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Department of Geosciences
Fort Hays State University
600 Park Street
Tomanek Hall 233
Phone: 785-628-5389

P. Grady Dixon, Chair
(785) 628-5389
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Dr. John Heinrichs

In Memorium

Chair and Associate Professor of Geosciences

Dr. John Heinrichs joined the faculty of Fort Hays State University Department of Geosciences in 1998 and in 2006 accepted the position as Chair for the Department of Geosciences which he held until his passing January 11, 2014.

Dr. Heinrichs was held in high esteem by many of his research colleagues, university administration, and fellow faculty members. In light of this several events and honors have been created or renamed at Fort Hays State University in his honor.

  • Dr. John Heinrichs Memorial Geography Scholarship - funded through on-going generous donations of friends and faculty, this endowed scholarship has been established to support students pursuing studies in Geography.
  • John Heinrichs Scholarly and Creative Activities Day - the annual event on the FHSU campus for students, faculty, and staff to showcase research and scholarly activities was renamed in honor of Dr. John Heinrichs in May of 2014.
  • Heinrichs Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award - This annual award created and named in honor of Dr. John Heinrichs recognizes a faculty member who makes an outstanding commitment of time and energy in encouraging and developing research by undergraduate students.
  • Heinrichs Research Group - The Department of Geosciences Undergraduate Research Experience student group was renamed the Heinrichs Research Group to honor the commitment he made to furthering the opportunities for undergraduate involvement in research in the Geosciences
  • John Heinrichs SEIRA (Student Excellence in Research Award) - This annual award, funded by department donors, was established by the Department of Geosciences to recognize and reward one Undergraduate and one Graduate who best demonstrates excellence in research.

In memorium, his webpage has been left intact below.

"Greetings! I am happy and proud to be on the FHSU faculty and to serve as chair of the Department of Geosciences. I teach mainly classes concerned with the physical world and how humans interact with their environment, and sharing my fascination with students is a great joy. As you will read below, my research is exciting and addresses important questions, and I involve students in every aspect of my work. If you are thinking about attending FHSU, I'm sure you will have a great experience, and please don't hesitate to contact me for information or advice." Curriculum Vitae

Educational Background

Ph. D 1996 Geography University of Colorado at Boulder
M.S. 1985 Mathematics University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
B.S. 1983 Mathematics University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Courses Taught

  • GSCI 101 Elements of Physical Geography
  • GSCI 104 Orientation to Geography
  • GSCI 110 World Geography
  • GSCI 376 Introduction to Petroleum Geology
  • GSCI 630 Geostatistics and Spatial Data Analysis
  • GSCI 644 Climatology
  • GSCI 674 Aerial Photography and Remote Sensing
  • GSCI 675 Seminar in Geology
  • GSCI 685 Research Design and Professional Skills in Geography

Research Interests and Specializations

Using satellite images and data to study polar ice

The Earth's polar ice caps, and particularly sea ice, are decreasing rapidly as greenhouse gas amounts increase in the atmosphere. Because the polar caps are located where the climate is very harsh, the major way we can measure changes in polar ice is through images from satellites. I have been working for many years, supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to use visible-band, infrared, microwave, and radar instruments to map the polar sea ice and understand how it moves and changes. My latest work involves a satellite called ICESat, which uses a laser beam to measure the thickness of the ice, to study how ocean waves and sea ice interact. Many undergraduate and graduate students have had the opportunity to participate in this NASA-sponsored research, both in setting scientific goals and data collection and analysis.

Climatology of Western Kansas

Western Kansas is in a rather special location, where air masses from several different directions come together and interact to produce extreme weather conditions and some dangerous natural hazards such as tornadoes, hail, floods, and drought. My research goal is to understand the factors that influence the climate of Western Kansas, including the frequency of severe weather events. This work has yielded important results - for example the single greatest influence on year-to-year precipitation in Western Kansas is the El Nino cycle. Another significant observation is that the record of tornado reports is subject to large uncertainties due to observational effects that need to be examined closely before any conclusions can be drawn about long-term changes in severe weather frequency. Students have been heavily involved in this work, ranging from collecting accounts of severe weather events to performing statistical analysis of weather data and records. The Department of Geosciences maintains two weather stations, one on campus and one on the University Farm, both of which were built and are maintained by student assistants.

Scientific Rocketry

A relatively new area of research for me and my students is the use of small and medium-sized rockets for capturing imagery of the Earth's surface. For example, the picture below was taken by a digital camera aboard a small rocket and shows a portion of the FHSU campus from an altitude of about 450 feet. Work is underway to produce a rocket system that can reach altitudes of half a mile with high-resolution cameras.

Recent Publications

Taggart, G., P. Adams, E. Eltze, J. Heinrichs, J. Hohman, and K. Hickman, Fermi Questions, Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 164-167, 2007.

Heinrichs, J., Cavalieri, and T. Markus, Assessment of the AMSR-E sea ice concentration product at the ice edge using RDARSAT-1 and MODIS imagery, IEEE Trans. Geosci. Rem. Sens., 44(11), 3070-3080, 2006.

Heinrichs, J., The Climate of Hays, Kansas from 1867 to 1999: Variability, Trends, and Influences, Fort Hays Studies, Fourth Series, Number 2, Spring 2006, 60 pp.

Stroeve, J., T. Markus, J. Maslanik, D. Cavalieri, A. Gasiewski, J. Heinrichs, J. Holmgren, D. Perovich, M. Sturm, Impact of Surface Roughness on AMSR-E Sea Ice Products, IEEE Trans. Geosci. Rem. Sens., 44(11), 3103-3117, 2006.


Sturm, M., J. Maslanik, D. Perovich, J. Stroeve, J. Richter-Menge, T. Markus, J. Holmgren, J. Heinrichs, K. Tape, Snow Depth and Ice Thickness Measurements From the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas Collected During the AMSR-Ice03 Campaign, IEEE Trans. Geosci. Rem. Sens., 44(11), 3009-3020, 2006.


Maslanik, J., M. Sturm, M. Rivas, A. Gasiewski, J. Heinrichs, U. Herzfeld, J. Holmgren, M. Klein, T. Markus, D. Perovich, J. Sonntag, Spatial Variability of Barrow-Area Shore-Fast Sea Ice and Its Relationships to Passive Microwave Emissivity, IEEE Trans. Geosci. Rem. Sens., 44(11), 3021-3031, 2006.


Hohman, J., P. Adams, G. Taggart, J. Heinrichs, and K. Hickman, A "Nature of Science" Discussion: Connecting Mathematics and Science, Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(1), 18-21, 2006.


Heinrichs, J., Baffin Bay, Encyclopedia of the Arctic, Taylor & Francis, Inc., London and New York, 2380 pp., 2004.

Steffen, K., and J. Heinrichs, C-band SAR Backscatter Characteristics of Arctic Sea and Land Ice during Winter, Atmosphere-Ocean, 39 (3), 289-299, 2000.


Weaver, R., Steffen, K., Heinrichs, J., Maslanik, J., and G. Flato, Data Assimilation in sea-ice monitoring, Annals of Glaciology, 31, 327-332, 2000.


Maslanik, J., Fowler, C., Heinrichs, J., Barry, R., and W. Emery, Remotely-Sensed and Simulated Variability of Arctic Sea-Ice Concentrations in Response to Atmospheric Synoptic Systems, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 16(17), 3325-3342, 1995.


Steffen, K. and J. Heinrichs, Feasibility of Sea Ice Typing with Synthetic Aperture Radar: Merging of Landsat Thematic Mapper and ERS-1 SAR Imagery, Journal of Geophysical Research, 99(11), 22413-22424, 1994.

Awards Received

  • FHSU President's Distinguished Scholar, 2008
  • FHSU Pilot Award, 2003
  • FHSU Student Government Association Special Appreciation Award, 2003
  • FHSU Mortar Board "Top Prof", 2003
  • FHSU Teacher of the Month, 2002

Professional Memberships

  • Member, American Geophysical Union
  • Member, American Association of Geographers
  • Member, IEEE Society of Geosciences and Remote Sensing
  • Member, American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
  • Member, Kansas Academy of Sciences

Service Activities

  • Chair, Ellis County Wellhead Protection Committee
  • Member, FHSU Research Environment Committee
  • Member, FHSU President's Distinguished Scholar Selection Committee

My research interests lie in two primary areas, remote sensing and climatology, focusing on the Arctic and the Central High Plains of the United States. Within remote sensing, most of my work involves the use of radar imagery in combination with data from infrared and visible sensors. One recently completed project, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, used data from the Canadian RADARSAT satellite to constrain a numerical ice and ocean model of Baffin Bay. An ongoing project is using ice-penetrating radar to measure the thicknesses of Alaskan glaciers. Another is evaluating the use of radar images to reveal surface and subsurface characteristics in western Kansas. Another current project uses data from a new NASA microwave sensor (the AMSR) to study sea ice near Barrow, Alaska.

My work in climatology has attempted to determine the variability of temperature and precipitation in western Kansas over the last 100 years and to explain the variability as a function of forcing variables such as El Nino, global climate change, and changes in solar output.

Personal Interest

  • I pretend to play the guitar, and enjoy hiking and camping.
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