Konrad Steffen
(Inset photo credit: World Meteorological Organization / Flickr – cropped)

Many who closely follow climate change are lamenting the tragic death of Konrad Steffen, an accomplished and charismatic scientist who died August 8 in a crevasse-fall accident at his long-term research station, Swiss Camp, high on Greenland’s ice sheet. Media coverage of his death was extraordinarily wide for a climate researcher, with notices from Canada to Guam, Macau to Lebanon, from Barrons and Business Insider to USA Today and celebritiesdeaths.com.

A good proportion of these notices quote the excellent obituary in the Washington Post by Matt Schudel. The piece gives attention both to Steffen’s larger-than-life adventurer personality and to his important scientific work on the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet and its worldwide implications.

An older piece that similarly balances these two aspects of Steffen’s life is a 2007 article in Popular Science by Tom Clynes. Among other things, Clynes offers a snapshot of what was newly understood about ice sheet behavior thirteen years ago, in large part based on Steffen’s work. (That picture today, in short, looks worse all around.)

Should you want to see and hear Steffen speak on video, you are in luck. His skills included explaining and translating science into everyday language, both for ordinary people and for policy makers around the globe.

If you’ll only watch one brief video, make it this very good 11 minutes from a now-retired online course from the European Space Agency.

To learn more from Steffen about his science, watch this 3-minute interview about the state of Peru’s glaciers (with glaciologist Lonnie Thompson) and Greenland’s ice sheets (Steffen), by YCC’s Peter Sinclair; and “The Melting of Greenland,” a 32-minute talk Steffen gave in Venice in 2017.

Finally, if you have a bit over an hour, watch the beautiful and thought-provoking 2016 documentary film by Corinna Gamma, Sila and the Gatekeepers of the Arctic, which juxtaposes the worldviews, daily lives, work, and technologies of Steffen and other scientists at Swiss Camp with those of the indigenous Greenland Inuit.


This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

Topics: Arts & Culture