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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Dr Pippa Whitehouse

Associate Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41877
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: S210

Contact Dr Pippa Whitehouse (email at

Research Overview

My research focuses on understanding glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA); the response of the Earth system to changes in ice and ocean loading during a glacial cycle. I investigate how this process can be used to understand changes in sea-level, solid earth deformation, and the volume of the global ice sheets during the last glacial cycle, and in the present day. Previous areas of interest include North America, Scandinavia and Siberia, but my current research primarily focuses on Antarctica.

My expertise lies in running a suite of numerical models that reflect ice dynamics, spatially-variable sea-level change, and deformation of the heterogeoenous Earth. These models allow me to predict how ice sheets grow and decay, how the sea level rises and falls, and how the solid Earth changes shape through time. I collaborate closely with a range of data scientists - geologists, glaciologists, geodesists, seismologists - who provide information that can constrain or validate my modelling.

Ongoing GIA processes are detected by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. GRACE data must therefore be corrected for GIA effects before we can quantify the present rate of ice-sheet mass change. There remain large uncertainties on the GIA signal across Antarictica, and this is one of the primary motivations for my research.


Past and Ongoing Research

W12a GIA Model Output
GIA model output, which may be used to correct GRACE and altimetry data for the effects of GIA in Antarctica, is available for download. Please see Whitehouse et al. (2012, GJI) and the readme file for further details.

NERC Independent Research Fellowship (2013-2018)
My Fellowship research focused on understanding the impact of 3D variations in Earth structure on GIA across Antarctica. This work has led to advances in our ability to quantify present-day rates of ice loss across Antarctica.

During my Fellowship I worked with a number of international collaborators and am grateful for their co-operation. These collaborators include Wouter van der Wal (TU Delft), Terry Wilson (Ohio State University), Doug Wiens (Washington University in St Louis), Ed Bueler (University of Alaska, Fairbanks) and Matt King (University of Tasmania).

Post Fellowship research
Furthering our understanding of feedbacks between ice dynamics, Earth deformation, and sea-level change, via coupled modelling and data assimilation.

Antarctic fieldwork
I was a collaborator on the UKANET project that used seismic data to improve our understanding of Earth structure beneath the Antarctic Peninsula. My fieldwork blog gives an insight into the work involved when installing such instruments at the ends of world!

I currently lead a 5-year NERC-funded project that makes use of data from the UK Antarctic GPS network to advance our understanding of Earth rheology across West Antarctica. Through this project we are upgrading the GPS network so that data are transmitted in real time, and are available to all via the UNAVCO data archive.

Solid Earth Response and influence on Cryosphere Evolution (SERCE)
SERCE is a Scientific Research Program funded by the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR). With Prof. Matt King, I am currently co-director of this program, which seeks to facilitate collaboration with the goal of advancing our understanding of the interactions between the solid earth and the cryosphere to better constrain ice mass balance, ice dynamics and sea level change in a warming world.


For wider audiences
I have written a layman's summary of glacial isostatic adjustment, which explains the scientific theory behind my research. In addition, the methods that we use to determine the rate at which Antarctica is currently losing ice are described in the Autumn 2012 edition of NERC's Planet Earth magazine. I also delivered the Bullerwell Lecture in 2016 in which I summarise my current work on 3D GIA modelling; a video of the recording from the 2016 PGRIP Meeting is available to view.

Research Groups

Research Projects

Research Interests

  • Glacial isostatic adjustment
  • Ice-sheet modelling
  • Solid Earth deformation
  • Geodesy
  • Global sea-level change
  • Records of Antarctic ice-sheet change
  • Records of Antarctic relative sea-level change

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2019: :
    • Invited speaker at the International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences
    • Invited speaker at the Centre of Earth Evolution and Dynamics (Norway)
    • Lead organiser of the SERCE/POLENET GIA Training School
    • Co-organiser of a SERCE-funded workshop on Glacial Isostatic Adjustment
    • Co-convenor at the IUGG General Assembly
  • 2018: :
    • Invited speaker at the Ice-sheet Mass Balance and Sea Level workshop (ISMASS)
    • Co-organiser of the UK Antarctic Science Meeting
  • 2017: :
    • Invited speaker at the Great Antarctic Climate Hack
    • Co-organiser and co-convenor of IAG Workshop on 'Glacial Isostatic Adjustment and Elastic Deformation'
  • 2016: :
    • British Geophysical Association - Bullerwell Lecturer
    • Invited speaker at the AGU Fall Meeting (2 talks)
    • Invited speaker at HOLSEA workshop
    • Co-convenor at the SCAR Open Science Conference
    • Co-director of SCAR Scientific Research Program: 'Solid Earth Response and influence on Cryosphere Evolution" (SERCE) (2016-)
    • UK National Committee for Antarctic Research, committee member (2016-)
  • 2015: :
    • University of Tasmania, Visiting Scholar
    • Co-convenor at the EGU General Assembly
    • Co-convenor at the IUGG General Assembly
    • Invited Instructor at the POLENET GIA Training School
    • IMBIE2 Executive Committee Member, GIA lead (2015-)
  • 2014: :
    • Invited speaker at the WEGENER Meeting
    • Invited speaker at the AGU Fall Meeting
    • Co-organiser of the MOCA model-data workshop on the Late Pleistocene evolution of Antarctica and Greenland
    • Invited speaker for the Royal Meteorological Society (Edinburgh)
    • Invited lecturer at the Karthaus Summer School on Ice Sheets and Glaciers in the Climate System
  • 2013: :
    • Invited speaker at the 'Antarctic Ice Rises 2013' Workshop
    • Member of the Ice-Sheet Mass Balance and Sea Level (ISMASS) steering committee (2013-)
    • Co-convenor at the AGU Fall Meeting
    • Co-convenor for the IAG Workshop on 'Reconciling observations and models of elastic and viscoelastic deformation due to ice mass change'
    • Invited Speaker for the Royal Meteorological Society (Durham, Manchester)
  • 2012: :
    • Invited lecturer at the Karthaus Summer School on Ice Sheets and Glaciers in the Climate System
    • Participant in the Ice sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise (IMBIE)
    • Invited speaker at the Ice-sheet Mass Balance and Sea Level workshop (ISMASS)
    • Invited speaker at the DynaQlim workshop on lithosphere-cryosphere interactions
    • Co-convenor at the AGU Fall Meeting
    • Co-convenor at the SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) Open Science Conference
    • Invited co-convenor of the ESF-funded SLALOM Workshop
  • 2010: :
    • Invited speaker at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting
    • Invited speaker at PALSEA 2010

Selected Publications

Journal Article

Chapter in book

  • Whitehouse, P.L. & Bradley, S.L. Eustatic sea-level changes since the Last Glacial Maximum. In: Elias, S.A. Encyclopedia of Quaternary Sciences, 2nd Edition. Elsevier (Amsterdam); 2013:439-451.

Conference Paper

  • Whitehouse, P.L & England, P.C The Viscosity Distribution in Asia. Eos Trans. AGU; 2002.

Newspaper/Magazine Article

  • King, M.A. & Whitehouse, P. On the Up. Planet Earth. 2012;14-15.


  • Whitehouse, P. & Näslund, J-O. Climate and climate-related issues for the safety assessment SR-Site: Chapter 3.3. Isostatic adjustment and shore-level changes. 2010;TR-10-49, pp. 75-106.
  • Whitehouse, P. Glacial isostatic adjustment and sea-level change state of the art report. 2009;105.
  • Whitehouse, P. Climate and climate-related issues for the safety assessment SR-Can: Chapter 3.3. Isostatic adjustment and shoreline migration. 2006;68-92.

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Geophysics: Antarctica
  • Environmental change: Antarctica
  • The Earth: Rocks & natural forces: Antarctica
  • Environmental change: Sea-level change

Selected Grants

  • 2018: Quantifying West Antarctic mantle viscosity via precise GPS measurement of Earth's response to surface mass balance anomalies (£529167.74 from Natural Environmental Research Council)
  • 2014: Defining models of glacial isostatic adjustment in West Antarctica and Antarctic Peninsula (UKANET): better constraints on Earth structure and uplift (£114431.93 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2013: Constraining Antarctica's contribution to sea-level change: development of a new glacial isostatic adjustment model for Antarctica (£406340.00 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)