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Earth and Space Sciences Faculty

Portrait Photo

Eric J. Steig
Professor, Earth & Space Sci.
Director, Δ*IsoLab
Adjunct Prof., Atmospheric Sciences

Office: Johnson Hall 351   
Phone: 206-685-3715
Fax: 206-543-3836 (shared)
Δ*IsoLab: 206-543-6327

Photo: Exploring the countryside on Hven, Sweden, during a sabbatical visit to the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Source: PIK

Areas of Interest:
Stable isotopes, glaciology, climatology

Department Affiliations
Glaciology , Stable Isotope Lab (IsoLab)

Other UW Academic Affiliations:
Quaternary Research Center, Program on Climate Change Atmospheric Sciences


  • Drilling the new 1500-m South Pole ice core began, December 8th, 2014. SPicecore.org
  • Calibrated, high-precision measurements of 17O-excess of water by cavity ring down laser spectroscopy, in Atmospheric Measurement Techniques.
  • New paper on 17O-excess data from WAIS Divide, Antarctica. It's temperature and sea ice, not humidity. See our paper led by Spruce Schoenemann in JGR: doi:10.1002/2014JD021770.
  • New paper on evaluating the Antarctic observation system, with an eye toward new weather station deployment: Karin Bumbaco et al. in Monthly Weather Review.
  • New paper on South Pole: "The 1500 m South Pole ice core: Recovering a 40,000 year environmental record". Annals of Glaciology, (2014).

    Background & Current Research:
    Eric Steig completed his PhD in Geological Sciences at UW in 1995, was Research Associate at the University of Colorado and Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to UW in 2001. He directed the Quaternary Research Center from 2008-2013 and launched the current Future of Ice Initiative. He is the founder of ISOLAB, a state-of-the art isotope geochemistry facility involving research ranging from climate and atmospheric chemistry to geobiology.

    Steig teaches environmental earth science, isotope geochemistry and paleoclimatology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. With his graduate students, postdocs, and lab staff, he uses various methods to develop time series of past environmental changes as a context for understanding contemporary and possible future change. Current focus areas include recent temperature and snow accumulation variability in Antarctica; development and application of methods to measure nitrogen isotope concentrations in atmospheric "odd-N" species (HNO3, NO2, NO), and the Δ17O oxygen isotope anomaly in both odd-N and water; and acquisition of ice cores from both Antarctica and temperate alpine regions. He is also collaborating with paleontologist Peter Ward on research at the K-T and other 'mass extinction' boundaries in the geologic record. Research support is from the National Science Foundation's Polar and Atmospheric Sciences Programs, and from the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS).

    He has been a contributor to science planning for glaciological and solid-earth geosciences in the polar regions, to international efforts to track pollution in the Arctic, and to archive and sample allocation at the National Ice Core Laboratory. He is a current member of the NSF-funded Ice Core Working Group and the steering committee for the International Partnerships in Ice Coring Sciences (IPICS) initiative. Steig served as Associate Editor (2001-2004) and Senior Editor (2005-2008) of the journal Quaternary Research, and continues as Special Editor for occasional solicited papers of interest. Steig is active in public education, and has given lectures to organizations such as the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on the Washington State coast, and the Nature Conservancy. He is a founding member and contributor to the influential climate science web site, "RealClimate.org"

    More information on Steig's research is available at the lab web pages and the research group web pages listed above. Check the "Dissertations" page to find out about our former students, and what they are doing now at NCAR, NASA, and unversities around the world.

    Selected Papers

    Complete list of publications at Google Scholar.

    Casey KA, Fudge TJ, Neumann TA, Steig EJ, Cavitte MGP, Blankenship DD. The 1500 m South Pole ice core: recovering a 40 ka environmental record. Annals of Glaciology 55(68): 137-146 (2014).

    Steig EJ, Gkinis V, Schauer AJ, Schoenemann SW, Samek K, Hoffnagle J, Dennis KJ, Tan SM. Calibrated high-precision 17O-excess measurements using cavity ring-down spectroscopy with laser-current-tuned cavity resonance. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, 7: 2421-2435 (2014).

    Marcott SA, Bauska TK, Buizert C, Steig EJ, Rosen JL, Cuffey KM, Fudget TJ, Severinghaus JP, Ahn J, Kalk ML, McConnell JR, Sowers T, Taylor KC, White JWC, Brook EJ. Centennial-scale changes in the glboal carbon cycle during the last deglaciation. Nature 514: 616-619 (2014).

    Dutrieux P, de Rydt J, Jenkins A, Holland PR, Ha HK, Lee SH, Steig EJ, Ding Q, Abrahamsen EP, Schröder M. Strong sensitivity of Pine Island Ice shelf melting to climatic variability. Science, 343: 174-178 (2014).

    Steiger N, Hakim G, Steig EJ, Battisti DS, Roe G. Assimilation of time-averaged pseudoproxies for climate reconstruction. Journal of Climate 27: 426-441 (2014).

    WAIS Divide Project Members. Onset of deglacial warming in West Antarctica driven by local orbital forcing. Nature, 500: 440-444 (2013).

    Ding Q, Wallace JW, Battisti DS, Steig EJ, Gallant AJE, Kim HJ, Geng L. Tropical forcing of the recent rapid Arctic warming in northeastern Canada and Greenland. Nature, 509, 209-212 (2014).

    Steig EJ, Ding Q, White JCW, Küttel M, Rupper SB, Neumann TA, Neff P, Gallant A, Mayewski PA, Taylor DC, Hoffmann G, Dixon DA, Schoenemann S, Markle B, Schneider DP, Fudge TJ, Schauer AJ, Teel RP, Vaughn B, Burgener L, Williams J, Korotkikh E. Recent climate and ice-sheet change in West Antarctica compared to the past 2000 years. Nature Geoscience 6: 372-375 (2013).

    Schoenemann SW, Schauer AJ, Steig EJ. Measurement of SLAP2 and GISP δ17O and proposed VSMOW-SLAP normalization for δ17O and 17Oexcess.Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometery 27: 582-590 (2013).

    Neff PD, Steig EJ, Clark DH, McConnell JR, Pettit EC, Menounos B. Ice-core records of net snow accumulation and seasonal snow chemistry at a temperate-glacier site: Mount Waddington, southwest British Columbia, Canada. Journal of Glaciology (PDF) 58: 1165-1175 (2012).

    Ding Q, Steig EJ, Battisti DS, Wallace JM. Influence of the tropics on the Southern Annular Mode. Journal of Climate 25: 6330–63 (2012).

    Perren BB, Wolfe AP, Cooke CA, Funder SV, Kjaer KJ, Mazzuchi D, Steig EJ. 20th Century warming revives the world’s northernmost lake. Geology, 40, 1003-1006 (2012).

    Steig EJ, Ding Q, Battisti DS, Jenkins A. Tropical forcing of circumpolar deep water inflow and outlet glacier thinning in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology 53: 19-28 (2012).

    Hastings MG, Jarvis JC, Steig EJ. Anthropogenic impacts on nitrogen isotopes of ice-core nitrate. Science 324: 1288 (2009).

    Steig EJ, Schneider DP, Rutherford SD, Mann ME, Comiso JC, Shindell DT. Warming of the Antarctic ice sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year. Nature 457: 459-462 (2009).

    Last Modified:November, 2014

    Earth and Space Sciences

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