A new NASA sea level simulator allows anyone with a home computer to try their hand at do-it-yourself glacier modeling.


A new NASA research tool lets you run your own climate modeling experiment.

My name's Eric Larour. I'm a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I work on the Ice Sheet System Model, which is a software at NASA that we use to predict the evolution of polar ice caps.

The Columbia Glacier is a very large glacier in Alaska that is melting fast. What we would like to do here is understand what happens to this glacier if we increase the amount of snow that falls on it.

We have built an interface on the website called "VESL"--which is the Virtual Earth

System Laboratory--where you can carry out simulations the way we scientists

at NASA do. We have a very nice simple setup here with a slider, which controls the snow that falls onto the glacier. You can slide it to the right side, increasing the amount of snow, to the left side decreasing the amount of snow. Then you just click

on "Run" here.

We are grabbing, literally, this glacier. Packaging it. Send it to... to a NASA server. Running it on the ISSM software itself that we rely on. And we are downloading the

results back to this website and displaying it as a movie here.

All the red spots here on this glacier are showing an increase in thickness. You can see that not every area has the same amount of thickness. And the valleys seem to be collecting most of the snow. It's not something you can guess just by observing the system.

Nothing that you use on VESL is prerecorded or like a video on YouTube. It is really something that is being simulated on the fly using NASA servers.

Check out other simulations we have on the VESL website. One of my favorites is the

evolution of sea level along the coastlines of Texas or Florida. You can really see the impact of the evolution of polar ice caps on the local coastline.


View all Videos