Research

My current and past research activities are focused on South America, Kilimanjaro (Africa), and the Canadian High Arctic. I am also establishing a new project looking at avalanche climatology and ski tourism on Mount Washington (New Hampshire) and supervise student research projects at Westfield State University through independent studies.

CV & Research Gate

Scientific Papers

Peru: The Quelccaya Ice Cap

The Quelccaya Ice Cap (Peru) is the largest glacier in the Tropics, located at over 5,200 m in the Cordillera Vilcanota. The UMass Climate System Research Center has been conducting climate and glacier research at Quelccaya’s summit since 2003. In 2012 we started a new project, funded by the National Geographic Society, to create a new 3-D model of one section of the ice cap to compare with a similar 3-D model from 1983.

Collaborators: Dr. Douglas Hardy (UMass Amherst), Dr. David Chadwell (UC San Diego/Scripps)

2015 Fieldwork
Previous Years

The Disappearance of Glaciers in Venezuela

This study asks a simple question: What is the state of glaciers in Venezuela today? The answer is not as obvious as it seems – the glaciers in Venezuela have been literally forgotten in terms of scientific research since the early 1990s. The answer is provided in this project through an extensive compilation of the available scientific literature, maps, and historical photographs that document the recession of glaciers in Venezuela since the start of the 20th century. Climate data analysis and glacier mapping in 2009 and 2011 provide the modern context. Collaborators: Dr. Maximilliano Bezada (UPEL Caracas), Dr. Nathan Stansell (Nth. Illinois Univ.)

The results of this research are compiled as Braun and Bezada (2013) and was recently featured in JSTOR Daily The Last Glacier of Venezuela, in The Economist (The death of Venezuela’s Humboldt glacier, 5 October 2017), on the Cryopolitics blog (Far away from the Arctic, Venezuela’s last glacier melts away), and on GlacierHub (Venezuela is Losing its Last Glacier). I am currently extending the record using the new Landsat 8 images and additional field mapping conducted February 2015.

2015 Fieldwork

The February 2015 fieldwork included GPS-mapping of the Humboldt Glacier ice margin. Below are links to pictures, videos, and initial results.

More links:

Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

Between 1912 and 1989, the glacier cover on Kilimanjaro decreased by 75 percent. Over the next 11 years (1989 to 2000) nearly one quarter of the remaining ice area was lost. Given the current rate of disintegration, the glaciers on Kilimanjaro may completely disappear within a few decades. In conjunction with the ice core drilling effort in 2000 a research group from the UMass Amherst installed an automated weather station (AWS) on Kilimanjaro’s Northern Icefield. Since February of 2000, we have been maintaining this station and monitoring the mass balance of summit glaciers, which continue to retreat! A comprehensive analysis of the full meteorological record is currently underway.

  • Collaborators: Dr. Douglas Hardy (UMass Amherst), Dr. Ray Bradley (UMass Amherst)
  • Pierce, S. and C. Braun, Glacier Recession on Kilimanjaro: A Comparison of Differernt Mapping Approaches. NCUR 2014 @ www.cur.org/ncur_2014/

We climbed Kilimanjaro from 24 September to 6 October 2011 to survey the remaining glaciers and to service our satellite-linked weather station on the Northern Icefield. Students at Westfield State followed our progress up the mountain on social media.

  • Twitter: @carstendude or #Kibo2011; FB: Kibo2011 group
  • Live audio conferences from Kilimanjaro
  • 2011 Fieldwork

Arctic Research

My  research in the Canadian High Arctic focused on the mass balance of glaciers, ice caps, and ice shelves. The Arctic, in general, is a particular sensitive area with respect to climate change and Arctic glaciers are currently experiencing dramatic mass losses. Specifically, I was (and still am!)  interested in the processes affecting the ice shelves and ice rises found along the northern coast of Ellesmere Island and the mechanisms responsible for their recent collapses.

Bolivia (Nevado Sajama and Illimani)

In October 1996, a satellite-linked weather station (AWS) was established at the summit of Nevado Sajama by researchers from the Geosciences Department at the University of Massachusetts. Sajama is an inactive volcano, rising from the Altiplano to the west of Lake Titicaca, the highest peak in Bolivia (6,542 m; 18°06′ S and 68°53′ W). A second station was installed on Nevado Illimani in July 1997 (6,265 m; 16°39′ S and 67°47′ W), in the Eastern Andean Cordillera – on the western margin of the Amazon Basin. These are believed to be the highest satellite-linked weather stations in the world.

Icecaps mantle both summits, upon which the stations are situated. Snowfall during the austral summer (i.e. Dec. – Feb.) accumulates on the icecaps, which the stations record. We are measuring and sampling this annual accumulation increment, and analyzing the samples in collaboration with researchers at Ohio State University. By measuring atmospheric conditions during and between snowfall events, the geochemistry of each resultant snow pack layer can be understood in the context of climate. The ‘big-picture’ objective is to improve the calibration of geochemical variations within tropical ice cores. More information on our old website!

css.php