Geomorphology, palaeoclimate and palaeoglaciology

Geomorphology, palaeoclimate and palaeoglaciology

Research in this theme aims to use the landforms and landscapes produced by past ice sheets and glaciers to help construct deglaciation chronologies, and thereby constrain efforts to link previous ice-mass behaviours to past climates. Deglaciation chronologies are strengthened with the aid of geochronological dating techniques, such as luminescence and cosmogenic dating.

Surging glacier landsystems

This project focused initially on the development of, and more recently on the refining and application of, a surging glacier landsystems model. The landsystem model was developed from research undertaken at the margins of contemporary surging glaciers and is an integration of stratigraphical, sedimentological, geomorphological, palaeo-geographical and glaciological data. Application of this model to deglaciated landscapes for the identification of former surging glacier margins in currently in progress. Recent work has focused on the mechanics of full-depth ice fracture during glacier surging and the formation of crevasse-squeeze ridges.

Pleistocene alpine glaciation

The Western Alps, and the Maritime Alps in particular, represent an area of high interest for palaeo-glaciological and climatological studies, given their southern position within Europe and exceptional proximity to the Mediterranean Sea (only 40 km) in comparison to the rest of the chain. The project, in collaboration with the University of Pisa (Italy) and Prime Lab (Purdue University, USA), aims to date the most relevant advance phases of the glaciers that occupied this Alpine sector from the LGM onward. The research involves field mapping, moraine boulder sampling, sample preparation and cosmogenic dating. The results are allowing us to analyze how local climatic conditions might have influenced the extent and timing of the Pleistocene Maritime Alps glaciers.

Geometry and history of the (palaeo) Uummannaq Ice Stream, NW Greenland

The palaeo-Uummannaq Ice Stream system in NW Greenland drained ~10% of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) at the Last Glacial Maximum and was (and still is) equivalent in mass flux to the Jakobshavns Isbrae drainage system directly to the south. Geomorphological mapping, Terrestrial Cosmogenic Nuclide (TCN) analyses, luminescence dating, and 14C are being utilised to develop a robust retreat chronology and ice stream geometry. 1D equilibrium and heat conduction models are used to determine ice fluxes and basal thermal regimes. Forcing of the retreat will be determined using the chronology with oceanic and atmospheric proxy records from marine and ice core records.
(Funding: NERC, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, University of Aberdeen)

Using Glacier-climate proxies to model the Younger Dryas climate in Europe

The coupled ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere system is fundamental for understanding a dynamic climate. This holds true especially in the North Atlantic region and Europe, where theory suggests that future increases in melt water flux from the Greenland Ice Sheet may have enormous ramifications for climate. This was the case in event occurred during the Younger Dryas (YD), between 12900 and 11700 years before present. It was a period of very rapid climate change, which was triggered by the rapid release of melt water into the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in a rapid cooling of Europe and possibly beyond. This project aims to address the question about the magnitude of the climatic change occurred in this event by analysing palaeo-glaciers across Europe, from Svalbard to the Moroccan Atlas, and from Ireland to Turkey. Results will feed already developed palaeoclimatic models, improving our knowledge about the climate at the end of the Quaternary. 

Link to the project's site

(Funding: Leverhulme Trust)