Published 10:23 AM EDT Aug 13, 2020
Beloved U.S.-Swiss climate scientist and glaciologist Konrad “Koni” Steffen died Saturday while doing research in Greenland. He was 68.
Steffen fell into a deep crevasse full of water, Swiss media reports say, after snow and ice gave way beneath him while he worked near a weather station. Rescue attempts were unsuccessful, and his body was not found.
Jason Box, an ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland who was with Steffen before he died, said he believed his friend “remains 8 meters down in the water,” according to CBS News.
“Personally, Koni was like a father,” Box told CBS. “Immense man. Immense loss. Tears falling around the world.”
Steffen was the scientific director at the Swiss Polar Institute and director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).
“In Konrad Steffen, we have not only lost the director of our institute, but also a committed scientist and above all a unique and generous person and friend,” WSL said in a statement announcing Steffen’s death. “We will all miss him.”
With nearly 15,000 academic citations to his name, Steffen had been conducting research about climate change for over 40 years — notably in the Arctic and Antarctic, according to the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology board.
He also taught for years as a professor at the University of Boulder, Colorado and Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and in Lausanne.
People mourning the loss have been sharing their memories of Steffen on social media.
“Koni’s renowned work as a glaciologist has been instrumental in the world’s deepened understanding of the climate crisis,” wrote former U.S. Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore.
“He has had a positive influence on our campus and countless students, I’m thankful we had him here!” wrote SarahDawn Haynes, a Possibilities Cartographer who works at the University of Colorado’s Environmental Center. “#konradSteffen rest in honor.”