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Poul Christoffersen MSc PhD

University Senior Lecturer

Glaciologist and Engineer, researching glacier and permafrost dynamics, interactions of ice-sheets with oceans and the cryosphere's response to climate change, using numerical models, satellite remote sensing and data acquired by geophysical fieldwork.

Biography

Career

Qualifications

Research

One of the most challenging scientific problems today is the theoretical understanding of climate change, including accurate assessment of future impacts on natural environments. My research is focused on the dynamics of glaciers, ice sheets and permafrozen ground, and the interactions of the cryosphere with Earth's climate system. To examine cryosphere-climate interactions, I use geophysical data acquired from field campaigns and remote sensing together with theoretical models.

Current research in the Arctic includes investigations of Store Glacier in west Greenland, with the aim of understanding the cause of fast flow. The project, which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), includes hot-water drilling, in order to observe the glacier's basal environment, as well as the development of 3D numerical models, needed to predict the glacier's response to climate change. Current research in the Arctic, also funded by NERC, includes airborne geophysical surveys over the Greenland Ice Sheet and Canadian ice caps.

Current Antarctic research includes participation in NERC's Ice Sheet Stability Research programme (http://www.istar.ac.uk/), which is exploring the cause and consequences of rapid ice loss from Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. Research in the Antarctic also includes oceanographic observations in the cavity beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, a large (400,000 km2) floating extension of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. This research is funded by Antarctica New Zealand and the Rutherford Foundation.

PhD research opportunities

Graduate student research opportunities within my research group range from large-scale issues related to the past and future behavior of polar ice sheets, to more specific themes such as basal hydrology, iceberg calving, dynamics of ice motion, and ice-ocean-atmosphere interactions. Dr. Narelle Baker, who graduated in 2012, studied the interaction of hydrological and mechanical processes beneath Antarctic ice streams and was able to pinpoint hydrological regimes causing oscillations between fast and stagnant modes of flow. An example of her research can be found here. Dr. Martin O'Leary, who also graduated in 2012, developed a new theoretical model of bouyant meltwater plumes in front of tidewater glaciers, to predict rates of subaqueous ice-front melting and assess the effect of undercutting. Current students are: Craig Stewart, who received the Scott Centenary Scholarship and is studying the oceanography of the Ross Ice Shelf cavity using mooring data, and Joe Todd, who is studying the mechanical coupling of ice flow and calving for glaciers terminating in the ocean. Examples of potential new projects are available, but these topics are not definitive. I am happy to discuss project ideas and funding opportunities by e-mail.

MPhil in Polar Studies

I usually supervise one or two students on the MPhil in Polar Studies. This programme differs from many other Masters programmes in that students are encouraged to develop independent research projects from which they can write a scientific paper. Recent dissertations include 'Calving stability of Rink Isbræ: Flowline modelling investigation using Elmer FEM' by Joe Todd (who is now one of my PhD students), 'Characterising sikussak and other forms of ice melange in Greenland fjords' by Clare Fraser, 'Relating surface and bed properties of Antarctic ice streams' by Jan de Rydt (continued to do a postdoc at the British Antarctic Survey), 'The effect of ice profile and roughness on melt rates at the ice-ocean interface' by Oliver Marsh (continued to do a PhD at Univ. Canterbury in New Zealand), 'Southeast Greenland Ice Sheet short term response to environmental conditions', by Anthony Seale (decided to study law - don't ask me why), 'The role of atmospheric and oceanic forcing in Greenland outlet glacier behaviour' by Rachells Carr (continued to do a PhD at Univ. Durham)

Research Grants

Subglacial Access and Fast Ice Research Experiment

PI and Co-I: Poul Christoffersen and Marion Bougamont
Funding: Natural Environment Research Council, £257,028 (2013-2016)

PI on Joint Project: Bryn Hubbard (Aberystwyth)

Dynamical Response of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica (iSTAR-C)

PI and Co-I: Poul Christoffersen and Marion Bougamont
Funding: Natural Environment Research Council, £91,800 (2013-2017)

PI's on Joint Projects: David Vaughan (BAS), Tony Payne (Bristol), Andrew Shepherd (Leeds), Matt King (Newcastle), Robert Bingham (Aberdeen)

Dynamical Response of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica (iSTAR-C)

PI and Co-I: Poul Christoffersen and Marion Bougamont
Funding: Isaac Newton Trust, £42,609 (2012-2014) - Matching funds

Airborne geophysical investigations of basal conditions at flow transitions of outlet glaciers on the Greenland Ice Sheet

PI and Co-I: Julian Dowdeswell and Poul Christoffersen
Funding: Natural Environment Research Council, £809,856 (2010-2013)

PI's on Joint Projects: Martin Siegert (Edinburgh) and Jonathan Bamber (Bristol)

Determining the Dynamical Response of the Greenland Ice Sheet to Climate Forcing using a Geophysical, Remote-Sensing and Numerical Modelling Framework

PI and Co-I: Poul Christoffersen and Marion Bougamont
Funding: Natural Environment Research Council, £88,193 (2009-2012)

PI's on Joint Projects: Alun Hubbard (Aberystwyth) and Bernd Kulessa (Swansea)

Permafrost changes in the Arctic

PI and Co-I: Poul Christoffersen and Julian Dowdeswell
Funding: Eni S.p.A., £521,744 GBP (2008-2012)

Investigating basal conditions and flow dynamics on Vestfonna Ice Cap

PI and Co-I: Poul Christoffersen and Julian Dowdeswell
Funding: Natural Environment Research Council, £53,258 (2008-2009)

Understanding contemporary changes in the Antarctic Ice Sheet

PI and Co-I: Poul Christoffersen and and Marion Bougamont
Funding: Natural Environment Research Council, £165,878 (2007-2010)

PIs on Joint Projects: Tony Payne (Bristol) and Andreas Vieli (Durham)

Identification of subglacial paleolakes in Arctic Canada: geophysical surveys in the Great Slave Lake

PI: Poul Christoffersen
Funding: University Research Fund, £9,000 (2005-2007)

Publications

Magazines and popular science

Media and interviews

Books and book sections