UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 5 | May 5, 2005

X-ray Vision: Geo-Scientist Uses Math to See Through Ice

By Brian Lin

Nicolas Lhomme knows Antarctica and Greenland inside out, literally.

He has found a way to predict the composition of ice anywhere within the massive ice-sealed areas using a secret weapon -- math.

Lhomme, who came to UBC from the University of Joseph Fourier (UJF) in the French Alps city of Grenoble, has devised a computer model that predicts, with amazing accuracy, the evolution of Antarctica and Greenland, without even putting on his snow boots.

“Polar ice sheets contain the earth’s environmental secrets,” says Lhomme. “From the composition of the ice sheets we can learn about the climate and atmospheric details going back hundreds of thousands of years.”

“I was able to learn, for example, that two-thirds of Greenland melted 125,000 years ago when the climate became particularly warm, raising the global sea level from 3.5 to 4.5 metres,” he says. “And that a similar rise of sea level could happen over the next centuries if the climate warming trend persists.”

Lhomme’s work has already received international recognition. University of California, Berkeley professor Kurt Cuffey, a world leader in the field known for his high critical standards, examined the findings and called it “one of the most important contributions to glaciology in the past five years.”

This spring, Lhomme will receive a PhD from both UBC and UJF and to celebrate, he got up close and personal with the land that he’s spent years studying. He travelled from Ushuaia, Southern Argentina, to Antarctica on a 47-foot sailboat. It was place that was easier going to, than returning from.

“On the way out, you can take the beating of crossing the Drake Passage because you’re so thrilled to go to Antarctica,” says Lhomme. “On the way back, the crew and the novelty were worn out, and strong head winds and rough seas made the crossing longer and harder.”

Lhomme’s next project will save lives. He’s developing mathematical methods to locate unexploded bombs and landmines based on electro-magnetic images taken in former war zones.

“It’s called inversion in mathematical language,” he explains. “And it allows me to take 2D measurements and turn them into 3D models, so we would know exactly how big a landmine is and how deep it is buried underground.”

- - -  

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.