Beloved climate change scientist Konrad “Koni” Steffen loses life falling through melting glacier

Konrad Steffen: “Immense man. Immense loss. Tears falling around the world.”

Glaciologist Konrad “Koni” Steffen passed away at aged 68 on August 8 in an accident in Greenland. Steffan was a renowned researcher on rising sea levels, and died after falling into the kind of crevasse that global warming has created. “It looks like climate change actually claimed him as a victim,” a colleague said. His body was not found.

Konrad Steffen in front of mountains

Jason Box, an ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland who was with Steffen before he died, said he believed his friend “remains 8 meters down in the water,” he told CBS News. “Personally, Koni was like a father,” Box told CBS. “Immense man. Immense loss. Tears falling around the world.”

Professor Steffen contributed to the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a lead author on the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Professor Steffen was Director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and a former director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

His passion was the polar regions and he devoted his career to research on climate change and the cryosphere in the in the Arctic and Antarctic. He was also a remarkable science communicator, the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a report they sent to GreenProphet.

Steffen is highly recognized for his long-term scientific monitoring work of the Greenland ice sheet. Since 1990 every spring he went to the Swiss Camp meteorological base station in Greenland, where he worked with his colleagues collecting data on snow, ice and the atmosphere.

“The poles of the Earth are of great importance for the climatic balance of our planet. More research and knowledge of how they work is urgently needed,” Steffen said.

Steffen attended ETH Zurich, from which he received a Diploma in 1977 and a Doctor of Science degree in 1984. He was a professor at the University of Colorado, at EPFL in Lausanne and at ETH in Zurich. He was born on 2 January 1952 in Zurich, Switzerland.

A dual US and Swiss citizen, he was married and a father of two. He was a member of the International Glaciological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society. “We will deeply miss Koni, but are committed to continuing his mission towards making a contribution, big or small, to create a difference,” his colleagues from the Swiss Polar Institute said in a statement.

Swisscamp, Steffen’s research station on a glacier in Greenland.
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