Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Renowned Swiss-American glacier expert and climate scientist Konrad Steffen has died in an accident while performing field work in Greenland, his research institute said. He was 68.
The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) announced Steffen's death in a blog post Monday. It said he died after falling through broken ice last Saturday.
Steffan was on a expedition at the Swiss Camp weather station in Greenland when he was reported missing. Police found signs on Sunday that someone had fallen through a crack in an ice sheet and presumed the person had died.
Steffan's body has not been found.
"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," the WSL said. "We will all miss him."
Fellow ice climatologist Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark told CBS News he was with Steffen on the expedition.
He said Steffen, also known as "Koni," went "beyond the safety perimeter in low visibility, windy conditions."
"Koni fell into a water based crevasse while the rest of us were working nearby, unaware. The last thing he said to us was he was going to look at data," he said.
Considered a pioneer in climate change research, who regularly took part in projects in the Arctic and Antarctic, Steffan was awarded 15,000 academic citations over his decades-long career as a researcher. He'd been WSL director since 2012.
Steffen earned a doctorate from ETH Zurich in 1984, and was appointed six years later professor of climatology at the University of Colorado, where he headed the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
He'd also been professor for climate and cryosphere in Switzerland at ETH Zurich and EPFL in Lausanne.