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Durham University

Department of Geography

Remote Sensing of Recent Glacier Change (PhD or MSc)

Supervised by Professor Chris Stokes

Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have revolutionised our understanding of ice sheet and glacier dynamics and their links to the ocean-climate system. Of great concern, is that ice sheets and glaciers are losing mass in response to 'global warming' and contributing to sea level rise (Hanna et al., 2013). However, there is still much uncertainty about the precise drivers of the observed changes in larger ice masses (e.g. Carr et al., 2013a) and there remain several regions with smaller glaciers that have evaded detailed scrutiny. The retreat of mountain glaciers is also associated with further localised impacts, such as the expansion of supraglacial debris and glacial lakes, potentially increasing the risk of geohazards, (Stokes et al., 2007).

Applications and enquiries are invited to conduct research in the broad area of remote sensing of recent glacier change, either as a MSc or PhD research projects. Recent research, including several postgraduate projects, has investigated the response of outlet glaciers (Figure 1) in the Greenland Ice Sheet (Carr et al., 2013b), the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (Miles et al., 2013) and the Russian High Arctic (Carr et al., 2014); and smaller mountain glaciers in Russia (Stokes et al., 2006; 2013). Projects are also invited which focus on the identification and controls on surge-type glaciers using remote sensing (e.g. Grant et al., 2009), or the evolution of supra-glacal debris cover and ice contact lakes; and associated geohazards (e.g. Stokes et al., 2007).

Candidates with a strong undergraduate qualification and possessing knowledge of glaciology and/or remote sensing and GIS are particularly welcome. Depending on funding, there may be opportunities for fieldwork. Please contact Professor Chris Stokes (c.r.stokes@durham.ac.uk) for any questions or queries about potential projects.

Figure 1: Visible satellite imagery of Arctic marine - (M) and land-terminating outlet glaciers in north-west Greenland (A),
east Greenland (B), Svalbard (C) and Novaya Zemlya, Russia, (D) (from Carr et al., 2013a).

References and Further Reading

Carr, J.R., Stokes, C.R. and Vieli, A. (2013a) Recent progress in understanding marine-terminating Arctic outlet glacier response to climatic and oceanic forcing: twenty years of rapid change. Progress in Physical Geography, 37, 435-466.

Carr, J.R., Vieli, A., Stokes, C.R. (2013b) Influence of sea ice decline, atmospheric warming and glacier width on marine-terminating outlet glacier behaviour in north-west Greenland at seasonal to interannual time-scales. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 118, 1210-1226.

Carr, J.R., Stokes, C.R. and Vieli, A. (2014) Recent retreat of major outlet glaciers on Novaya Zemlya, Russian Arctic, influenced by fjord geometry and sea-ice conditions. Journal of Glaciology, 60, 155-170.

Grant, K.L., Stokes, C.R., Evans, I.S. (2009) Identification and characteristics of surge-type glaciers on Novaya Zemlya, Russian Arctic. Journal of Glaciology, 55, 960-972.

Hanna, E. and 11 others (2013) Ice-sheet mass balance and climate change. Nature, 498, 51-59.

Miles, B.W.J., Stokes, C.R., Vieli, A. and Cox, N.J. (2013) Rapid, climate-driven changes in outlet glaciers on the Pacific coast of East Antarctica. Nature, 500, 563-566.

Stokes, C.R., Popovnin, V, Aleynikov, Gurney, S.D. & Shahgedanova, M., (2007) Recent glacier retreat in the Caucasus Mts, Russia, and associated increase in supraglacial debris cover and supra/proglacial lake development. Annals of Glaciology, 46, 195-203.

Stokes, C.R., Shahgedanova, M., Evans, I.S. and Popovnin, V.V. (2013) Accelerated loss of alpine glaciers in the Kodar Mountains, south-eastern Siberia. Global and Planetary Change, 101, 82-95.

Stokes, C.R., Popovnin, V, Aleynikov, Gurney, S.D. & Shahgedanova, M., (2007) Recent glacier retreat in the Caucasus Mts, Russia, and associated increase in supraglacial debris cover and supra/proglacial lake development. Annals of Glaciology, 46, 195-203.

Stokes, C.R., Gurney, S.D., Shahgedanova, M. & Popovnin, V. (2006) Late twentieth century changes in glacier extent in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia. Journal of Glaciology, 52 (176), 99-109.

To apply for this project please visit the How to Apply page for further information.