The climate science community is mourning the loss of the pioneering climate scientist and scientist, Konrad Steffen. Koni, as known to his friends and colleagues, appeared to have fallen to his death in a deep hole in the ice crevasses known as a crevasse on Saturday while studying in Western Greenland.
With nearly 15,000 scholarly quotes about his name, Steffen, who is 68 years old, has spent his entire life studying the rapidly melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Ironically, it was the dangers created by melting around the Swiss Camp in Greenland – a research outpost he founded in 1990 – that took his life.
Jason Box, a prominent ice climatologist at the Danish and Greenland Geological Survey, spent many years with Steffen and was with him just before he disappeared.
Box said the weather was full of snow and wind at the time, distracting. He said Steffen “finally got out of the way in low, windy visibility. Koni fell into a gutter while the rest of us were working nearby, unaware. The last thing he told us was he would look at the data. “
The team conducted a lengthy search and finally found evidence in thin ice. “[We] Box wrote in a Twitter message line. “I have been told that a person cannot float in such cold freshwater 2.5 meters long. Since he cannot be found, I think he is still 8 meters underwater.”
“Personally, Koni is like a father,” Box told CBS News. “Great man. Great loss. Tears are falling all over the world.”
In a tweet earlier today, citing Steffen’s dedication to his profession, Box quoted a quote by Abraham Lincoln: “For us, the people who live here are devoted to work. The unfinished they have fought here so far has made great progress. “
This feeling has been widely shared by the scientific community. The Swiss Polar Institute, where Steffen serves as scientific director, said in a statement on its website, “We will miss Koni immensely, but are committed to continuing his mission towards contributing though. Big or small to make a difference. ” It includes a link to a video about Steffen and his work.
The statement went on to say, “We lost a great person and a real friend too soon.” A series of memories on social media have expressed kindness to Steffen’s kindness, warmth and generosity.
Steffen began his career in 1977 when he graduated from ETH Zurich, an academy with which he still collaborates. “With Koni Steffen’s death, we have lost a kind and dedicated colleague,” ETH Board Chairman Michael Hengartner said in a statement.
For many years, he held many leading positions in climate science. Most recently, Steffen has been the director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (also known as WSL) since 2012. Prior to that, he directed the Cooperative Institute. Research Environmental Science (CIRES) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a joint NOAA university.
The local newspaper Boulder, Daily Camera, describes him as an extremely active leader and connector in the iceberg, noting that “In the decades since the founding of the Swiss Camp, he has brought countless graduate students and scientists to observe the melting ice and sea level rise, as well as the filming team and a US congressional delegation. ”
The former US vice president and Nobel Prize winner for his work in the field of climate change, Al Gore, praised Steffen’s influence. Koni’s famous work as a scientist has contributed to helping the world understand more deeply about the climate crisis, Gore writes.
CIRES director Waleed Abdalati, who had Steffen as a counselor in graduate school and later learned of him as a colleague, described his passion for science as contagious.
“I just remember thinking, he liked this,” said Abdalati, “He got through on doing what he loved.