Dr Rob Massom: BSc (Hons), PhD

Research interests

I am a sea ice physical scientist with a passion for polar research that dates back to 1980, when I joined the Sea Ice Group at Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI, University of Cambridge, UK). Since then, I have worked both in the Arctic (1980–1992) and the Antarctic (1986-present), and have participated on 15 major field research campaigns on polar sea ice.

After completing my PhD at SPRI in 1989 (a satellite- and drifting buoy-based analysis of an annual sea ice cycle in the Weddell Sea), I embarked on a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship to the Oceans and Ice Branch of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the USA (working with Dr Joey Comiso). My ingoing adventure then brought me to Tasmania in 1992, to take up a position at the then newly-formed Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Environment. I subsequently joined the Australian Antarctic Division in 2006, while also leading sea ice activities within the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC until 2019. I currently lead the AAD Sea Ice Processes and Change Group as a principal research scientist within the Antarctic Climate Program, and am also a member of the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP Project 6 Sea Ice).

My current research interests include:

  • Satellite and other remote sensing measurement and monitoring of polar snow and ice properties and distribution, and the development of remote sensing techniques;
  • The nature and drivers of large-scale change and variability in the distribution and properties of Antarctic sea ice (both moving pack ice and coastal fast ice);
  • The physical and ecological effects of sea ice change and variability (including extreme meteorological events);
  • Field observation of sea ice and snow cover properties, processes and interactions, towards improved numerical modelling of the coupled Antarctic sea ice physical and biological system, and validation of satellite remote sensing techniques and datasets;
  • The thickness, properties and role of snow in the sea ice environment;
  • Antarctic coastal processes and interactions between sea ice, icebergs and floating ice-sheet margins, including the role of sea ice (loss) in ice shelf stabilization (calving/break up); and
  • Antarctic coastal polynyas.

Current projects

  • “A susceptibility index for ice shelf disintegration due to sea ice loss and swell impacts” (Project #4528)
  • “Integrated observations of Antarctic land-fast sea ice physical and biological processes during the spring transition” (Project #4546)
  • Mapping and monitoring of Antarctic coastal landfast sea ice from space.

International/national representation and collaborations

  • Partner Investigator in the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP) Project 6 - Sea Ice
  • Partner Investigator in the Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science (ACEAS)
  • Past member of Science Steering Group of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Climate and Cryosphere (CliC) project
  • Contributing author (Antarctic sea ice change and variability) to Intrergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report 2013, Working Group I The Physical Science Basis, “Chapter 4: Observations: Cryosphere
  • Contributing author (Antarctic sea ice change and variability) to IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (to be finalized in 2021), Working Group I The Physical Science Basis, “Chapter 2: Changing State of the Climate System”: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-i/
  • Lead/co-author author (since 2007) of the Antarctic sea ice section of the annual NOAA/American Meteorological Society State of the Climate reviews. Past reports are available from: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams
  • The Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate program of WCRP CliC and SCAR: http://aspect.antarctica.gov.au/
  • My work benefits from cross-diciplinary collaboration with multiple national and international colleagues, including: Drs Klaus Meiners, Petra Heil and Glenn Hyland (AAD); Drs Alex Fraser, Will Hobbs and Pat Wongpan (AAPP); Drs Barry Giles and Roland Warner (Univ. of Tasmania); Drs Phil Reid and Jan Lieser (Australian Bureau of Meterology), Dr Mike Pook (CSIRO, retired); Dr Luke Bennetts (Univ. of Adelaide); Drs Joey Comiso and Melinda Webster (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA); Drs Sharon Stammerjohn and Ted Scambos (Univ. of Colorado, USA); Drs Dan Lubin and Helen Fricker (Scripps Inst. of Oceanography, USA); Dr Matthew Sturm (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA); Dr Kazuya Kusahara (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology); Dr Takeshi Tamura and Prof. Shuki Ushio (National Inst. of Polar Research, Japan); Drs Takenobu Toyota and Kay Ohshima (Univ. of Hokkaido, Japan); Hiroyasu Hasumi (University of Tokyo, Japan); Ted Maksym and Sara Labrousse (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution); Dr Sebastian Gerland (Norwegian Polar Inst.); Profs. Pat Langhorne and Vernon Squire (Univ. of Otago, New Zealand); Dr Sandra Barreira (Argentine Navy Meteorological Service); and Prof. David Barber (Univ. of Manitoba, Canada).

Key outcome areas

Related links

Selected publications


Lubin, D., and R.A. Massom, 2006. Polar Remote Sensing. Volume 1: Atmosphere and Polar Oceans. Praxis/Springer. Chichester, UK and Berlin, Germany, 756 pages. Doi: 10.1007/3-540-30785-0

Massom, R.A., and D. Lubin, 2006, Polar Remote Sensing. Volume 2: Ice Sheets. Praxis/Springer. Chichester, UK and Berlin, Germany, 426 pages. Doi:10.1007/3-540-30565-3

Massom, R., 1991. Satellite Remote Sensing of Polar Regions: Applications, Limitations and Data Availability. Belhaven Press, London, and Lewis Publishers (CRC Press), Boca Raton, USA, 307 pages.

Book chapters

Sturm, M. and R.A. Massom. 2017. Snow in the Sea Ice System: Friend or Foe? In: D. Thomas (editor): Sea Ice. 3rd Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, New York (USA) and Oxford (UK), pp. 65-109. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118778371.ch3

Massom, R. A. 2009. Principal Uses of Remote Sensing in Sea-Ice Field Research. In: H. Eicken (editor), Handbook on Field Techniques in Sea-Ice Research, University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, USA, pp. 405–466.

Barber, D. G., and R. A. Massom. 2007. The Role of Sea Ice in Arctic and Antarctic Polynyas. In: W. O. Smith and D. G. Barber (Editors), Polynyas: Windows to the World’s Oceans, pp. 1–54, Elsevier, Amsterdam. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0422-9894(06)74001-6

Worby, A.P., R.A. Massom, I. Allison, V.I. Lytle, and P. Heil. 1998. East Antarctic Sea Ice: A Review of its Structure, Properties and Drift. In: Jeffries, M.O. (editor), Antarctic Sea Ice Physical Processes, Interactions and Variability, Antarctic Research Series, 74, pp. 41-68, AGU, Washington D. C. https://doi.org/10.1029/AR074p0041

Sturm, M., K. Morris, and R. Massom. 1998. The Winter Snow Cover of the West Antarctic Pack Ice: Its Spatial and Temporal Variability. In: Jeffries, M.O. (editor), Antarctic Sea Ice Physical Processes, Interactions and Variability, Antarctic Research Series, 74, pp. 19-40, AGU, Washington D. C. https://doi.org/10.1029/2007jc004239

Scientific papers

Reid, P., S. Stammerjohn, R.A. Massom, S. Barreira, T. Scambos, and J.L. Lieser. 2020. (Antarctica) Sea ice extent, concentration, and seasonality [in "State of the Climate in 2019"], Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 101(8), S304-S306, https://doi.org/10.1175/2020BAMSStateoftheClimate.1.

Fraser, A.D., K.I. Ohshima, S. Nihashi, R.A. Massom, T. Tamura, K. Nakata, G.D. Williams, S. Carpentier and S. Willmes. 2019. Landfast ice controls on sea-ice production in the Cape Darnley Polynya: A case study. Remote Sensing of Environment, 233, 111315. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2019.111315

Kusahara, K., Williams, G.D., Massom, R., Reid, P. and Hasumi, H. 2019. Spatiotemporal dependence of Antarctic sea ice variability to dynamic and thermodynamic forcing: A coupled ocean-sea ice model study. Climate Dynamics, 52(7-8), 3791-3807. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-018-4348-3

Webster, M., S. Gerland, M. Holland, E. Hunke, R. Kwok, O. Lecomte, R. Massom, D. Perovich and M. Sturm. 2018. Snow in the changing sea-ice systems. Nature Climate Change, 8, 946-953. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0286-7

Massom, R.A., Scambos, T.A., Bennetts, L.G., Reid, P., Squire, V.A. and Stammerjohn, S.E. 2018. Antarctic ice shelf disintegration triggered by sea ice loss and ocean swell. Article in Nature 558, 383-389. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0212-1

Kusahara K, G.D. Williams, R. Massom, P. Reid and H. Hasumi. 2017. Roles of wind stress and thermodynamic forcing in recent trends in Antarctic sea ice and Southern Ocean SST: An ocean-sea ice model study. Global and Planetary Change, 158, 103-118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2017.09.012

Massom, R.A., A.B. Giles, R.C. Warner, H.A. Fricker, B. Legrésy, G. Hyland, L. Lescarmontier, and N. Young. 2015. External influences on the Mertz Glacier Tongue (East Antarctica) in the decade leading up to its calving in 2010. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 120. https://doi.org/10.1002/2014jf003223

Reid P. and Massom R.A. 2015. Successive Antarctic sea ice extent records during 2012, 2013 and 2014, In: State of the Climate in 2014. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 96 (7), S163-S164.

Kennicutt, M. C. et al. including R.A. Massom. 2014. A roadmap for Antarctic and Southern Ocean science for the next two decades and beyond. Antarctic Science, 27(1), 3-18. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102014000674

Kennicutt, M., S.L. Chown, J. Cassano, D. Liggett, R. Massom, L. Peck, S. Rintoul, J. Storey, D. Vaughan, T. Wilson, and W.J. Sutherland. 2014. Polar research: Six priorities for Antarctic science. Nature, 512, 23-25. https://doi.org/10.1038/512023a

Massom, R.A., P. Reid, S. Stammerjohn, B. Raymond, A. Fraser and S. Ushio. 2013. Change & variability in East Antarctic sea ice seasonality, 1979/80-2009/10. PloS ONE, 8(5), e64756. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0064756

Maksym, T., S.E. Stammerjohn, S. Ackley & R. Massom. 2012. Antarctic sea ice – A polar opposite? Oceanography, 25(3), 140-151, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2012.88

Stammerjohn, S., R. Massom, D. Rind & D. Martinson. 2012. Regions of rapid sea ice change: An inter-hemispheric seasonal comparison. Geophysical Research Letters, 39, L06501, doi:10.1029/2012GL050874.

Fraser, A.D., R.A. Massom, K.J. Michael, B.K. Galton-Fenzi and J.L. Lieser. 2012. East Antarctic landfast sea-ice distribution & variability, 2000-2008. Journal of Climate, 25, 1137-1156. https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-10-05032.1

Massom, R.A. and S.E. Stammerjohn. 2010. Antarctic sea ice change and variability – Physical and ecological implications. Polar Science, 4, 149-186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polar.2010.05.001

Massom, R.A., A.B. Giles, H.A. Fricker, R.C. Warner, B. Legresy, G. Hyland, N. Young and A.D. Fraser. 2010. Examining the interaction between multi-year landfast sea ice and the Mertz Glacier Tongue, East Antarctica: Another factor in ice sheet stability? Journal of Geophysical Research. 115, C12027. https://doi.org/10.1029/2009jc006083

Massom, R.A., K. Hill, C. Barbraud, N. Adams, A. Ancel, L. Emmerson and M.J. Pook. 2009. Fast ice distribution in Adélie Land, East Antarctica: Interannual variability and implications for Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 374, 243-257. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07734

Giles, A.B., R.A. Massom and R.C. Warner. 2009. A method for sub-pixel scale feature-tracking using Radarsat images applied to the Mertz Glacier Tongue, East Antarctica. Remote Sensing of Environment, 113, 1691-1699. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2009.03.015

Massom R., S. Stammerjohn, W. Lefebvre, S. Harangozo, N. Adams, T. Scambos, M. Pook and C. Fowler. 2008. West Antarctic Peninsula sea ice in 2005: Extreme ice compaction and ice edge retreat due to strong anomaly with respect to climate. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, C02S20. https://doi.org/10.1029/2007jc004239

Rintoul, S.R., S. Sokolov and R.A. Massom. 2008. Rapid development and persistence of a massive Antarctic sea ice tongue. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, C07045, doi:10.1029/2007JC004541. https://doi.org/10.1029/2007jc004541

Lubin, D. and R. Massom. 2007. Remote sensing of Earth’s polar regions. Opportunities for computational science. IEEE Computing in Science and Engineering, 9(1), 58-71. https://doi.org/10.1109/mcse.2007.16

Massom, R.A., Stammerjohn, S.E., Smith, R.C., Pook, M.J., Iannuzzi, R.A., Adams, N., Martinson, D.G., Vernet, M., Fraser, W.R., Quetin, L.B., Ross, R.M., Massom, Y. and Krouse, H.R. 2006. Extreme anomalous atmospheric circulation in the West Antarctic Peninsula region in austral spring and summer 2001/2, and its profound impact on sea ice and biota. Journal of Climate, 19, 3544-3571. https://doi.org/10.1175/jcli3805.1

Massom, R.A., Worby, A.P., Lytle, V.I., Markus, T., Allison, I., Scambos, T., Enomoto, H., Tateyama, K., Haran, T., Comiso, J.C., Pfaffling, A., Tamura, T., Muto, A., Kanagaratnam, P. and Giles, B. 2006. ARISE (Antarctic Remote Ice Sensing Experiment) in the East 2003: Validation of satellite derived sea ice data products. Annals of Glaciology, 44, 288-296. https://doi.org/10.3189/172756406781811268

Massom, R.A., Pook, M.J., Comiso, J.C., Adams, N., Turner, J., Lachlan-Cope, T. and Gibson, T.T. 2004. Precipitation over the interior East Antarctic Ice Sheet related to mid-latitude blocking-high activity. Journal of Climate, 17(10), 1914–1928. https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(2004)017%3C1914:POTIEA%3E2.0.CO;2

Massom, R.A., Jacka, K., Pook, M.J., Fowler, C., Adams, N., Bindoff, N. (2003) An anomalous late-season change in the regional sea ice regime in the vicinity of the Mertz Glacier Polynya, East Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research 108 (5), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1029/2002jc001354

Massom, R.A., H. Eicken, C. Haas, M.O. Jeffries, M.R. Drinkwater, M. Sturm, A.P. Worby, X. Wu, V.I. Lytle, S. Ushio, K. Morris, P.A. Reid, S. Warren, and I. Allison. 2001. Snow on Antarctic sea ice. Reviews of Geophysics, 39(3), 413-445. https://doi.org/10.1029/2000RG000085

Massom, R.A., K. Hill, V. I. Lytle, A. Worby, and I. Allison. 2001. Effects of regional fast-ice and iceberg distributions on the behaviour of the Mertz Glacier Polynya, East Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology, 33, 391-398. https://doi.org/10.3189/1998aog27-1-420-426

Massom, R.A., J.C. Comiso, A.P. Worby, V.I. Lytle, and L. Stock. 1999. Satellite and in situ observations of regional classes of sea ice cover in the East Antarctic pack in winter. Remote Sensing of Environment, 68(1), 61-76. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0034-4257(98)00100-x

Massom, R.A., P. T. Harris, K. Michael, and M.J. Potter. 1998. The distribution and formative processes of latent heat polynyas in East Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology, 27, 420-426. https://doi.org/10.3189/1998AoG27-1-420-426

Massom, R.A., M.R. Drinkwater, and C. Haas. 1997. Winter snowcover on sea ice in the Weddell Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research, 102(C1), 1101–1117. https://doi.org/10.1029/98jc01617

Massom, R.A. 1992. Observing the advection of sea ice in the Weddell Sea using buoy and satellite passive microwave data. Journal of Geophysical Research, 97(C10), 15,559–15,572. https://doi.org/10.1029/92JC01198

See more of Dr Massom’s publications in Google Scholar

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1533-5084

WARP: https://rmdb.research.utas.edu.au/public/rmdb/q/indiv_detail_warp_trans/1520

Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rob_Massom