Honors & Awards

  • Stanford Science Fellowship, Stanford University (2020-2023)
  • Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation (2015-2020)
  • Gates Cambridge Scholarship, Gates Cambridge Trust (2015-2016)
  • Morehead-Cain Scholarship, Morehead-Cain Foundation (2011-2015)

Professional Education

  • PhD, Brown University, Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences (2020)
  • MPhil, University of Cambridge, Polar Studies (2016)
  • BS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Geological Sciences - Geophysics (2015)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Human alteration of global surface water storage variability. Nature Cooley, S. W., Ryan, J. C., Smith, L. C. 2021; 591 (7848): 78–81


    Knowing the extent of human influence on the global hydrological cycle is essential for the sustainability of freshwater resources on Earth1,2. However, a lack of water level observations for the world's ponds, lakes and reservoirs has limited the quantification of human-managed (reservoir) changes in surface water storage compared to its natural variability3. The global storage variability in surface water bodies and the extent to which it is altered by humans therefore remain unknown. Here we show that 57percent of the Earth's seasonal surface water storage variability occurs in human-managed reservoirs. Using measurements from NASA's ICESat-2 satellite laser altimeter, which was launched in late 2018, we assemble an extensive global water level dataset that quantifies water level variability for 227,386 water bodies from October2018 to July2020. We find that seasonal variability in human-managed reservoirs averages 0.86metres, whereas natural water bodies vary by only 0.22metres. Natural variability in surface water storage is greatest in tropical basins, whereas human-managed variability is greatest in the Middle East, southern Africa and the western USA. Strong regional patterns are also found, with human influence driving 67percent of surface water storage variability south of 45degreesnorth and nearly 100percent in certain arid and semi-arid regions. As economic development, population growth and climate change continue to pressure global water resources4, our approach provides a useful baseline from which ICESat-2 and future satellite missions will be able to track human modifications to the global hydrologic cycle.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-021-03262-3

    View details for PubMedID 33658697

  • The catastrophic thermokarst lake drainage events of 2018 in northwestern Alaska: fast-forward into the future CRYOSPHERE Nitze, I., Cooley, S. W., Duguay, C. R., Jones, B. M., Grosse, G. 2020; 14 (12): 4279–97
  • Advancing Field-Based GNSS Surveying for Validation of Remotely Sensed Water Surface Elevation Products FRONTIERS IN EARTH SCIENCE Pitcher, L. H., Smith, L. C., Cooley, S. W., Zaino, A., Carlson, R., Pettit, J., Gleason, C. J., Minear, J., Fayne, J. V., Willis, M. J., Hansen, J. S., Easterday, K. J., Harlan, M. E., Langhorst, T., Topp, S. N., Dolan, W., Kyzivat, E. D., Pietroniro, A., Marsh, P., Yang, D., Carter, T., Onclin, C., Hosseini, N., Wilcox, E., Moreira, D., Berge-Nguyen, M., Cretaux, J., Pavelsky, T. M. 2020; 8
  • Airborne observations of arctic-boreal water surface elevations from AirSWOT Ka-Band InSAR and LVIS LiDAR ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS Fayne, J., Smith, L. C., Pitcher, L. H., Kyzivat, E. D., Cooley, S. W., Cooper, M. G., Denbina, M. W., Chen, A. C., Chen, C. W., Pavelsky, T. M. 2020; 15 (10)
  • Global Characterization of Inland Water Reservoirs Using ICESat-2 Altimetry and Climate Reanalysis GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS Ryan, J. C., Smith, L. C., Cooley, S. W., Pitcher, L. H., Pavelsky, T. M. 2020; 47 (17)
  • Coldest Canadian Arctic communities face greatest reductions in shorefast sea ice NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE Cooley, S. W., Ryan, J. C., Smith, L. C., Horvat, C., Pearson, B., Dale, B., Lynch, A. H. 2020; 10 (6): 533-+
  • Evaluation of CloudSat's Cloud-Profiling Radar for Mapping Snowfall Rates Across the Greenland Ice Sheet JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-ATMOSPHERES Ryan, J. C., Smith, L. C., Wu, M., Cooley, S. W., Miege, C., Montgomery, L. N., Koenig, L. S., Fettweis, X., Noel, B. Y., van den Broeke, M. R. 2020; 125 (4)
  • A High-Resolution Airborne Color-Infrared Camera Water Mask for the NASA ABoVE Campaign REMOTE SENSING Kyzivat, E. D., Smith, L. C., Pitcher, L. H., Fayne, J., Cooley, S. W., Cooper, M. G., Topp, S. N., Langhorst, T., Harlan, M. E., Horvat, C., Gleason, C. J., Pavelsky, T. M. 2019; 11 (18)

    View details for DOI 10.3390/rs11182163

    View details for Web of Science ID 000489101500093

  • Arctic-Boreal Lake Dynamics Revealed Using CubeSat Imagery GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS Cooley, S. W., Smith, L. C., Ryan, J. C., Pitcher, L. H., Pavelsky, T. M. 2019; 46 (4): 2111–20
  • AirSWOT InSAR Mapping of Surface Water Elevations and Hydraulic Gradients Across the Yukon Flats Basin, Alaska WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH Pitcher, L. H., Pavelsky, T. M., Smith, L. C., Moller, D. K., Altenau, E. H., Allen, G. H., Lion, C., Butman, D., Cooley, S. W., Fayne, J. V., Bertram, M. 2019; 55 (2): 937–53
  • Tracking Dynamic Northern Surface Water Changes with High-Frequency Planet CubeSat Imagery REMOTE SENSING Cooley, S. W., Smith, L. C., Stepan, L., Mascaro, J. 2017; 9 (12)

    View details for DOI 10.3390/rs9121306

    View details for Web of Science ID 000419235700102

  • Observation Bias Correction Reveals More Rapidly Draining Lakes on the Greenland Ice Sheet JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE Cooley, S. W., Christoffersen, P. 2017; 122 (10): 1867–81
  • Spatial and temporal patterns in Arctic river ice breakup revealed by automated ice detection from MODIS imagery REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT Cooley, S. W., Pavelsky, T. M. 2016; 175: 310–22