Snow and Ice Branch

Dr. Matthew Sturm
Research Physical Scientist

Phone: 907-353-5183   E-mail:

     Dr. Sturm is responsible for conducting wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latitudes. His work has taken him from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and he has been the leader of more than 30 expeditions in winter in pursuit of his science. He is based at the Alaska Office in Fairbanks, but collaborates with a wide range of scientists both at CRREL and elsewhere. His most recent work focuses on the role of snow cover on climate, with particular attention to snow ecology, and climate change resulting from snow-vegetation interactions.

Areas of Specialization

  • Snow cover
    • Its thermal effects
    • Its effect on the environment, with particular emphasis on polar and subpolar snow covers

  • Spatial distribution of snow covers and ramifications of that distribution on heat and mass transfer

  • Snow and Vegetation

Current Projects

  • Project Director of a National Science Foundation-sponsored project investigating the interactions of snow, shrubs, and weather in the Arctic.

  • Principle Investigator on a NASA-sponsored project examing snow and sea ice.

  • Project Leader investigating snow, sea ice leads, and mercury.

Notable Contributions or Highlights from Past Projects

  • Detection of convection in snow covers.
  • Extensive measurements of the thermal properties of snow covers.
  • Development of a rational world-wide classification system for seasonal snow covers.
  • Detailed studies of the spatial variability of snow covers on both land and ice .
  • First direct measurements of the thermal conductivity of snow on Arctic sea ice.
  • Detection of increasing shrub density in Arctic Alaska .
  • Developed a snow-soil-shrub feedback hypothesis for land surface change.


  • B.S., Geology, New Mexico Tech, 1980
  • M.S., Geophysics, University of Alaska, 1983
  • Ph.D., Geophysics, University of Alaska, 1989

Other Professional Information

  • Memberships/Professional Organizations:

    • Board Member, Science Steering Committee, INSTAAR
    • Board Member, Science Steering Committee, IARC
    • Board Member, Arctic Institute of North America
    • Co-Chair, SNOW Research Community of Practice
    • Past Co-Chief Editor, Journal of Glaciology
    • Adjunct Professor in the Geology Department, University of Alaska
    • Chair, Land-Atmosphere Ice Interactions Science Steering Committee, NSF
    • Member, American Geophysical Union, Arctic Institute of North America

  • Additional:

    • Led two 1200km over-snow traverse from Nome to Barrow, Alaska (SnowSTAR-2002 and 2004).
    • In the winter of 1983-1984, Matthew participated in a glaciological expedition to the large ice streams of Antarctica.
    • Matthew developed a science curriculum for grammar-school children based on experiments on snow .
    • Matthew holds two patents for devices designed to measure snow properties efficently.

Selected Publications

Contact Information

Dr. Matthew Sturm
(Building 4070)
P.O. Box 35170
Ft. Wainwright, Alaska 99703-0170
Phone: 907-353-5183
Fax: 907-353-5142

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