Glaciology | Fluid Dynamics | Applied Mathematics


I am a glaciologist at Princeton University in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program.

My work seeks to understand the evolution of glacier and ice sheets with a combination of models and observations.

Please scroll down to know more!



Latest News

  • [PAPER] “Spatial heterogeneity in subglacial drainage driven by till erosion” by N. Kasmalkar, E. Mantelli and J. Suckale accepted on Proc. Royal Soc. London A (16 Jul 2019)

  • [CONFERENCE] Upcoming talk on “Spatial distribution of englacial layer slope as a constraint on ice sheet basal conditions” at the IGS Symposium on Five Decades of Radio Glaciology (12 Jul 2019)

  • [CONFERENCE] Invited abstract at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting, in the session “Modeling the cryosphere: glaciers and ice sheets” (1 Jul 2019)

  • [PAPER] Submitted “Thermally activated sliding in ice sheet flow. Part 1: The role of advection” by E.Mantelli, M. Haseloff and C. Schoof to Proc. Royal Soc. Lon. A (30 Jun 2019)

  • [PAPER] Submitted “Thermally activated sliding in ice sheet flow. Part 2: The stability of subtemperate regions” by E.Mantelli, and C. Schoof to Proc. Royal Soc. Lon. A (30 Jun 2019)



My research spans a variety of topics in glaciology, including the dynamics of fast ice flow, subglacial and surface hydrology, basal sliding, and ice-ocean interactions.

The common thread among these diverse set of subjects is that the processes involved have the potential to drive the dynamics and evolution of a whole ice sheet. Understanding how and when this may happen is the ultimate goal of my research.

To achieve this, I build off a diverse skill set that is grounded in continuum mechanics and applied mathematics, which I combine with observation-driven work. As a theorist by training, I see observational work as a key step to test models predictions in the real world, and ultimately improve models themselves. Whether through collaborations, or going to the field myself, I strive to blend both approaches in my research.

Below is a brief description of ongoing projects that I am leading, while past projects are listed at the bottom. I also have the privilege to work with a number of talented students, whose work is described here

Ongoing projects

1. Ice stream formation and dynamics as an instability of basal thermal transitions

Ice streams are narrow bands of rapidly flowing ice which have the potential to cause rapid shrinkage of the ice sheet through their high discharge. A prominent feature of these ice streams is that they exhibit complex spatial and temporal dynamics: they can emerge spontaneously out of an otherwise uniform flow, self-organize in space, and switch on and off over time, with major implications for ice sheet mass loss.

Even though ice streams have been long studied, the processes responsible for their initiation are still poorly understood. Motivated by observations that ice flows slowly where it is frozen to the bed, while streams are at the melting point, in this project (in collaboration with Christian Schoof at the University of British Columbia) I am investigating the role of thermally activated basal sliding with respect to fast flow initiation and patterning in ice sheet velocity [link to AGU 2018 abstract].

2. Constraints on ice sheet basal conditions from the architecture of englacial layers
Englacial layers are an ubiquitous indicator of internal deformation within ice sheets, as well as a common finding in radio echo sounding data. In spite of this, placing direct constraints on present or past ice flow through englacial layers remains, to date, a challenging task.

In this project (in collaboration with Dusty Schroeder and Jenny Suckale at Stanford University), I leverage recent advances in the processing of airborne radar sounding data along with modelling work to address this challenge. One current application is to constraining abrupt changes in basal friction in the onset regions of ice streams

3. Parameterizations of melt at the bottom of ice shelves
Melting at the base of ice shelves (the floating portions of ice sheets) forced by warm ocean water is a key driver of mass loss in marine-terminating glaciers. However, dynamic coupling of ice sheet models and ocean models remains challenging, thus parameterizations of basal melt are required in order to predict future ice sheet loss driven by ocean forcing.

In this project (in collaboration with Olga Sergienko at Princeton), I use asymptotic and numerical techniques to move beyond traditional parameterizations of basal melt based on depth-integrated buoyant plume models.


Past Projects

4. The effect of climate variability on ice sheet dynamics [publications]

Politecnico di Torino, with M. Bertagni and L. Ridolfi

5. Physical drivers of spatial organization in glacier surface hydrology [publications]
Politecnico di Torino, with C. Camporeale and L. Ridolfi

6. Hydrodynamic instability in flows over porous media [publications]
Politecnico di Torino, with C. Manes and C. Camporeale




In review

Note: * denotes student advisee

9. Mantelli E., Haseloff M., Schoof C., (2019) Ice sheet flow with thermally activated sliding. Part I: the role of advection. Submitted to Proc. Royal Soc. London A

8. Mantelli E., Schoof C. (2019) Ice sheet flow with thermally activated sliding. Part II: the stability of subtemperate regions. Submitted to Proc. Royal Soc. London A

7. *Kasmalkar I., Mantelli E., Suckale J. Subglacial (2019) Canal Initiation Driven by Till Erosion. Accepted with minor revisions on Proc. Royal Soc. London A [PREPRINT]

6. Castelletti D., Schroeder D.M., Mantelli E., (2019). Layer Optimized SAR Processing and Slope Estimation in Radar Sounder Data. Submitted to J. Glaciol.

In Preparation

5. Mantelli E., Schroeder D., Suckale J., Castelletti D., Raess L., *Bryant M., Seroussi H., Siegert M., Spatial distribution of englacial layer slopes as a constraint on ice sheet basal conditions.. In prep. for J. Glaciol. (submission anticipated Aug 2019)


4. Mantelli E., *Bertagni M., Ridolfi L. 2016. Stochastic Ice Stream Dynamics. P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol 113(32), pp. E4594-E4600. [PDF]

3. Mantelli E., Camporeale C., Ridolfi L. 2015. Supraglacial channel inception: processes and modeling, Water Resour. Res., Vol 51(9), pp. 7044-7063. [PDF]

2. Camporeale C., Mantelli E., Manes C. 2013. Interplay among unstable modes in films over permeable walls, J. Fluid Mech., Vol. 719, pp. 527-550. [PDF]

Refereed conference proceedings

1. Castelletti D., Schroeder D., Mantelli E., Hilger A., Unfocused SAR Processing for Englacial Layer Slope Estimation Using Radar Sounder Data, in Proceedings of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, Valencia, July 2018


Teaching Experience

  • Lecturer, Short Course in Radioglaciology, 2019 IGS Symposium on Five Decades of Radioglaciology, Stanford, USA [SLIDES]

  • Guest Lecturer, Environmental Fluid Mechanics, M.Sc. Env. Eng., Politecnico di Torino, Italy (2016)

  • Teaching Assistant for Calculus I and II, Differential Geometry, Fluid Mechanics, Environmental Fluid Mechanics, Faculty of Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Italy (2010-2014)


Current mentees are:

  • Eliza J. Dawson, Ph.D. Geophysics, Stanford (with D. Schroeder)

Project: placing constraints on the thermal conditions of Antarctica using data and models.

  • Indraneel Kasmalkar, Ph.D. Comp. Math. Eng., Stanford (with J. Suckale)

Project: subglacial canal initiation driven by till erosion [arxive paper]

  • Madison Goldberg, Summer Intern, Harvard College (with D. Schroeder)

Project: Automated detection and characterization of Antarctic basal units using radar sounding data.

Past mentees in chronological order: Marnie Bryant (UCSC, summer intern, 2018. Now Ph.D. in Geophysics at SCRIPPS). Gaia Roati (Politecnico di Torino, M.Sc. Env. Eng., 2017-2018, with L. Ridolfi). Matteo Bertagni (Politecnico di Torino, M. Sc. Env. Eng., 2015-2016, with L. Ridolfi. Now Ph. D. in Env. Eng., Politecnico di Torino). Loris Elba (Politecnico di Torino, M. Sc. Env. Eng., 2014-2015, with L. Ridolfi)