Research

Key research Interests

  • Changing water quality and quantity in glacier-fed catchments
  • Pathways of meltwater flow through the glacial hydrological system
  • The role of meltwater in the dynamics and stability of ice sheets

 

Ongoing research projects

Fallout radionuclides on glaciers: an emerging issue for water quality

Main collaborators: Will Blake, Geoff Millward, Alex Taylor, Kim Ward (University of Plymouth) and Nick Selmes (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)

Fallout radionuclides (FRNs) and other anthropogenic contaminants are transported in the atmosphere and subsequently deposited on and stored within glaciers. In response to changes in climate and associated glacier retreat, these contaminants can be released from glaciers into downstream catchments decades after the original source of contamination was active. Furthermore, interaction with an ice surface material called ‘cryoconite’ can lead to accumulation of contaminants, resulting in enhanced and potentially harmful concentrations. Very little research has been conducted to date on FRNs in glacier catchments; our work aims to fill geographical gaps in knowledge of FRNs in the global cryosphere and collaborate with the wider research community to assess potential impact on the downstream environment and the populations reliant upon glacier-fed waters for drinking water, grazing and irrigation. I have conducted field campaigns in Sweden and Iceland in support of this research, with cryoconite and sediment samples collected in these locations analysed for the presence of radioactive materials and heavy metals at the University of Plymouth Consolidated Radio-isotope Facility (CoRIF).

A new international network of researchers in the fields of glaciology, environmental radioactivity and biogeochemistry has recently been developed, with an aim to build a spatial database for FRNs in glacial environments globally and better understand the physical processes resulting in accumulation of FRNs on glaciers. If you would like to contribute to this project then please contact me.

 

The hydrology and dynamics of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet

Main collaborators: Sarah Greenwood, Per Holmlund, Martin Jakobsson (Stockholm University) and Johan Nyberg (Geological Survey of Sweden)

This research is focussed on developing an improved understanding of the retreat and dynamics of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet during the Late Weichselian. I have a specific interest in the Baltic and Bothnian sea areas, and a combined modelling/geomorphology approach has been applied to help better constrain past ice stream activity in this region, including investigating the controls on grounding line stability and flow dynamics, and the role of atmospheric warming and meltwater production in driving ice retreat. Mapping of high-resolution bathymetric data provides an incredibly well-preserved insight into the subglacial environment in this area, from which we hope to better understand contemporary glacial processes in other regions. This work thus contributes to improving our understanding of both present day and palaeo ice sheets, and provides a unique perspective on marine-terminating ice streams and possibilities for rapid retreat.

 

Hydrocarbon pollution on Rabots Glacier, Kebnekaise, Northern Sweden

Main collaborators: Gunhild Rosqvist and Jerker Jarsjö (Stockholm University)

In March 2012 a Royal Norwegian Air Force Hercules plane crashed just below the summit of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain, depositing much of the wreckage and fuel onto Rabots Glacier. Through an ongoing monitoring programme we are investigating the transit pathways and likely lifetime of hydrocarbons within the glacier catchment. This includes how the pollutants behave in the snowpack, the use of dye tracers to investigate the transport pathways for pollution from the source zone to downstream, and detection of pollution in the proglacial environment where it enters a river catchment used for drinking water by both animals and humans.

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