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Department of Geography


Glaciology and Glacial Geology

The research carried out by members of this thematic group concerns Earth’s cryosphere (glaciers and ice sheets, sea ice and permafrost) and the landscapes affected by the cryosphere.

Research into Earth’s cryosphere takes place using a variety of geophysical techniques, including ground-, ship-, airborne and satellite-based observations, in order to investigate glaciers and ice sheets, to identify their environmental settings, and to pinpoint the processes that govern their flow. The research also includes development of numerical modelling techniques, allowing a better understanding of the processes which control the cryosphere, and more accurate predictions of future change.

The landforms and landscapes affected by ice (both in terrestrial and marine settings) are studied with the aim of understanding physical and biological changes on Earth’s surface and their chronology at timescales from decades up to the past few million years. Examining such landscapes allows a better insight into the behaviour of the cryosphere under different climates, which can then inform present-day understanding, and future prediction. 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.


Glaciology and Climate Change

Glaciology and Climate Change

Research into glaciers and ice sheets is based 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 within ice sheets, mass- and energy-balance, and sedimentary records from glacier-influenced marine environments.

Glacimarine Environments

Glacimarine Environments

Research into the glacimarine environment takes place in the Scott Polar Research Institute. Research focuses on modern processes of sediment transport, delivery and sedimentation in the glacier-influenced marine system on modern high-latitude margins, and on the geological and geomorphological products and record of these processes. A major aim is the reconstruction of the form and flow of past ice sheets from the well-preserved geological record in Arctic and Antarctic fjords, on high-latitude continental shelves and on the continental slopes and deep basins beyond.

Glacial Geology

Glacial Geology

Earth’s glacial geological record spans the Quaternary and earlier glaciations through geological time. The Quaternary record of past ice sheets is found both on land and in marine sediments. Glacial geological investigations usually comprise both sedimentological and stratigraphic elements and, where, possible detailed chronological control. Recent work has included studies of the glacial history of Europe and the UK and the Quaternary stratigraphy of the Canadian Beaufort margin, and previous work has also involved the late Ordovician glacial rocks of Northern Africa.

Terrestrial cryosphere

Terrestrial Cryosphere

Research on the terrestrial cryosphere includes modelling based studies of permafrost, satellite-based monitoring of the Arctic landscape, biosphere, and snow cover. The research is carried out at the Department of Geography as well as the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Group members

Professor Neil Arnold Glaciologist and computational modeller, investigating the interactions between ice masses, climate and glacier hydrology.
Dr Alison Banwell Glaciologist, with interests in field-based and modeling studies of ice sheet hydrology.
Dr Rebecca Dell
Melting, Ponding and Refreezing on Antarctic Ice shelves
Evelyn Dowdeswell Glacial geologist working on the marine imprint of past ice sheets and satellite remote sensing of glaciers
Professor Philip Gibbard Quaternary geologist, whose interests include Pleistocene/Neogene geology, sedimentation and stratigraphy.
Professor Marc Macias-Fauria Research description to follow.
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.
Dr Matt Osman Research description to follow.
Professor Gareth Rees Research interests predominantly in the development and application of spaceborne remote sensing techniques to monitoring the dynamics of Arctic glaciated and vegetated terrain
Dr Maximillian Van Wyk de Vries Research description to follow.
Professor Ian Willis Glaciologist, with particular interests in meteorology, thermal regime, mass balance, hydrology and the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets.

Graduate students

The following graduate students are also associated with the group:

Corinne Benedek Using Sentinel-1 SAR data to map the fate of meltwater in the percolation zone
Karla Boxall Investigating annual and seasonal velocity variations of George VI Ice Shelf and its contributing glaciers


Recent publications by group members are listed.


  • 29th February 2024:
    The flow pattern evolution of the Scandinavian Ice Sheet reconstructed from high-resolution mapping of subglacial bedforms. Details…
  • 6th March 2024:
    Inuit pastoralism in South Greenland: Navigating the spectrum from wild to domestic herds in an era of rapid Arctic change. Details…