Professor Matteo Spagnolo

Professor Matteo Spagnolo
Professor Matteo Spagnolo
Professor Matteo Spagnolo

Personal Chair

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 273034
Office Address

Dept of Geography & Environment

School of Geosciences

St Mary's G06

Elphinstone Road AB24 3UF Aberdeen UK

School of Geosciences


2021 to present   Personal Chair, University of Aberdeen, UK

2016 to 2021   Reader, University of Aberdeen, UK

2016-17   Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, USA

2013-16   Senior Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, UK

2009-13   Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, UK

2007-09   Post-Doctoral Research Associate (NERC), Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, UK. Project: Morphometry of drumlins as a testfor subglacial bedform formation theories

2002-07   Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Pisa, Italy. Project: Morphotectonics and glacialism of the Maritime Alps

2002   PhD Geological Sciences, University of Genova, Italy. Thesis: Morphotectonics and fluvial geomorphology of the Ligurian Alps

1999   MSc Remote Sensing, Istituto Agronomico per l’Oltremare, Firenze, Italy. Thesis: Remote Sensing and Natural Resource Evaluation in the Cochabamba Plain (Bolivia)

1998   BS Natural Sciences, University of Pisa, Italy. Thesis: Geomorphological study and mapping of the Val Grande di Palanfrè (Maritime Alps) 

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Head of Geography

University of Aberdeen Elected Senator

Campus Planning Group member

NERC DTP2 Quadrat Board Member

School of Geosciences Executive Member

External Memberships

Geomorphology Editorial Board

EGU Geomorphology Division Officer

SAGES Research and Innovation Committee

NERC and ANR Review Panel member

Latest Publications

View My Publications


Research Overview

  • Ice sheet/stream dynamics via the study of glacial bedforms (esp. drumlins & MSGL): morphometry, spatial distribution, formation and evolution
  • Quaternary climate changes, via the study of Alpine glaciations: glacial landform (e.g. cirques) mapping, morphometry and distribution, glacier extent reconstruction, equilibrium line altitudes, and moraine dating via cosmogenics
  • The interplay between tectonics, climate and surface processes: volcano-glacier interaction, glacial buzzsaw, rivers and catchment morphometry

Research Areas

Geography and Environment

Geology and Geophysics

Research Specialisms

  • Geographical Information Systems
  • Physical Geography
  • Geomorphology
  • Climate Change
  • Glaciology and Cryospheric Systems

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

  • Glacial cirques and cirque glaciers

Related funds: SAGES


Cirques or corries are spectacular glacial landforms that dominate the valley head of most mountains in the world (and beyond, e.g. Mars). Their formation is related to glacial erosion and the presence and metrics are ideal indicators of current or past glacial activities and their response to climate change. Over the years I have conducted relevant research on many settings worldwide, including Kamchatka, Mars and Antarctica. I have also developed GIS tool that facilitate the analysis of these landforms metrics, from simple to complex parameters. All studies have led to an improved understanding of palaeo climate conditions in regions where no or limited other climate proxies are available.


  • Pleistocene Alpine glaciers as a proxy to palaeo-climate

    Related funds: Leverhulme Trust, EU FP7, Carnegie Trust and NERC, SUERC

    There are several distinct projects on this topic each focusing on a separate region, plus an overall arching project that looks at the Younger Dryas climate throughout Europe. Three of the distinct projects are: (i) the South-Western Alps, a region of high interest within the Alps for palaeo-glaciological and climatological studies, given its exceptional proximity to the Mediterranean Sea; (ii) the Balkans, where the glaciation record is crucial to understand the latitudinal distribution of ice masses during the Quaternary and provide key insights on the southern European palaeo-climate; (iii) the Faroe Islands, ideally placed to constraint the location of the polar front at the Younger Dryas. These projects, which rely on the fruitful collaboration with many colleagues in the UK, continental Europe and USA, are aiming at dating the most relevant advance phases of the glaciers that occupied this mountainous sectors during the Pleistocene. The research involves field mapping, moraine boulder sampling, sample preparation, cosmogenic dating, reconstruction of former glaciers extent and their ELA, palaeo-climate modelling. Recently, I have been working on glacier reconstruction in the Peruvian Andes.

Past Research

  • The formation of Mega Scale Glacial Lineations: insights into the mechanisms of ice stream flow

    Related funds: NERC

    MSGL are extremely elongated ridges that maintain a parallel conformity over length of 10s of km. MSGL are the morphological expression of ice stream flow and are a signature of physical conditions at the ice-bed interface. Thus, the correct understanding of their formation is undoubtedly a key piece of the puzzle for solving fundamental questions regarding the dynamic behaviour of ice streams. In this project I am creating the largest (10s of thousands) database of mapped MSGL, onshore and offshore, and analyzing their metrics variability and spatial distribution. I am also looking into great details at onshore MSGL and inter-MSGL internal composition. Insights from the morphometry and the sedimentology are going to be used to test and improve theories on the formation of MSGL and to refine models of ice stream flow.


  • Drumlins: do we really know what they are?

        Related funds: NERC

Drumlins are likely the most studied landforms in glacial geomorphology (>1400 papers), and yet it is not clear how they are formed. Mega Scale Glacial Lineations have been “discovered” only a few decades ago but they have quickly become one of the best indicators of particularly fast flowing ice (ice streams). As part of the NERC project “testing the instability theory of subglacial bedform production”, I have discovered that many ideas of drumlin formation are based on assumptions of drumlin morphometry that are potentially wrong because based on out-of-dated techniques applied over a very small sample of landforms. With the increasing availability of GIS tools and DTM data it is now possible to map and analyze thousands of these landforms and re-write drumlins' characteristics. My interest lies in analyzing drumlins 2 and 3D morphometric properties in general and the spatial distribution of these properties within a landform swarm in particular. The aim is that of creating a solid data-based framework of information on drumlin morphometry that could be used as a tool to (i) challenge previous drumlin formation hypotheses and (ii) develop and/or test any numerical model of drumlin formation.

Knowledge Exchange

Past three years

2022   Glaciers have existed on Earth for at least 60 million years – far longer than previously thought, an article published in The Conversation

2022       Ancient Glaciers and Climate - Field Trip to the Peruvian Andes, a five-part vlog published on YouTube;;;;

2022   Deciphering the past climate signature on present-day landscape: travel notes from a fieldtrip to the Peruvian Andes, published online at

2022   The challenge of Climate Change and Sea Level Fluctuations, a video for the Sustainable Geosciences Initiative of the University of Aberdeen published online at

2022   The spectacular overburden of the Cambo field, an article published on (

2022   Ice stupas: The artificial glaciers helping combat the effects of climate change, an article published on Science Focus (

2022   Thermokarst Lakes, a summary of Burnham et al. 2022 paper featured in Planet Snapshots (, issue 17

2021   Ice stupas: the artificial mini glaciers bringing water to some of the driest, coldest places on Earth, an article published in The Conversation (, read by >20,000 people)

2021   Cryosphere science and adaptation solutions to scale up climate action in the Hindu Kush Himalaya, COP26 Cryosphere Pavilion presentation (

2021   Aberdeen scientists develop ice stupas for Himalayan water crisis. BBC News (

2021   The ice stupa project BBC Radio Scotland interview, on air 27/09/21

2021   Ice Stupas - bringing water to some of the driest, coldest places on Earth, University of Aberdeen main webpage/FB/Twitter news ( The news was then embedded in various channels worldwide, including featuring for the National Geographic Kids

2020   Now let's take a look at the weather - 12,000 years ago, University of Aberdeen main webpage news (

2020   Ancient glaciers could help predict tomorrow’s weather in Scotland, an article featured in the Herald Scotland (

2020   Aberdeen University study provides clear picture of ancient weather patterns in Europe, an article featured in the Aberdeen Evening Express

2020     Antarctica warmer than ever, an article featured in the Press and Journal

2020    Using glaciers to identify, monitor and predict volcanic activity, an article featured in the 2019 Leverhulme Trust Annual Review

2019     Rea, B., Gemmell, A., Spagnolo, M. (2019). Glaciology in Aberdeen. Scottish Geographical Journal, 135, 236-256   doi:10.1080/14702541.2019.1695891

2019   The paper Volcanic impacts on modern glaciers: a global synthesis is used for Chapter 2 (High Mountain Areas) of the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2019 Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

Funding and Grants

Past three years:

2021-25    Principal Investigator, Quenching the thirst at the foot of the giants: the effect of climate change on glacier-derived water resources in high mountain regions, NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP2) funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: D. Mullan, B. Rea, A. Bhardwaj) (£87k)

2021-25    Co-Investigator, Resilience and adaptation of First Nations communities in Canada to disappearing winter road infrastructure in a changing climate, NERC DTP2 funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: D. Mullan, G. Catney) (£87k)

2023         Principal Investigator, The impact of water scarcity on the rural communities in Ladakh, NW Himalaya, University of Aberdeen Cross Disciplinary Research for Discovery Science grant (Collaborators: M. Mills) (£10k)

2022-23    Principal Investigator, Contextualising climate change and its effect on glaciers in Peru, SAGES small grant (Collaborators: B. Rea) (£1.5k)

2022-23     Co-Investigator, Understanding the relationship between climate and glaciers in the Pariacacá and Huaytapallana mountains of Peru, SAGES small grant (Collaborators: L. Ashiptel, B. Rea) (£2.5k)

2021-23     Principal Investigator, Icy thermometers: the use of glaciers to measure and monitor volcano temperature (HOT ICE), NERC Seedcorn (Collaborators: I. Barr, D. Coppola, T. Girona, M. Pritchard, B. Rea) (£100k)

2021-23    Principal Investigator, Icy thermometers: the use of glaciers to measure and monitor volcano temperature (HOT ICE), NERC (Collaborators: I. Barr, D. Coppola, T. Girona, M. Pritchard, B. Rea) (£100k)

2021-23    Principal Investigator, Unravelling the climate of the Last Glacial Maximum using the equilibrium line altitude of peripheral glaciers in the Alps, Royal Society International Exchange (Collaborators: G. Monegato, P. Mozzi, B. Rea) (£12k)

2019-23    Principal Investigator, Ice and fire: exploring relationships between glaciers, volcanoes and climate, NERC DTP2 funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: D. Mullan, B. Rea, I. Barr, L. De Siena) (£87k)

2019-23    Co-Investigator, Ice streams: present-to-palaeo, NERC DTP2 funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: B. Rea, A. Newton) (£87k)

2018-23    Co-Investigator (I contributed, with another 6 UoA colleagues, to the development and writing of the application), Queens University Belfast & University of Aberdeen Doctoral Research and Training (QUADRAT), NERC DTP2 (Collaborators: G. Paton, S. Piertney, B. Rea, A. Brasier, M. Emmerson, J. McKinley) (£5.4M)

2019-22    Co-Investigator, Using glaciers to identify, monitor, and predict volcanic activity, Leverhulme Research Grant (Collaborators: I. Barr, B. Edwards, E. Symeonakis) (£221k)

2021         Co-Investigator, Assessing the impact of 3D terrain data resolution on thermomechanical modelling of ice avalanches, University of Aberdeen Pump-Priming Interdisciplinary Research (Collaborators: A. Anshuman, B. Rea, L. Sam, S. Shaktiman) (£11.4k)

2021         Co-Investigator, Estimating changes in glacier surface velocity as a precursor of hazardous ice avalanches, University of Aberdeen Pump-Priming Interdisciplinary Research (Collaborators: L. Sam, A. Anshuman, B. Rea, S. Shaktiman) (£14.7k)

2018-21    Co-Investigator, The application of millimetre wave radar to the study of volcano-glacier interactions and ice-ocean interactions in conditions of reduced visibility, EPSRC - SAGES - University of St. Andrews co-funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: D. Robertson, D. Benn, L. De Siena, D. MacFarlane, B. Rea) (£83k)

2020-21    Principal Investigator, Ice stupa: a solution to improve Himalayan-Karakoram mountain community resilience to water scarcity – University of Aberdeen Global Challenge Research Fund Pump Priming (Collaborators: B. Rea, A. Bhardwaj, L. Sam, S. Singh) (£20k)

2020-21    Co-Investigator, Radar Monitoring of Calving at Hansbreen (RaMoCH), SAGES SSGS (Collaborators: W. Harcour, D. MacFarlane, B. Rea) (£2.5k)

2019-20    Principal Investigator, Palaeo-glacier and climate reconstructions in the Arctic Urals, NERC – UK & Russia Arctic Bursary (Collaborators: B. Rea, I. Barr) (£7k)

2019-20    Co-Investigator, Joint TeMas – VALIDATE meeting, Terrestrial Magmatic System Research Platform (Collaborator: L. de Siena) (£1.5k)

2019-20    Principal Investigator, Understanding past climate changes through glaciers and speleothems, SAGES funded PEER (B. Rea, A. Ribolini, I. Isola, G. Zanchetta) (£2k)

2019-20    Co-Investigator, Radar Monitoring of Calving at Hansbreen, Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (Collaborators: W. Harcour, D. MacFarlane, B. Rea) (£10.3k)

2017-20    Principal Investigator, Climate at the onset of the Antarctic ice-sheet growth: a detailed analysis of ice-buried glacial cirques, SAGES – University of Aberdeen co-funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: R. Bingham, I. Barr, B. Rea) (£83k)

2017-20    Co-Investigator, Quantifying the topographic expression of ice flow on contemporary and deglaciated ice-sheet beds, SAGES – University of Edinburgh co-funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: R. Bingham, S. Mudd, T. Bradwell) (£83k)

2019         Principal Investigator, Contextualising glacier retreat in response to climate change in the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes, University of Aberdeen GCRF Pump Priming (Collaborator: B. Rea) (£10k)

2019         Lone Investigator, Holocene glacier reconstruction in the Maritime Alps, University of Pisa Visiting Professorship (Collaborator: A. Ribolini) (£2k)

2016-19    Co-Investigator, Characterisation of glacigenic reservoirs and landsystems using sedimentology, geomorphology and virtual outcrop mapping, NERC Oil and Gas CDT funded PhD studentship (Collaborators: B. Rea, J. Howell, D. Corwall) (£83.5k)


Teaching Responsibilities

Applied GIS Project Planning & Spatial Analysis, MSc students (redesign and co-delivery, course coordinator)

Mapping and Monitoring the Environment, 2nd year students (co-redesign and co-delivery, course coordinator)

GIS and Remote Sensing, 3rd year students, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen (co-design and co-delivery, course coordinator)

The Montane Environment, 4th year students, course and fieldtrip to the Alps (co-delivery)

Global worlds, global challenges course fieldtrip to Forvie (Scotland), 1st year students (co-design and co-delivery)





Page 1 of 11 Results 1 to 10 of 109

Show 10 | 25 | 50 | 100 results per page


Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Conferences

Contributions to Journals