H. Jay Zwally Maniac Lecture

Personal Photograph

H. Jay Zwally graduated from Drexel University with a B.S. in mechanical/aeronautical engineering in 1961 and a PhD in physics with a minor in mathematics from the University of Maryland in 1969. Between 1969 and 1972, he was a Visiting Research Assistant Professor, Institute for Fluid Dynamics and Applied Mathematics University of Maryland, College Park. From 1972-1974, Dr. Zwally was a Program Manager for Glaciology and Remote Sensing in the NSF's Division of Polar Programs, where he managed the initiation of the interdisciplinary Ross Ice Shelf Project, the Greenland Ice Sheet Project, improved airborne radar mapping of ice sheet thickness, and planning for a West Antarctic ice sheet project. He joined NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 1974, and helped build the Cryospheric lab from ground up. Dr. Zwally and colleagues pioneered the use of ocean-radar altimetry for mapping ice sheet topography and studies of mass balance. They developed a comprehensive map of sea ice freeboard and thickness, and discovered the melt-acceleration effect on the flow of the polar ice sheets such as the one on Greenland --which became indicators of the health of the polar ice covers and served as the bellwether of the changing climate. And led to missions such as ICESat in 2003, the first NASA satellite mission for measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics. The next-generation successor to the original ICESat satellite (ICESat-2) was successfully launched on September 15, 2018. Dr. Zwally was on the Mars Orbiting Laser Altimeter (MOLA) science team and provided key insights to the interpretation of the Mars northern ice cap as predominately water ice with an outlying cap remnant using the laser-elevation data. He has also been effective in communicating ice and climate science to the public, including appearances on NOVA, ABC, CNN, Discovery, Voice of America, BBC, and MSNBC’s Countdown.