Bess G. Koffman

Assistant Professor of Geology

Office: S G Mudd 215 [ campus map ]
Box 215

Phone: 207-859-8630
Fax: 207-859-5868
Mailing Address:
215 Mayflower Hill
Waterville, Maine 04901-88
Koffman, Bess G.


B.A. Geology, Carleton College
Ph.D. Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine
NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Society of Fellows Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dartmouth College

Areas of Expertise

  • Paleoclimate
  • Sediment geochemistry
  • Ice cores
  • Climate change
  • Radiogenic isotopes
  • Atmospheric dust

Courses Currently Teaching

CourseCourse Title
CH121 AEarth Systems Chemistry I
CH121 L ALab:Earth Systems Chem I
CH121 L BLab:Earth Systems Chem I
CH122 AEarth Systems Chemistry II
GE262 AEarth's Climate: Past, Present, and Future
GE363 APaleoceanography

Other Courses Taught

CourseCourse Title

Current Research

I study past changes in Earth’s climate system using a combination of field and laboratory approaches. I am interested primarily in understanding how and why the atmospheric circulation has changed through time and the impacts these changes have had on terrestrial and marine environments. Earth’s atmospheric circulation influences large-scale climate variability in several important ways: it affects the transport and delivery of oceanic heat; it exerts a strong influence on the exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) between the ocean and atmosphere; and it plays a large role in determining global rainfall distribution. Further, because the atmosphere can respond rapidly to climate perturbations, it is central to understanding the mechanisms driving changes in Earth’s climate on a range of timescales. I use mineral dust as a tracer of past wind patterns by measuring the dust particle size distribution (a proxy for distance to source and wind strength) and its geochemical and isotopic composition (to determine provenance and transport pathway). My approach couples high-resolution archives of past environmental change, such as ice core records, with state-of-the-art analyses of dust particle size and composition. My research to date has focused on three major themes: 1) the impact of dust on marine ecosystems, 2) reconstructing past changes in mid-latitude wind belts, and 3) the transport of aerosols from explosive volcanic eruptions.



[13] Polashenski, D.J., Osterberg, E.C., Koffman, B.G., Winski, D., Kreutz, K.J., Wake, C.P., Ferris, D.G., Introne, D., Campbell, S., Stamieszkin, K., Lewis, G.M. 2018. Denali ice core methanesulfonic acid records north Pacific marine primary production. Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, 123, doi: 10.1029/2017/JD028123.


[12] Koffman, B.G., Dowd, E.G., Osterberg, E.C., Ferris, D.G., Hartman, L.H., Wheatley, S.D., Kurbatov, A.V., Wong, G.J., Markle, B.R., Dunbar, N.W., Kreutz, K.J., Yates, M., 2017. Rapid transport of ash and sulfate from the 2011 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle (Chile) eruption to West Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres. doi: 10.1002/2017/JD026893.

[11] Koffman, B.G., Kreutz, K.J., and Trenbath, K., 2017. Integrating scientific argumentation to improve undergraduate writing and learning in a global environmental change course. Journal of Geoscience Education 65, 231-239.


[10] Sigl, M., Fudge, T.J., Winstrup, M., Cole-Dai, J., Ferris, D., McConnell, J.R., Taylor, K.C., Welten, K., Woodruff, T.E., Adolphi, F., Bisiaux, M., Brook, E.J., Buizert, C., Caffee, M.W., Dunbar, N., Edwards, R., Geng, L., Iverson, N., Koffman, B.G., Layman, L., Maselli, O.J., McGwire, K., Muscheler, R., Nishiizumi, K., Pasteris, D.R., Rhodes, R.H., and Sowers, T.A., 2016. The WAIS Divide deep ice core WD2014 chronology - Part 2: Annual-layer counting (0–31 ka BP). Climate of the Past, 12, p. 769-786, doi: 10.5194/cp-12-769-2016.


[9] WAIS Divide Project Members (Buizert, C., lead author; Koffman, B.G., contributing author), 2015. Precise interpolar phasing of abrupt climate change during the last ice age. Nature, doi: 10.1038/nature14401. (Web of Science Highly Cited Paper)


[8] Koffman, B.G., Kreutz, K.J., Breton, D.J., Kane, E.J., Winski, D.A., Birkel, S.D, Kurbatov, A.V., and Handley, M.J., 2014. Centennial-scale variability of the Southern Hemisphere westerly wind belt in the eastern Pacific over the past two millennia. Climate of the Past, 10, p. 1125-1144, doi: 10.5194/cp-10-1125-2014.

[7] Koffman, B.G. and Kreutz, K.J., 2014. Evidence that local dust sources supply low-elevation Antarctic regions. Past Global Changes, 22(2), 76-77.

[6] Koffman, B.G., Handley, M.J., Osterberg, E.C, Wells, M.L., and Kreutz, K.J., 2014. Dependence of ice-core relative trace-element concentration on acidification. Journal of Glaciology, 60, 219, doi: 10.3189/2014JoG13J137.


[5] Koffman, B.G., Kreutz, K.J., Kurbatov, A.V., and Dunbar, N., 2013. Impact of known local and tropical volcanic eruptions of the past millennium on the WAIS Divide microparticle record. Geophysical Research Letters, 40, doi: 10.1002/grl.50822.

[4] Kreutz, K.J. and Koffman, B.G., 2013. Ice Core Methods: Glaciochemistry. In Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, 2nd edition (S.A. Elias, ed.), Elsevier Publishers, Amsterdam, p.326-333.

2012 and earlier

[3] Breton, D.J., Koffman, B.G., Kurbatov, A.V., Kreutz, K.J., and Hamilton, G.S., 2012. Quantifying signal dispersion in a hybrid ice core melting system. Environmental Science and Technology 46(21), p. 11922-11928, doi: 10.1021/es302041k.

[2] Macalady, J. L., Lyon, E.H., Koffman, B., Albertson, L.K., Meyer, K., Galdenzi, S. and Mariani, S, 2006. Dominant microbial populations in limestone-corroding stream biofilms, Frasassi cave system, Italy. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 72:8, p. 5596-5609, doi: 10.1128/AEM.00715-06.

[1] Lyon, E., Koffman, B., Meyer, K., Cleaveland, L., Mariani, S., Galdenzi, S., and Macalady, J.L., 2004. Geomicrobiology of the Frasassi Caves. In Frasassi 1989-2004: Gli sviluppi nella ricerca (S. Galdenzi, ed.), p. 152-157.

Datasets and Other Products

Koffman, B., 2017. Snowpit evidence of the 2011 Puyehue-Cordon Caulle (Chile) eruption in West Antarctica. Palisades, New York USA: U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) Data Center. doi: 10.15784/601036.

Kreutz, K., and Koffman, B., 2015. WAIS Divide microparticle concentration and size distribution, 0-2400 ka. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. doi: 10.7265/N5KK98QZ.

Kreutz, K., and Koffman, B., 2015. Snowpit chemistry - methods comparison, WAIS Divide, Antarctica. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. doi: 10.7265/N5Q81B1X.

Bohleber, P., Cavitte, M., Koffman, B., Markle, B., Pavlova, P., Winstrup, M., and Winton, H. 2014. Ice Core Young Scientists. Past Global Changes.

Koffman, B.G., 2014. Getting dusty in the name of science. In Depth magazine.

Koffman, B.G., 2013. Atmospheric dust deposition in West Antarctica over the past two millennia. PhD Dissertation, University of Maine, 214 pages.

Koffman, B., 2012, Seasonal to centennial-scale variability of microparticle concentration and size distribution in the WAIS Divide ice core over the past 2.4 ka. Quaternary International 279-280, doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2012.08.596 (Published Abstract).

Koffman, B.G., 2011. Ice cores: archives of past climate. Punctuated Equilibrium blog hosted by The Guardian.

Kreutz, K., Koffman, B., Breton, D., and Hamilton, G., 2011. Microparticle, Conductivity, and Density Measurements from the WAIS Divide Deep Ice Core, Antarctica. Boulder, Colorado, USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Kreutz, K., and Koffman, B. 2011. WAIS Divide Snowpit Chemical and Isotope Measurements, Antarctica. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Koffman, T.S. and Koffman, B.G., 2008. The climate change debate: Is there really another side? Bangor Daily News.

Koffman, B., Kreutz, K., Handley, M., Wells, M., Kurbatov, A., and Mayewski, P., 2008. A snowpit record of atmospheric Fe deposition in West Antarctica at the WAIS Divide site. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 72:12, p. A487-A487 (Published Abstract).


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