A well-known Swiss-American scientist on climate change has died after falling into a curb while studying ice in Greenland, authorities and reports said on Wednesday.
Konrad Steffen, director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), was working near Ilulissat on Saturday when he was reported missing, police said.
A rescue operation was launched but was eventually abandoned without finding the body of the 68-year-old researcher.
“We have found signs that the person fell into a crack in the glacier,” police spokesman Brian Thomsen told the local newspaper Sermitsiaq.
“An accident has probably happened and it is very likely that the person in question will die,”; Thomsen added.
His death was confirmed by the WSL in a statement Monday, which said the institute staff were “shocked and upset” by Steffen’s loss.
“We have lost not only the Director of our institute, but also a dedicated scientist and above all a unique and generous person and friend,” the statement said. “We will all miss him.”
His scientist Kathy Riklin said it looked like a snow bridge had collapsed under Steffen, causing him to fall on the ridge, Agence France-Presse reported.
The tragic accident occurred less than a mile from the Steffen research station established in 1990 – known as the “Swiss Camp” – where he made an annual expedition.
With the help of NASA and the United States National Science Foundation, Steffen had built a network of automated weather stations there. At the time of the accident he was doing maintenance at these stations, according to Hegg.
Steffen’s 30-year study observing the changing nature of the Greenland ice sheet confirmed rising temperatures and sea levels, the most distinctive features of climate change, The Washington Post reported.
In 2017, he testified before Congress about the amount of ice melting in Greenland each year, saying it was equivalent to a mile-long column of water covering Washington DC, according to the Post.
“It got a lot of attention,” Steffen said at the time.