Meet our scientists: Malena Andernach

Today we speak with Malena Andernach (subproject 8). She has just concluded her MSc thesis within the framework of GROCE, under the supervision of Prof. Thomas Mölg. She fell in love with Greenland, and now will continue her research with a Ph.D. at the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology. Let's hear from her how she got to this point and what drives her research!  

How did you come about doing research on Greenland?

Ever since I was a child, I have been enthusiastic about nature documentaries. Particularly the special climate and unique ecosystems of the Arctic fascinated me. I first got actively involved into polar research during my internships at the Alfred-Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven. This made me curious to learn more about the physics of the climate system and the cryosphere, so I decided to follow up with a Master’s degree in Climate and Environmental Sciences at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. The opportunity to take part in Arctic research finally opened up with my Master's thesis, in which I investigated cloud properties over Northeast Greenland.

What is your contribution to the research on Greenland?

So far, with my MSc. thesis in the frame of GROCE I have contributed to advance the understanding of the impact of Arctic clouds on the near-surface climate and surface melt of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS), particularly of the glacier Niogshalvfjerdsbræ. Regulating the amount of radiation received at the surface, summertime clouds have the potential to strongly affect surface melt processes. However, the cloud effect over Greenland is spatially and temporally variable and high-resolution information on the northeast is absent. Therefore, I have been employing numerical model-simulations to investigate the contribution of Arctic clouds to the surface energy budget and to surface melting. This knowledge is important in view of the large sea level rise equivalent stored in the marine terminating glaciers of the NEGIS, whose melting could have tremendous global implications. For the near future, I am very excited to start a Ph.D. at the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, where I will investigate the stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

What are the motivations and passions that drive you in your work?

Climate change is widely discussed these days and many people stand up for stricter climate and environmental protection. I consider it essential for myself to contribute to a better understanding of the causes and effects, in order to mitigate possible impacts on the environment and on society. Greenland is one of the regions in the world that is the most affected by global warming. The GROCE project has given me the opportunity to do research on a socially relevant topic. With model-simulations I can get an almost complete picture of the past, present and future climate and ice cover of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which I consider extremely valuable. Also, I would be thrilled if the opportunity to join an expedition to Greenland opens up one day. I think it is important to not only know one’s research area from models, data and literature, but to explore it on site to get a better impression of the enormous dimensions in Greenland.