level.
He uses satellite remote sensing techniques (imaging radar, laser altimetry, radio echo sounding), airborne geophysical surveys (icebridge), field surveys (radar, GPS, bathymetry, CTD), and numerical modeling (ice sheet motion, ocean circulation near glaciers, coupled ocean/ice sheet models).
In addition, he is an expert in how ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland will respond to climate change, interactions of ice and climate, global sea level, satellite remote sensing and ocean circulation.
Areas of Expertise (4)
Ice Sheet Dynamics and Mass Balance
2017 Louis Agassiz Medal
Awarded to Eric Rignot for fundamental innovations in the remote sensing of glacier flow, leading to the first assessments of the mass balance of the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland.
NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal
Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher
2007 Nobel Peace Prize (Contributing Author)
Co-author IPCC AR4.
Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI): Master's Degree, Astronomy and Astrophysics 1987
Ecole Centrale Paris: Engineer's Degree, Aerospace Engineering 1985
University of Southern California: Ph.D., Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering 1988
University of Southern California: Master's Degree, Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering 1988
University of Southern California: Ph.D. and E.E., Electrical Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering 1991
Media Appearances (3)
Climate Change and the Giant Iceberg Off Greenland’s Shore
The New Yorker online
Big icebergs are nothing new, but they usually remain far offshore. Ocean currents and wind push the icebergs along, sometimes five or more miles a day. In this case, the berg got stuck in the shallow waters of the bay. Eric Rignot, a glaciologist from the University of California, Irvine, said that it probably originated from one of the nearby glaciers that flow down the fjords along Greenland’s west coast. Those glaciers have long been notable for pushing a lot of icebergs out into the sea. But nowadays they are in retreat—more ice is more rapidly breaking from the glacier’s face than snow is accumulating on its back. With climate change, what happened in Innaarsuit, Rignot said, is expected to occur more frequently. Joshua Willis, a glaciologist from nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab, put it in simple terms: “As things continue to warm up, more ice is gonna come off and float around.” Drought-stricken South Africa wants to tow one such berg to Cape Town, to prevent the country’s taps from running dry.
Here's What Antarctica’s Hugest Iceberg Has Been Doing Since It Broke Free
The calving of Larsen C last July kindled a debate among scientists as to the cause. Some scientists claim it’s a natural, cyclical process, whereby ice shelves grow, decay, and break free, while others, such as Eric Rignot, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, believe it’s “the response of the system to a warmer climate.” Regardless, this is an area ripe for further investigation, as Antarctica serves as a canary in the coal mine, alerting us to the effects of human-induced climate change.
James Hansen’s legacy: Scientists reflect on climate change in 1988, 2018, and 2048
Q. Where do you hope we will be 30 years from now? Where do you think we will be realistically? Marvel: I hope we will take this seriously. I like humans, and I think we’re capable of great things. We (mostly) fixed the ozone hole. We signed the Paris agreement. I have optimism that we can do more in the future. But I fear that we will respond to the adversity that climate change brings with hate, fear, and unreason. Dessler: I don’t think a serious carbon tax or other policy will happen. The best-case I see is that renewables become cheap enough that the economy switches by itself. As for what should happen: As a citizen and father, I think we should get our asses in gear and start reducing emissions as fast as we can. Kalmus: I hope that we reach a cultural tipping point, where people finally vote with climate urgency, and elect leaders who enact sensible policies like a revenue-neutral carbon fee. Emissions ramp down, innovation ramps up. This is also what I think will happen — it’s only a question of when, and how bad we’ll let things get. Rignot: Most likely we will only take a slow course of action. We will experience the consequences of climate change in full swing in the later part of the century. At that point, we will have technologies in place to avoid the most disastrous consequences. But the world should take a much more aggressive course of action. We also need to bring morality into the debate. The most deprived people on the planet will suffer the most from climate change.
Ice flow modelling to constrain the surface mass balance and ice discharge of San Rafael Glacier, Northern Patagonia IcefieldJournal of Glaciology
Gabriella Collao-Barrios, Fabien Gillet-Chaulet, Vincent Favier, Gino Casassa Etienne Berthier, Ines Dussaillant, Jeremie Mouginot, Eric Rignot
2018 We simulate the ice dynamics of the San Rafael Glacier (SRG) in the Northern Patagonia Icefield (46.7°S, 73.5°W), using glacier geometry obtained by airborne gravity measurements. The full-Stokes ice flow model (Elmer/Ice) is initialized using an inverse method to infer the basal friction coefficient from a satellite-derived surface velocity mosaic. The high surface velocities (7.6 km a ⁻¹ ) near the glacier front are explained by low basal shear stresses (1 km a ⁻¹ ). We force the model using different surface mass-balance scenarios taken or adapted from previous studies and geodetic elevation changes between 2000 and 2012. Our results suggest that previous estimates of average surface mass balance over the entire glacier ( Ḃ ) were likely too high, mainly due to an overestimation in the accumulation area. We propose that most of SRG imbalance is due to the large ice discharge (−0.83 ± 0.08 Gt a ⁻¹ ) and a slightly positive Ḃ (0.08 ± 0.06 Gt a ⁻¹ ). The committed mass-loss estimate over the next century is −0.34 ± 0.03 Gt a ⁻¹ . This study demonstrates that surface mass-balance estimates and glacier wastage projections can be improved using a physically based ice flow model.
Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017Nature
Andrew Shepherd, Erik R. Ivins, Eric Rignot, Bert Wouters et al.
2018 The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimetres (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain.
Intercomparison and Validation of SAR-Based Ice Velocity Measurement Techniques within the Greenland Ice Sheet CCI ProjectRemote Sensing
John Peter Merryman Boncori, Morten Langer Andersen, Jørgen Dall, Anders Kusk, Eric Rignot et al.
2018 Ice velocity is one of the products associated with the Ice Sheets Essential Climate Variable. This paper describes the intercomparison and validation of ice-velocity measurements carried out by several international research groups within the European Space Agency Greenland Ice Sheet Climate Change Initiative project, based on space-borne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. The goal of this activity was to survey the best SAR-based measurement and error characterization approaches currently in practice. To this end, four experiments were carried out, related to different processing techniques and scenarios, namely differential SAR interferometry, multi aperture SAR interferometry and offset-tracking of incoherent as well as of partially-coherent data. For each task, participants were provided with common datasets covering areas located on the Greenland ice-sheet margin and asked to provide mean velocity maps, quality characterization and a description of processing algorithms and parameters. The results were then intercompared and validated against GPS data, revealing in several cases significant differences in terms of coverage and accuracy. The algorithmic steps and parameters influencing the coverage, accuracy and spatial resolution of the measurements are discussed in detail for each technique, as well as the consistency between quality parameters and validation results. This allows several recommendations to be formulated, in particular concerning procedures which can reduce the impact of analyst decisions, and which are often found to be the cause of sub-optimal algorithm performance.