Kopec Leads Climate Change Research in Arctic

Kopec Leads Climate Change Research in Arctic
Kopec Leads Climate Change Research in Arctic

February 02, 2016

Growing up on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in Rochester, N.Y., Ben Kopec '10 always loved the water. But it wasn't until he was a Susquehanna University student in Kathy Straub's course, "Climate and Global Change," that he decided to study climate change.

Kopec, a former earth and environmental sciences major, is currently enrolled as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., but his graduate studies have taken him far outside New England. His research into the effects on melting Arctic sea ice on precipitation was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and reported by the Christian Science Monitor and The Huffington Post.

Kopec and his fellow researchers examined the measurements and chemical composition of the precipitation at six sites across the Arctic between 1990 and 2012. That data was compared to how the sea ice changed during the same period.

They found that as sea ice diminished, more precipitation fell and that the precipitation came from Arctic sources. In other words, their findings indicated that less sea ice increased evaporation from water bodies in the Arctic and thus increased precipitation. Final tallies found that as sea ice shrinks by 38,610 square miles (100,000 square kilometers), the percentage of precipitation sourced from the Arctic increases by 18.2 percent in the Canadian Arctic and 10.8 percent in the Greenland Sea regions.

Future implications of this trend are not yet clear, and temperature will play a major role, Kopec said. His future research will be an effort to predict if future precipitation in the Arctic is more likely to be rain or snow.

Prior to arriving at Dartmouth, Kopec spent his undergraduate years conducting research at Susquehanna under the mentorship of Ahmed Lachhab, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences. With Lachhab, Kopec studied the water quality of the Susquehanna River and Middle Creek, Snyder County, and the hydrology of the Montandon Marsh, Union County.

"It prepared me well," Kopec said. "I was able to jump into the work when I first got here, already having had the knowledge background. It set me up to be a very successful graduate student."

Kopec is featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Susquehanna Currents!

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