W. Tad Pfeffer

W. Tad Pfeffer CV


Departments / Academic Programs


  • PhD: University of Washington, 1987
  • MS: University of Maine, 1981
  • BS: University of Vermont, 1976

Research Programs, Labs, and Groups

Contact Information

(Office) 303 492-3480


Glaciology, continuum mechanics, heat transfer, analysis and numerical methods.

Research Interests

Sea level rise, hydrology, natural hazards, geophysical and architectural photogrammetry, science policy.


Tad Pfeffer is a glaciologist, geophysicist, and photographer at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a Fellow of the University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering.  Pfeffer’s research is focused on glacier mechanics and dynamics, and particularly on the behavior of ocean-ending glaciers and glacier contributions to sea level. He has done field research for more than 30 years in glacier regions from Alaska to Antarctica to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  For about a decade starting in the late 1990s, Pfeffer led the long-term study of Columbia Glacier, on Alaska’s South Central Coast, a research program started by glaciology pioneers Mark Meier (also an INSTAAR Director, from 1985 to 1994) and Austin Post. Columbia Glacier is one the world’s most extensively studied and most rapidly changing glaciers, and has been the source of many crucial insights about glacier-ocean interaction.  Pfeffer has served as an advisor to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), and was a Lead Author for Chapter 13 (Sea Level Change) in the IPCC Fifth Assessment/Working Group I (2010-2014). He also operates WT Pfeffer Geophysical Consultants, LLC, providing consulting modeling, analysis, and assessments on sea level rise and glacier-related hazards.

In addition to his scientific work, Pfeffer’s photography has appeared in many publications in the US and Europe. He is the author of The Opening of a New Landscape: Columbia Glacier at Mid-Retreat, published by the American Geophysical Union in 2007. His most recent book, The Hand of the Small Town Builder, published by David R. Godine, was published in Spring, 2014.

Pfeffer also served as a 2015-16 Jefferson Science Fellow at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington DC.


  • Jefferson Science Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, 2015
  • Nye Lecture, American Geophysical Union, 2011
  • University of Colorado Council on Research and Creative Work, Sabbatical Year Support, University of Colorado, 2007