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Glaciology and Climate Change

The cryosphere, which encompasses all portions of the Earth's surface where water is found in solid form, is one of the most dynamic components of the Earth's climate system. It includes glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, as well as sea ice, lake/river ice, snow cover, seasonally frozen ground and permafrost; and hence, it is extremely sensitive to rising air temperatures, such as those predicted for the near future.

Scientists take a break on a traverse from Siple Dome to Kamb Ice Stream, Antarctica Looking into the void: scientists explore a drained lake on the Greenland Ice Sheet

The 'Frozen planet'. (Left) Scientists take a break on a traverse from Siple Dome to Kamb Ice Stream, Antarctica (Photo: Poul Christoffersen), (Right) Looking into the void: scientists explore a drained lake on the Greenland Ice Sheet (Photo: Ian Willis)

Cryospheric regions act as barometers of global change and help us to study the processes of climate change in different ways. Examples of current research within this group includes (i) the formation of meltwater lakes on the Greenland Ice Sheet and their connection to the basal water system; (ii) form and flow of glaciers within Arctic ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet; (iii) subglacial processes beneath Antarctic ice streams; (iv) hydrological effects of permafrost thaw in Alaska; and (v) vegetation change in the Eurasian Arctic.

To assess the state of the cryosphere and how it changes with time, we use a combination of fieldwork, satellite remote sensing techniques and computer simulations. We have detected and documented important aspects of the dramatic change taking place in the cryosphere; from the hydrology of former ice sheets to the hydrology of modern ice sheets; and from widespread glacier acceleration in Greenland to the curious stagnation of a large ice stream in Antarctica. Together, these studies have contributed greatly towards our understanding of global climate change.

People

The following scientists at the Scott Polar Research Institute are involved in the activities of this research group:

Staff
Research students

Research projects

Examples of current research projects can be found in Polar Physical Science section of the latest edition of SPRI Review. There is also a more complete list.

Publications

Members of the group have written a number of scientific papers on a number of aspects of glaciology and its links with our changing environment. In addition, Institute staff have also edited books concerning glaciology.

Research grants

The work of the Glaciology group is currently supported by a series of research grants.