News from the Research Commons

July 26, 2016

Spotlight on: Madison Smith and The Air, Sea, Ice Interface



Next spring Madison Smith will spend two months on the open sea…in the Antarctic. On an icebreaker. Madison is looking forward to her chilly trip during which she will collect data for her research looking at the increase in waves due to thinning sea ice.

Growing up in Bellingham, Madison always appreciated the water. She received her B.A. in Earth & Oceanographic Science at Bowdoin College before heading to the University of Washington. Here, she is working towards her Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus on hydrodynamics.

The dynamics of the Antarctic and Arctic oceans are changing. Madison is working towards a full understanding of the physics in the interaction between air, sea ice, and the upper ocean. Madison explains that there is a “big gap in our knowledge,” because while models for each individual part (air, ice, ocean) exist, there is no integrated model demonstrating their interaction. An integrated model is crucial to answering questions such as: How is climate change affecting our systems? How does the increase in waves affect naval traffic? What type of planning and policies are necessary to stop or at least reverse this ocean change?

Madison didn’t come to the UW seeking the polar aspect of oceanography, but she’s happy she found it. After listening to her explanation of how models facilitate predictions and planning for the future, it’s easy to see that her data collection trip to the Antarctic is extremely relevant and important.

Learn more about Madison’s research: