Alia Khan

Assistant Professor


I apply environmental chemistry in the cryosphere – the frozen water domain – to document global change of glacier and snow melt in mountainous and polar regions. My research explores the impact of aerosol deposition to the surface of snow and ice, and the resulting impacts on spectral albedo, melt and water quality.  I completed my PhD in August 2016 in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Colorado – Boulder, while working at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, an interdisciplinary research institute focused on documenting environmental change in the polar regions. I then worked as a Postdoc at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, CO with a primary focus on water and snow chemistry in High Mountain Asia as part of a USAID funded project. I have studied snow packs, lakes and reservoirs in Colorado, and glaciers, snow packs, and lakes in the Arctic, Antarctic, and the Himalayan, Andes and Rocky Mountains.  Along with maintaining polar research, I look forward to delving into local and regional studies in the Pacific Northwest.  


Related Resources

National Snow and Ice Data Center - Affiliate Research Scientist


Current funded projects

NASA Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Sciences: Quantifying Impact of Light Absorbing Aerosols upon Sea Ice in the Changing Arctic Climate

NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education, Education Human Research 2021543. ‘Polar Space and Place’: Using GIS and interactive environments to bring Polar science to the classroom. 

Washington Water Research Grant to study, ‘Do Snow Algae and Black Carbon Contribute to Surface Albedo Reduction of Snow and Glacier Surfaces in the Nooksack River’? 


Graduate Student Openings

I will be recruiting 1 or 2 graduate students for Fall 2021.  If interested, please send a one page statement of interest and CV. 

Research Interests

Biogeochemistry; hydrochemistry; black carbon and light absorbing aerosols; snow algae; snow/ice albedo; spectral geophysics; carbon cycling in polar and alpine environments; snow and glacial hydrology


2020    Khan, A. L., Dierssen, H., Scambos, T., Höfer, J., and Cordero, R. R.: Spectral Characterization, Radiative Forcing, and Pigment Content of Coastal Antarctic Snow Algae: Approaches to Spectrally Discriminate Red and Green Communities and Their Impact on Snowmelt, The Cryosphere Discuss.,, in review, 2020.

2020    Khan A.L., Rittger, K., Xian, P., Katich, J., Armstrong, R., Kayastha, R., Dana, J., McKnight, D. Yak-dung burning influences refractory black carbon concentrations in seasonal snow at lower elevations of the Dudh Koshi River Basin of Nepal, I

2020    Lee, S., Stroeve, J., Tsamados, M., & Khan, A. L. Machine learning approaches to retrieve pan-Arctic melt ponds from visible satellite imagery. Remote Sensing of

2020    Diaz, M., Lyons, B., Welch, S., Welch, K., Khan, A.L., McKnight, D., Adams, B and Cary, C. Geochemistry of aeolian material from the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: insights into Southern Hemisphere dust sources. Earth and Planetary Science Letters,

2019    Khan A.L., Klein, A., Katich, J., Xian, P. “Local emissions and regional wildfires influence refractory black carbon observations near Palmer Station, Antarctica”, Frontiers in Earth Science – Atmosphere Section,

2019    Bracegirdle, Thomas J., Colleoni, Florence, Abram, Nerilie J., Bertler, Nancy A.N., Dixon, Daniel A., England, Mark, Favier, Vincent, Fogwill, Chris J., Fyfe, John C., Goodwin, Ian, Goose, Hugues, Hobbs, Will, Jones, Julie M., Keller, Elizabeth D., Khan, Alia L., Phipps, Steven J., Raphael, Marilyn N., Russell, Joellen, Sime, Louise, Thomas, Elizabeth R., van den Broeke, Michiel R., Wainer, Ilana. (2019) Back to the Future: Using long-term observational and paleo-proxy reconstructions to improve model projections of Antarctic climate. Geosciences, 9, doi: 10.3390/geosciences906025

2018    Khan A.L., McMeeking, G., Schwarz, J.P, Xian, P., Welch, K., Lyons, B., McKnight, D. “Refractory black carbon measured in snow and air in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica and potential impacts of foehn winds”, Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres,

2018    Khan A.L., Bracegirdle, T., Russell, J. “Can We Crack the Climate Code of the Southern Polar Region?”, EOS, 99,

2018    Khan, A.L. “U.S. and China Assess Ecosystem Effects of a Fading Cryosphere”, EOS, 99,

2018    Armstrong, R.L., Rittger, K., Brodzik, M.J., Racoviteanu, A., Barrett, A.P., Singh Khalsa, S.J., Raup, B., Hill, A., Khan, A.L., Wilson, A., Kayastha, R.B., Fetterer, F., Armstrong, B. Reg Environ Change (2018),

2018    Diaz, M. A., Adams, B. J.,  Welch, K. A.,  Welch, S. A.,  Opiyo, S. O.,  Khan, A. L., McKnight, D., Cary, C., Lyons, B. Aeolian material transport and its role in landscape connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123, 3323-3337.

2017    Khan, A. L.Wagner, S, Jaffe, R., Xian, P., Williams, M., Armstrong, R., and McKnight, D., “Dissolved black carbon in the global cryosphere: Concentrations and chemical signatures”, Geophysical Research Letters, 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL073485

2017    Khan, A.L., Dierssen, H., Schwartz, J., Schmitt, C., Hermanson, M., Painter, T., McKnight, D, “Impacts of coal dust on the spectral reflectance of Arctic surface snow in Svalbard, Norway”, Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, doi:10.1002/2016JD025757

2017    Stibal, M., J. E. Box, K. A. Cameron, P. L. Langen, M. L. Yallop, R. H. Mottram, A. L. Khan, N. P. Molotch, N. A. M. Chrismas, F. Calì Quaglia, D. Remias, C. J. P. P. Smeets, M. R. van den Broeke, J. C. Ryan, A. Hubbard, M. Tranter, D. van As, A. P., Ahlstrøm, Algae drive enhanced darkening of bare ice on the Greenland ice sheet”, Geophysical Research Letters, 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL075958.

2017    Gutt, J., Isla, E., Bertler, N., …Khan, A.L., …Wall, D., Wilson, N., Xavier, J., “Cross-disciplinarity in the advance of Antarctic ecosystem research”, Marine Genomics, doi: 10.1016/j.margen.2017.09.006

2016    Khan, A. L., R. Jaffe, Y. Ding, and D.M. McKnight, “Dissolved black carbon in Antarctic lakes: Chemical signatures of past and present sources”, Geophysical Research Letters, 43, doi: 10.1002/2016GL068609

2015    Mayewski, P.A., T. Bracegirdle, I. Goodwin, D. Schneider, N.A.N. Bertler, S. Birkel, A. Carleton, M. H. England, J-H. Kang, A. Khan, J. Russell, J. Turner and I. Veliconga, “Potential for Southern Hemisphere climate surprises”, Quaternary Science, 30, 391-395, 10.1002/jqs.2794

2012    Alia Lauren Khan, “Creative Adaptation: Bangladesh's Resilience to Flooding in a Changing Climate," inClimate Change Modelling For Local Adaptation In The Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region Armando Lamadrid, Ilan Kelman, eds. (Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management, Volume 11), Emerald Group Publishing, 159 - 175, DOI: 10.1108/S2040-7262(2012)0000011015

2011    Brown, J., Stauber, C., Murphy, J., Khan, A., Mu, T., Elliott, M., Sobsey, M. “Ambient temperature incubation for the field detection of E. coli in drinking water”, Journal of Applied Microbiology, 110(4), 915-923. 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2011.04940.x

Teaching Schedule

ESCI 340: W 11:30-12:50