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Antarctica's Jacobel Glacier named after St. Olaf professor

By Carole Engblom
September 24, 2003

The United States Board on Geographic Names, acting on a recommendation of the United States Geological Survey, named an Antarctic glacier the "Jacobel Glacier" in 2003 in recognition of St. Olaf Professor of Physics Robert W. Jacobel who has conducted research in Antarctica for the past 15 years.

Jacobel was honored along with several of his contemporaries who have made significant contributions to understanding the dynamics of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet through a sustained program of field research.

Glacier named after Bob Jacobel
Glacier named after St. Olaf Physics professor Bob Jacobel. The glacier can be seen in the center of the upper half of the map. Click photo to enlarge.
"I was both surprised - and pleased - that I am still alive to be aware of the honor," says Jacobel. "Most of the names of geologic features down there bring to mind the early-to-mid 20th-century exploration history of Antarctica. I think the best part is that several of us who have worked together in Antarctica over the past decade or so share the honor of having neighboring features with our names, so we will be linked in geography as well as in science literature. That has a good feel to it."

Antarctica, a continent of extremes, is a vital part of the earth's ecosystem affecting both atmospheric circulation and circulation of deep ocean waters, two key elements in the global climate system. Jacobel, who also serves as director of the St. Olaf Environmental Studies program, has traveled to Antarctica six times to conduct research, integrating meteorology, chemistry, surface glaciology and geophysics. His research utilizes the tools of satellite imagery and a deep ice-penetrating radar system designed by Jacobel and St. Olaf physics students to study the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets.

Jacobel and Brian Welch, a St. Olaf instructor in Environmental Studies, lead the Center for Geophysical Studies of Ice and Climate (CEGSIC), a National Science Foundation-sponsored research project based in the St. Olaf Physics Department. St. Olaf science students who participate in CEGSIC are conducting research to understand the response of the world's ice masses to global change. They are currently involved with projects in arctic Sweden and with the U.S. International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (US-ITASE) traverse in West Antarctica, as well as ongoing projects in the Washington Cascades and Alaska.

Contact Carole Engblom at 646-3271 or