Science in Switzerland: the women driving change

Let’s Talk: polar research and our struggling planet

Why is polar research a priority? Two leading Swiss-based scientists tell us about their experiences in extreme climates.

This content was published on October 27, 2022 minutes

Some may question the value of polar research when there are other problems closer to home. But what is happening in these remote regions has a knock-on effect all over the globe.

SWI invited two Swiss-based scientists to discuss their experiences – including working on the sea ice and examining the largest glacier outside the north and south poles.

Julia Schmale is a professor and head of the Extreme Environments Research Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). She studies the Earth’s atmosphere – especially how aerosols interact with clouds to influence and maybe accelerate polar warming. Schmale has spent a lot of time working on Antarctic and Arctic climate expeditions, including the MOSAiC expedition, which drifted for a year with the Arctic sea ice. She leads the GreenFjord project, one of the Swiss Polar Institute’s flagship initiatives.

Francesca Pellicciotti is a senior scientist and head of HIMAL (High Mountain Glaciers and Hydrology Group) at WSL, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research. She specialises in hydrology and what’s called the “third pole”. That’s high mountain glaciers across the world, from the Andes to Asia. In Tajikistan she’s been studying glaciers that are growing rather than shrinking as part of PAMIR, another Swiss Polar Institute flagship project.

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