Dr Felix Ng

DPhil

Department of Geography

Reader in Theoretical Glaciology

F.Ng@Sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 7949

Full contact details

Dr Felix Ng
Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
Sheffield
S3 7ND
Profile

Felix grew up in Hong Kong and attended middle school in the UK. After graduating in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford in 1994, he moved to the Mathematical Institute there to study the doctoral degree, completing his DPhil thesis on mathematical glaciology in 1998.

Felix then held a Junior Research Fellowship at St. John's College, University of Oxford from 1998 to 2002. He spent 2001 visiting the University of Washington, Seattle, as Royal-Society/Fulbright postdoctoral fellow.

From 2003 to 2005, Felix was the Leavitt Research Fellow in Geosciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He was appointed as Lecturer in Glaciology at The University of Sheffield in 2005, and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012, and Reader in January 2018.

In 2017, Felix visited the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand as William Evans Visiting Fellow to collaborate with glaciologists there.

He was awarded the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year.

He was the winner of the 2021 Croucher Science Image Awards. For this competition, he submitted a stunning image created from his research findings on Antarctic ice streams.

Fieldwork and short visits with collaborators have taken Felix to Iceland, the Alps, West Antarctica, and Central Asia.

In 1999 he accompanied Robert Hoyland in his archaeological expedition to Syria where we hunted for early-Islamic Safaitic inscriptions in the desert (no ice there!).

Other interests: mountaineering and exploration, Central Asian culture and history, horse-riding.

Research interests
  • Large-scale behaviour of glaciers and ice sheets, and their environmental interactions
  • Mathematical models of glacial processes and landforms
  • Polar ice on Mars

My research is centred around glaciology, and concentrates on three areas:

  1. Ice dynamics
  2. Glacier hydrology
  3. Glacial geomorphology

I am interested in supervising PhD students who wish to research the cryosphere by combining mathematical modelling and observational data.

My past PhD students include: Adam Hepburn (Durham Uni.), Jonny Kingslake (Columbia Uni.), Becky Coles, Iestyn Barr (MMU).

Publications

Edited books

Journal articles

Chapters

Conference proceedings papers

Software / Code

Datasets

Teaching activities

My teaching encompasses the theoretical, empirical and skill elements of physical geography. Breaking down complex things and explaining them simply is difficult, and this is what I try to do with our students. Thus I emphasise a structured approach in exploring knowledge.

I am fortunate in my own education to have been taught by people who are truly inspirational; now I try to follow in their footsteps by launching students into the fun of thinking, problem-solving, and discovery. I do this by a range of methods, including getting our students to push ideas around in words and drawings with me, and doing experiments in the classroom.

For my contributions I won one of the University's Senate Awards for Excellence in Learning and Teaching in 2010.

I teach on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

I am also the Director of the MSc(Res) Polar and Alpine Change and have been an invited lecturer on the International Summer School on "Glaciers and Ice Sheets in the Climate System" in Karthaus, Italy.

My MSc research students in recent years include: Beth Nelson, Anwesha Sharma (Durham Uni, PhD student), Joanna Zanker (BAS, PhD student), Vicky Dutch (Northumbria Uni., PhD student), Adam Hepburn, Olly Bartlett (Uni. Hertfordshire), Clement Hutin (Met Office), Pierre-Marie Lefeuvre (Oslo Uni.), Chris Goodwin, Wil Poole.

Additional research projects

Ice Dynamics

I had earlier investigated the surge behaviour of sub-polar glaciers with Tavi Murray (Leeds) and Andrew Fowler (Oxford) and recently turned my attention to the Antarctic ice streams, whose variable flow exerts strong control on ice-sheet mass balance.

With Howard Conway (Seattle), I used the radar structures in Kamb Ice Stream to infer its flow speed before it stopped ~150 years ago. Ongoing work considers the general problem of deciphering the history of ice flow from englacial radar layers.

Graph showing the radar X-section of Kamb Ice Stream, showing undulating layers in ice ~1800 m deep

Radar X-section of Kamb Ice Stream, showing undulating layers in ice ~1800 m deep (horizontal axis in km) 

Model of isochrone-layer deformation along a flow band in an ice stream

Model of isochrone-layer deformation along a flow band in an ice stream 

Glacier Hydrology

Catastrophic outburst floods from ice-dammed lakes, known as jökulhlaups, can deliver several cubic kilometres of water suddenly with a peak discharge ranging up to 105 m3 s-1, causing severe environmental and economic impact.

In order to identify factors that regulate their timing and magnitude, I am studying the mechanics of these floods worldwide and also locally, using examples from Iceland and from the Tian Shan.

Image of the moraine-dammed lake at Grinnell Glacier, Rocky Mountains where fieldwork took place

Fieldwork on the moraine-dammed lake at Grinnell Glacier, Rocky Mountains 

Glacial Geomorphology

Glaciation leaves behind a variety of bedforms on the Earth surface. Part of my research explores how they form, with an aim to reconstruct the conditions of past ice flow using them and to learn something about the processes that operate at the glacier bed.

The following images show two examples which I have studied.

Pins of calcite precipitate protruding from the leeside of a limestone bed specimen (collected by Bernard Hallet from Castleguard Glacier, Canada)

Centimetre-scale: Pins of calcite precipitate protruding from the leeside of a limestone bed specimen (collected by Bernard Hallet from Castleguard Glacier, Canada) 

Drumlins of the Puget Sound, Washington State, USA. This LIDAR image is about 6 km wide. Image courtesy: Ralph Haugerud.

Kilometre-scale: Drumlins of the Puget Sound, Washington State, USA. This LIDAR image is about 6 km wide. Image courtesy: Ralph Haugerud. 

When sediment-laden ice sublimates, a debris layer (an ablation till) forms on the surface and it can become thick enough to obscure the ice.

This situation is found in central Beacon Valley, Antarctica. Together with collaborators at the University of Washington, I have studied the cosmogenic.

He systematics of the debris accretion process and applied our model to understand how the till layer in Beacon Valley developed while it also became spectacularly patterned by contraction-crack polygons

Photo of the campsite at Beacon Valley

Beacon Valley (photo by Ron Sletten) 

Polygonal pattern on the sublimation till that covers relict ice Beacon Valley. The polygon diameter is about 10m.

Polygonal pattern on the sublimation till that covers relict ice (not visible) in Beacon Valley. The polygon diameter is about 10m.