Christine McCarthy


My commitment: Understanding how glacier movement contributes to sea-level rise

I am an “ice squeezer.” I develop lab experiments that mimic how massive glaciers flow over bedrock. There is a great deal already known about how glaciers viscously flow in the interior, but not much is known about how they frictionally slide over bedrock. I try to recreate this process on a much smaller scale in the lab to discern the physics and controls of the process in order to aid in predictions of how quickly ice will travel from zones of accumulation to the sea under changing conditions.

Numerous high school and undergraduate interns have come through my lab to test their theories about how various contaminants or impurities can affect the viscous and frictional properties of ice.

It’s like a puzzle: my work is one small piece that fits together with the other pieces to create a much clearer picture of the whole glacial system. I am drawn to exploring how the pieces of the ocean, bedrock, and glacier fit together for the greater whole.


See McCarthy talk more about her job as an ice squeezer.