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Our Research

Our work tackles a range of research questions, across the globe and across timescales. We have three primary themes: ice-climate interactions, ice sheet processes, and landscape evolution.

Ice-Climate Interactions

The cryosphere — the frozen components of Earth's system — is inherently linked to the climate. Our work investigates how glaciers and ice sheets respond to anthropogenic and natural climate variability.

We are particularly interested in the relationship between the atmosphere and the surface mass balance of ice sheets and temperate glaciers, and the oceanic processes that drive ice sheet advance and retreat.

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Ice Sheet Processes

The flow of ice, and the dynamic response of glaciers and ice sheets to changes in the climate, are dependent on several fundamental processes. Our research aims to better understand such processes.

We are particularly interested in the roles of basal sliding, ice deformation, bed topography and ice shelf buttressing in limiting or enhancing ice mass loss, and the timescales over which they are important.

Landscape Evolution

A landscape is the product of multiple geological processes that act on a range of timescales. Our work looks to better understand how glacial, climatic and tectonic processes modify the landscape.

We are particularly interested in erosion and elevation change in polar and alpine regions, and the relationship with glaciers and ice sheets.

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Our Approaches

We use a combination of approaches in our research. These are primarily focused around observations, numerical modelling and geochronology.

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Observations

An important part of our work involves the collection and analysis of observational data from glaciers and ice sheets in various parts of the globe.


In Antarctica, we assess modern ice sheet changes from satellite observations, survey the present-day thickness of the ice sheet (ICECAP), and collect geological data from the ice sheet margins.

This information is used to determine past and present changes in the size of the ice sheet, and as inputs to our ice sheet models.

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Numerical Modelling

Numerical ice sheet models are used to understand glaciological processes and the response of a glacial system to a perturbation, such as climate change.

 

We use a range of models (e.g. ISSM, Úa) to investigate past, present and future ice sheet changes.

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Geochronology

Geochronology comprises a number of techniques to determine the age of rocks and events in the geological past.


Our principle approach is cosmogenic nuclide exposure dating, which we use to constrain past changes in the size of glaciers and ice sheets.


In 2021, we will have a new purpose-built cosmogenic nuclide laboratory to carry out our geochemistry.

Our publications

Peer-reviewed publications by members of our team for 2020 onwards

June, 2020

Southern Ocean carbon sink enhanced by sea-ice feedbacks at the Antarctic Cold Reversal

Fogwill, C.J., Turney, C.S.M., Menviel, L., Baker, A., Weber, M.E., Ellis, B., Thomas, Z.A., Golledge, N.R., Etheridge, D., Rubino, M., Thornton, D.P., van Ommen, T.D., Moy, A., Curran, M.A.J., Davies, S., Bird, M.I., Munksgaard, N.C., Rootes, C.M., Millman, H., Vohra, J., Rivera, A., Mackintosh, A., Pike, J., Hall, I.R., Bagshaw, E.A., Rainsley, E., Bronk-Ramsey, C., Montenari, M., Cage, A.G., Harris, M.R.P., Jones, R., Power, A., Love, J., Young, J., Weyrich, L.S. and Cooper, A.

The Southern Ocean occupies 14% of the Earth’s surface and plays a fundamental role in the global carbon cycle and climate. Using a highly resolved horizontal ice core and transient climate modelling, this study indicates that sea-ice biological feedbacks enhanced CO2 sequestration and created a substantial regional marine carbon sink, which contributed to the plateau in CO2 during the ACR.

June, 2020

Ice surface lowering of Skelton Glacier, Transantarctic Mountains, since the Last Glacial Maximum: Implications for retreat of grounded ice in the western Ross Sea

Anderson, J.T.H., Wilson, G.S., Jones, R.S., Fink, D. and Toshiyuki, F.

An ice surface lowering history was reconstructed at Skelton Glacier using cosmogenic exposure dating. Most glacier thinning likely occurred between ~15 and 6 kya in response to changes in grounded ice in the Ross Embayment.

May 2020

Geologic controls on ice sheet sensitivity to deglacial climate forcing in the Ross Embayment, Antarctica

Lowry. D.P., Golledge, N.R., Bertler, N., Jones, R.S. and Stutz, J.

Ice sheet sensitivity to geological variables was assessed using a large ensemble of model simulations for the Ross Sea sector of Antarctica. The behaviour of the ice sheet during retreat was found to be more sensitive to the choice of these model parameters than to climate forcing.

April, 2020

Aurora Basin, the weak underbelly of East Antarctica

Pelle, T., Morlighem, M. and McCormack, F.S.

The paper investigates the response of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) to Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) forcings to 2100. The Aurora Subglacial Basin is the key region of mass loss from Antarctica in almost all scenarios. However, mass loss in this region is offset by mass gains from  increased precipitation over most of the EAIS due to increased water vapour concentrations as the atmosphere warms.

February, 2020

Totten Glacier subglacial hydrology determined from geophysics and modeling

Dow, C.F., McCormack, F.S., Young, D.A., Greenbaum, J.S., Roberts, J.L. and Blankenship, D.D.,

The subglacial hydrology of the Aurora Subglacial Basin, East Antarctica, was investigated using the GlaDS subglacial hydrology model. A distributed hydrological system was simulated in the deep interior of the basin with a highly channelised system in the approach to the Totten Glacier grounding line. The results highlight the role of basal hydrology in influencing ice dynamics, particularly close to the grounding line in a region that is key for glacier stability.

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