Stefan Ligtenberg
PostDoctoral researcher

About me

I am a postdoctoral researcher in polar meteorology and glaciology at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU), Utrecht University, The Netherlands.


Latest publications

16 Feb. 2017
The Firn Model Intercomparison Project paper is out, published in Journal of Glaciology. Details.

25 Jan. 2017
Results of the seismic experiments around the firn aquifer site in southeast Greenland, published in Frontiers of Earth Science. Details.

21 Jan. 2017
Model comparison of firn meltwater retention on the Greenland Ice Sheet, published in Frontiers of Earth Science. Details.

08 Dec. 2016
Spectacular meltwater features found in an East Antarctic ice shelf, published in Nature Climate Change. Details.


Welcome to my website! My name is Stefan Ligtenberg, and I work as a PostDoctoral researcher at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU) in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

In 2010, I started my PhD at IMAU under the supervision of Michiel van den Broeke. I developed the firn densification model IMAU-FDM to study spatial and temporal variability of the Antarctic firn layer and the subsequent effect on surface elevation changes. With the inclusion of a meltwater module, the IMAU-FDM is capable to assess changes in both dry and wet firn simulatenaously. Parallel to this, I simulated the future surface mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet with our regional climate model RACMO2, as a contribution to the EU-project Ice2sea. On 23 April 2014, I defended my thesis, called "The present and future state of the Antarctic firn layer".

Currently, my research focusses on heterogeneous percolation of meltwater in snow and firn. In Antarctica, almost all meltwater refreezes locally in the cold firn pack. On Greenland however, it is shown that meltwater can heterogeneously infiltarte the firn pack ("piping") and also show horizontal flow behaviour under certain conditions. I try to include these effects in our IMAU-FDM. To read more about my research activities, see the research section or my publications.


12 June 2015
For the first time, the modeled firn compaction rates from our IMAU firn model have been evaluated with independent observations!
Today, these results have been published in a tandem-paper together with Brooke Medley from NASA in the Annals of Glaciology. By using repeat-track radar profiles from Operation IceBridge, we were able to measure the depth of individual firn horizons oin following years. By differencing these depth the firn compaction rate at various depth can be measured. Averaged to the model resolution, the simulation results and observations show very good spatial and temporal agreement. On the smaller scale, the observations reveal a much more detailed pattern of accumulation variability resulting in compaction rate variability.
For more details, see here

22 May 2015
Our paper reporting the sudden ice loss of glaciers in the southern Antarctic Peninsula has been published today in Science.
Using a combination of Cryosat-II altimetry and GRACE measurements, we found that this region has lost more than 50 Gt of ice per year since 2009. The increase in dynamic ice loss is caused by warmer oceanwater melting the ice shelves and glaciers from below. The study received international media attention, including the BBC (with a very helpful interview with lead author Bert Wouters) and the Guardian.
Also in The Netherlands the study was picked up by the written media (NOS, and de Volkskrant and de Telegraaf) and I was interviewed on national radio (BNR radio: listen back).

16 March 2015
Today, our paper in Nature Climate Change on the increasing Antarctic accumulation with atmospheric warming got published. Consistent evidence for 5% accumulation increase per degree of warming is found in several model simulation and ice cores. The study received some media attention, with an article in De Volkskrant.

26 November 2014
My participation in the SEES expedition to Edgeøya (Svalbard, NO) is confirmed today!
Coming August, I will join a group of Dutch scientists, journalists, and other enthusiasts on a scientific cruise around the island of Edgeøya in south-eastern Svalbard. This cruise is organised as a follow-up of previous visits of Dutch ecologists to Edgeøya around 1970-80. This time however, the expedition will be much broader and combines all polar research topics in The Netherlands; climate, oceanography, biology, ecology, etc. Our contribution will be to install an automatic weather station (AWS) and temperature sensors to measure the climate on Edgeøya and the melt of winter snow.
For more details, see the SEES website.

23 April 2014
It is dr. S.R.M. Ligtenberg from now on! Today, I successfully defended my PhD thesis. A hard copy of my thesis is avaiable on request, or you can download a digital version here.

15 September 2013
Today, our Nature paper on calving fluxes and melt rates of Antarctic ice shelves got published.

11 March 2013
Our paper in Climate Dynamics describing the future climate and surface mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet has been accepted, just in time for the IPCC deadline... Details.

30 November 2012
Today the Science paper of the IMBIE project group got published! Here is a radio interview with Michiel van den Broeke about the paper (in Dutch).

4 November 2012
Our GRL paper on the seaonsal "breathing" of the Antarctic ice sheet has been accepted! Details.

1 May 2012
Sunday, I made my debut on national radio, during the 'Vroege Vogels' show on Radio 1. Listen here at 1:28:25

26 April 2012
Today our Nature paper got published, including a lot of media attention (NOS).

27 January 2011
Finally! It took a while, but my website is now up and running.