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Glacial and Quaternary Science

The research carried out by members of this thematic group concerns Earth's cryosphere and Quaternary palaeoenvironments. Earth's cryosphere is investigated using a variety of geophysical techniques, including ground-, ship, airborne and satellite-based observations, to investigate glaciers and ice sheets, to identify their environmental setting and to pinpoint the processes that govern their flow.

The research also includes development of numerical modelling techniques, allowing increasingly accurate prediction of future change. Quaternary palaeoenvironments are studied with the aim of understanding physical and biological changes on Earth's surface and their chronology over the last few million years. This research addresses scientific uncertainties related to ice ages, including recurring periods of rapid warming and cooling, together with the configuration of past ice sheets and palaeogeography. This research takes place both on land and in the polar seas, where marine-geological and -geophysical work from ships forms an important part of our research strategy.


Glaciers and Ice Sheets

Glaciers and Ice Sheets

Glaciers and ice sheets are researched at the Scott Polar Research Institute, where staff use observational data, laboratory experiments and numerical models to understand the dimensions and flow of ice masses and to assess the impact of climate change. Current research focuses on fast-flowing glaciers and ice streams, hydrological processes and pathways, mass- and energy-balance, and sedimentary records from glacier-influenced marine environments.

Terrestrial cryosphere

Terrestrial cryosphere

Research on the terrestrial cryosphere includes modelling based studies of permafrost, satellite-based monitoring of the Arctic landscape and in situ observations of Erebus volcano in Antarctica. The research is carried out at the Department of Geography as well as the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Quaternary Palaeoenvironments

Quaternary Palaeoenvironments

The aim of this research is to unravel ice-age history and past rapid climate change, reconstruct former ice sheets, and ultimately understand ice-sheet evolution through the late Cenozoic. This is combined with an understanding of palaeogeographical change through the last few million years. The research is carried out by members of the Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group and by staff at the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Group members

The Glacial and Quaternary Science Thematic Group includes the following members:

Dr Neil Arnold Glaciologist and computational modeller, investigating the interactions between ice masses, climate and glacier hydrology.
Mr Toby Benham Glaciologist, with expertise in Geographical Information Systems, remote sensing and glaciological application of earth observation data.
Dr Steve Boreham Quaternary geologist, with interests in Quaternary palaeoenvironments and biogeography, as well as coastal, geochemical and geoforensic studies.
Dr Marion Bougamont Glaciologist and computational modeller, investigating the dynamics of polar ice sheets and environmental controls on fast glacier flow.
Dr Poul Christoffersen Glaciologist and engineer, researching glacier dynamics, interactions of ice sheets with the ocean, and the cryosphere's response to climate change.
Professor Julian Dowdeswell Glaciologist, working on the form and flow of glaciers and ice caps and their response to climate change, as well as the links between former ice sheets and the marine geological record.
Dr Andrew Friend Ecologist and Earth system scientist, studying vegetation-environment interactions, plant ecophysiology, and feedbacks between global change and biological processes.
Professor Philip Gibbard Quaternary geologist, whose interests include Pleistocene/Neogene geology, sedimentation and stratigraphy.
Professor Elizabeth Morris OBE Glaciologist, working on the mass balance of polar ice sheets and their response to climate change using field observations, remote sensing techniques and modeling.
Professor Clive Oppenheimer Volcanologist, studying volcanic and magmatic processes; the chemistry of volcanic plumes in the troposphere; and the human and environmental impacts of volcanic eruptions in the past.
Dr Gareth Rees Physicist, with research interests predominantly in the development and application of spaceborne remote sensing techniques to monitoring the dynamics of Arctic glaciated and vegetated terrain.
Professor Keith Richards Geomorphologist, researching fluvial processes in gravel bed river environments; and in river management, river and floodplain restoration, and inter-relationships between hydrological and ecological processes in floodplain environments.
Mr Chris Rolfe Quaternary geologist, whose interests include sedimentation and stratigraphy, Quaternary palaeoenvironments; glacial and periglacial geomorphology, hydrogeology and coastal studies.
Dr Ian Willis Glaciologist, with particular interests in meteorology, thermal regime, mass balance, hydrology and the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets.

Seminars and group activity

Our main seminars page details the range of seminars we run:

  • Polar physical sciences seminars
  • Quaternary Discussion Group
  • Atmospheric processes and climate seminars
  • Volcanology seminars