In Memoriam

In late 2023, the AGU Cryosphere Section's Committee opened a form to accept contributions from community members wishing to honor lost members of the Cryosphere. Members wishing to contribute entries can do so by completing the form here.

Chuck Fowler, Research Scientist, University of Colorado, d. 2023

Contributed Reflection:

Chuck is still remembered fondly by many who credit him as a mentor and defining influence in their early careers. Chuck was known especially for his patience and openness to working with colleagues, and his impressive ability to fearlessly dive in to decipher new and unfamiliar data formats. Among his many projects, Chuck developed the initial sea ice motion and sea ice age products that are still being updated at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), as well as NSIDC’s first climatology of sea ice based on operational charts, all of which are still frequently used today. Chuck’s contributions laid the groundwork for a multitude of other products in the NSIDC data collection, and have allowed countless researchers, educators, policymakers and others to discover the meaningful changes taking place in the cryosphere. In addition to Chuck's data and software contributions, he was also a skilled instrument developer. He assisted with the first long-range flights of unmanned aircraft in the Arctic, invented a laser-based automatic landing system for a drone seaplane, developed a safety system to aid floatplanes during landing, and designed and built devices to deploy miniaturized atmospheric sensors during drone flights in the Antarctic.

Gary A Maykut, Research Professor in Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, d. 2023

Contributed Reflection:

Gary held the position of Research Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington from the early 1970s until his retirement in 2004. Gary pioneered the numerical simulation of the Arctic surface energy budget, specifically quantifying the 1-D accounting of heat by the ice cover. 

Gary’s graduate work (1971) produced the highly-cited paper “Some results from a time-dependent thermodynamic model of sea ice.” This work laid the foundation for how modern global (and regional) climate models do the "accounting" of heat by the Arctic sea ice cover. Many of the results from that work continue to bear out in current observations. In fact, on March 15, 2023, a paper was published in Nature citing this work– underscoring its ongoing relevance. 

During much of his career, he spent a significant portion of his time thinking about the thickness of sea ice: how it is changing and how it is represented in numerical models. He co-authored the fundamental paper "The Thickness Distribution of Sea Ice" (1975) on which all sea-ice modeling is based. Additionally, he co-authored the 1999 paper “Thinning of the Arctic sea-ice cover” which broke ground as an early confirmation of predicted sea ice volume loss.

Gary’s many other contributions include studies of the thermodynamics of young ice, the optical properties of sea ice, and the solar heating of the ice and upper ocean beneath the ice cover. In the 1970s, Gary, working with Norbert Untersteiner and Alan Thorndike, was instrumental in developing the Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment. This ultimately led to the formation of the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington.

Chapter 5 of “The Geophysics of Sea Ice” (The Surface Heat and Mass Balance) was penned by Gary, and remains a foundational reference. In one of his last lectures (given at the annual AGU meeting in San Francisco), Gary predicted the mode of Arctic sea ice loss we are seeing today, wherein ice is melting from “within” via melt ponds and similar structures. Gary had a deep understanding of sea ice microphysics and thermodynamics that gave him insight into such processes. 

Gary was generous with his ideas and always ready to chat about potential research projects or really anything about sea ice, earth science and even beyond. He held strong opinions, carried a big backpack, and always enjoyed a vigorous discussion.

Mark Willaims "The Snow Bear", Professor and Fellow, University of Colorado Boulder, Insititute of Arctic and Alpine Research, d. 2023

IGS obituary:

Mark absolutely loved snow and he loved sharing his passion for snow with students.  This passion transferred to countless students over the years who now work in important jobs in academia, federal labs, and in innumerable water supply and water quality management entities.  In research, Mark was an incredible integrator of concepts from different scientific sub-fields.  He also had an innate ability to reach colleagues from many disciplines, express excitement for their work, and find ways to connect them with other scientists with the intent of expanding the impact of their work.  Mark loved working on Niwot Ridge (Colorado) and he helped Niwot Ridge become a beacon of Snow and Hydrochemical research that is unparalleled in North America – and many researchers continue to benefit from this and hence owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Mark’s efforts and legacy.

 Mark tirelessly worked to understand how atmospheric pollutants move through snow and more broadly through high alpine environments, how they impact water quality, and how patterns of snowmelt and subsurface flow paths influence the biogeochemical-hydrological sensitivities to these pollutants.  Mark was a unique and powerful man who could captivate a room donning his trademark Hawaiian shirt and cheap sunglasses.  He will be remembered as an explorer of mountains, as a serious and committed scientist, as a compassionate and warm mentor, and as a friend.

Richard Armstrong, Senior Research Scientist, NSIDC (retired),  d. 2023

Contributed Reflection:

Long-time National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) scientist Richard Armstrong died August 3, 2023. He is remembered with admiration by colleagues and friends around the world.

(More information available at In Memoriam from NSIDC at

Chris Borstad, Assistant Professor, Montand State University,  d. 2023

Contributed Reflection:

Chris Borstad passed away peacefully on November 15th, 2023 in Billings, Montana. He was only 45 years old. Just over a year after accepting his dream job in the Department of Civil Engineering at Montana State University Bozeman, Chris's career came to an abrupt halt after a seizure in March 2020 that led to a brain cancer diagnosis shortly thereafter. A semi-hemispheric stroke during surgery, which paralyzed the left half of his body, was no match for Chris. Within months, he was back to cutting the grass and shoveling the driveway. While his new physical challenges kept back country skiing, long distance cycling, and remote fieldwork beyond his reach, Chris's perseverance got him back on a bike, out trekking with his dog, Nansen, and even on downhill skis. After another seizure in May 2023, Chris enjoyed one last summer with Nansen at the home he loved in Bozeman. He passed away on November 15, 2023 in Billings after an almost 4 year battle with brain cancer and complications from a fall in the preceding weeks.

Those who knew Chris will tell you that he was a remarkable guy who was loved by everyone he met. He was brilliant, had the best sense of humour, and an exuberant enjoyment of life. Even after his diagnosis and the hardships that ensued, Chris made the best of every day and fought hard to recover as best he could. He leaves behind many friends and family who miss him deeply. We would be grateful if you could share any photos, stories, and reflections of your time spent with Chris

William ("Bill") Francis Budd, Emeritus Professor, Hobart,  d. 2022

Contributed Reflection:

Bill Budd was a founding figure in Australian glaciology, and the first glaciology program leader of the Australian Antarctic Division. Bill worked on an enormous range of glaciological and meteorological problems covering numerical modelling of ice sheets and glaciers; ice mechanics; ice crystallography; ice core paleoclimatic studies; relationships between sea ice and climate; and katabatic wind and snow drift studies. Bill introduced and led studies of ice sheet mass budget, ice rheology, ice sheet thermodynamics, iceberg distribution and movement, drifting snow, sea ice and climate interactions and much more. He initiated Australian ice core drilling, radio echo sounding of ice thickness and satellite remote sensing of ice. Much of what Bill Budd initiated more than fifty years ago remains core to the present-day Australian Antarctic glaciological research program.

Link to the IGS obituary: