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 (12)
New research pinpoints Antarctica's melty past. Scientists warn it's happening again
Dr. Eric Rignot from the University of California, Irvine's Department of Earth System Science also told Salon … it "is important to know to establish some boundaries on how fast an ice sheet can melt away in a changing climate. In this study, the authors report 270 km of retreat in 400 years, or 0.7 [kilometers per year], which is within the range of what we observe today in some rapidly changing sectors of Antarctica and Greenland." … "This study among other things shows that we are experiencing very significant changes in Antarctica right now and need to take it seriously," Rignot said.
Did an Ancient Civilization Ever Live in Antarctica?
Discover Magazine online
Back in 2016, an unnamed pyramid-shaped mountain in Antarctica went viral with some Internet users claiming that it must be a relic of a bygone civilization. … Most mountains are made up of different rock types, which erode at different rates to create an irregular shape. “It suggests, since it came out so evenly, that the rock type is fairly uniform,” Eric Rignot, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, told Live Science. “This is just a mountain that looks like a pyramid.”
COP28 nations agreed to ‘transition’ from fossil fuels. That’s too slow, experts say
Science News online
Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, called the agreement “deeply disappointing and misleading,” noting that it didn’t include any language specifically calling for phasing out fossil fuels. Furthermore, he says, “COP28 keeps entertaining the idea that 1.5 degrees Celsius may be achievable, but everyone is offtrack to meet that goal. [And] for ice sheets and glaciers, even 1.5 degrees is not sustainable.” There already are fears, for instance, that the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet can’t be stopped (SN: 8/9/21).
A Major Alarm Is Flashing Under Greenland’s Ice
“The atmospheric circulation which pushes the ocean currents around has been changing, and that has been trending toward putting more water of subtropical origin along the coast of Greenland,” says Eric Rignot, a glaciologist, [professor] and remote sensing scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who wasn’t involved in the new paper. That means the water can heat up super fast. “You change the winds and it starts pushing more warm water, that’s faster than the time it would take to warm up all these ocean waters along Greenland.”
Accelerated loss of West Antarctic Ice Sheet now "unavoidable": study
"While they do not show a lot of differences between various emission scenarios, they do point out that the Paris agreement won't be safe enough for these glaciers," said Eric Rignot, a climate scientist [and professor] at UC Irvine and NASA. "We know that since the glaciers are already in a galloping state of retreat, we observe that retreat year after year, that's not a projection," Rignot said. "It is not a matter of depressing the readership; it is what it is," he said.
Antarctica ice crunch time: Scientists sound alarm on sheet melting
USA Today online
Melting of the huge West Antarctic ice sheet has apparently passed the point of no return and may be "unavoidable," a new study reports Monday. … That part of Antarctica “is doomed,” said University of California Irvine ice scientist [Professor] Eric Rignot, who wasn’t part of the study. “The damage has already been done.”
Key Part of Antarctica Doomed to ‘Unavoidable’ Melting No Matter The Scale of Climate Action
Time Magazine online
No matter how much the world cuts back on carbon emissions, a key and sizable chunk of Antarctica is essentially doomed to an “unavoidable” melt, a new study found. … Researchers used computer simulations to calculate future melting of protective ice shelves jutting over Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea in western Antarctica. … That part of Antarctica “is doomed,” said University of California, Irvine ice scientist [Professor] Eric Rignot, who wasn’t part of the study. “The damage has already been done.”
West Antarctic ice sheet faces ‘unavoidable’ melting, a warning for sea level rise
The Washington Post
Thwaites glacier is showing quickening ice losses, but has thus far only contributed a few millimeters to sea level rise since the late 1970s, according to data shared by [Professor] Eric Rignot, an expert on Antarctic glaciers at the University of California, Irvine. … It still has another 12 to 18 miles to go until it reaches “the very deep part when the retreat will go orders of magnitude faster,” Rignot says. … “To stop or slow down the retreat, we have to go back to a cooler climate,” Rignot said in an email.
6 ways humans are transforming Antarctica from a pristine preserve to a polluted wasteland
Recent research found that the most intense heat wave ever recorded on Earth was in Antarctica last year. And this past winter, the frozen continent reached record-low sea ice levels. "Entire marine ecosystems are affected by such changes in sea ice cover," Eric Rignot, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, told Insider. …"The future of Antarctica is totally relevant to the future of humanity," Rignot said.
Martha Stewart hits back at haters after iceberg cocktail drama
Fox News online
In the article, the outlet interviewed glaciologist Eric Rignot, a professor in the Earth system science department at the University of California, Irvine, who said her use of an iceberg wasn't as big an issue as others made it out to be. "It is not like she went to a glacier and carved a piece of ice off it," Rignot told The Washington Post. "Icebergs float at sea already and slowly melt. Whether they melt in the ocean or in your glass does not make a difference."
Martha Stewart put an iceberg in her drink. Experts say it’s no big deal.
The Washington Post online
Perhaps, but plucking an iceberg out of the sea is not a big deal, said glaciologist Eric Rignot, a professor in the Earth system science department at the University of California at Irvine. In fact, Rignot, who studies how climate change affects the polar ice sheets, said he has done it, too. “It is not like she went to a glacier and carved a piece of ice off it,” Rignot wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “Icebergs float at sea already and slowly melt. Whether they melt in the ocean or in your glass does not make a difference.”
Antarctica has a winter sea ice shortfall four times the size of Texas
Scientists don't know what is driving the shortfall, but they are deeply concerned about its consequences, as sea ice influences the planet's climate, global ocean currents and marine ecosystems. ... It's too early to determine to what extent climate change is responsible for this year's sea ice gap, but it can not be ruled out, Eric Rignot [professor of Earth system science] of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine told Axios.
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.