Dr Stephen Livingstone

Department of Geography

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

S.J.Livingstone@Sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 7965

Full contact details

Dr Stephen Livingstone
Department of Geography
Room F7
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
Sheffield
S3 7ND
Profile

Stephen Livingstone obtained his BSc in Geography from the University of Bristol in 2006, before moving to Durham University where he undertook a PhD titled "Reconstructing ice dynamics in the central sector of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet", which was completed in 2010.

Since then he has held a one-year PDRA position at Durham University, before obtaining a NERC Fellowship and moving to Sheffield in 2011.

In 2013 he was awarded a Sheffield University Vice Chancellor Fellowship, which focuses on the drainage of meltwater at the bed of palaeo-ice sheets.

He was appointed as a Lecturer in Physical Geography at The University of Sheffield in September 2016 and Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography in 2020.

Research interests

I am a glacial geologist and glaciologist whose research interests include reconstructing and understanding ice sheet dynamics and subglacial processes from geological and geophysical evidence in both marine and terrestrial environments.

They can be summarised as follows:

  1. Investigating the drainage and storage of meltwater through palaeo- and contemporary ice sheets.
  2. The identification and investigation of landform-sediment assemblages and physical processes at the bed of palaeo-ice streams, and the controls governing their retreat.
  3. Reconstructing the Late Quaternary history and dynamics of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet.

Current Research

Investigating the drainage and storage of meltwater at the bed of ice sheets

Surface meltwater

On the Greenland Ice Sheet, surface melt-water penetrating to the ice bed dominates the subglacial hydrological system and drives short-term ice-flow variations. My research explores the role of ice surface and bed roughness in controlling the current and future distribution and pattern of surface meltwater drainage, where it can access the bed and its impact on ice dynamics. Surface meltwater is also widespread around the fringes of Antarctica, but whether it reaches the bed and influences ice velocity is currently poorly understood. I am involved in research that uses feature tracking to monitor ice velocity and regional climate models to simulate melt to investigate climatic influences on ice flow. 

Greenland Ice Sheet

How do ice sheets drain meltwater at their bed?

I am interested in how ice sheets drain meltwater at their bed. Large volumes of meltwater exist beneath the Earth’s polar ice-sheets. The water lubricates the bed and is a crucial but largely unknown influence on ice-flow and stability. Resolving this issue is essential for producing computer models that can reliably forecast the fate of ice sheets. By identifying and mapping meltwater landform at the ice sheet scale using high resolution topographic models, I aim to produce a detailed characterisation of the form, evolution and drainage of the meltwater system at the base of former ice sheets. This will allow an assessment of the plumbing network and the drainage of meltwater through it, and its effect on ice behaviour and ocean systems.

Subglacial Lakes

Subglacial lakes are bodies of water that lie at the base of an ice sheet between the ice and substrate. They provide habitats for life and can modulate ice flow, basal hydrology, biogeochemical fluxes and geomorphic activity. My research involves both their investigation beneath the modern Greenland Ice Sheet using airborne radar and multi-temporal topographic models and also looking for the geological record of lakes that once existed beneath former ice sheets (e.g. the European and North American palaeo-ice sheets).

The identification and investigation of landform-sediment assemblages and physical processes at the bed of palaeo-ice streams and the controls governing their retreat.

This research focuses on the processes that trigger and controls ice stream grounding-line retreat. This includes using geophysical imagery to map glacial landforms left behind by the former ice streams, and analysis of the sediments deposited, in order to reconstruct the pattern and behaviour of former ice flow and to provide information on the processes that occur at the ice-bed interface. An important component of this research has been to use the geomorphological mapping of glacial landforms to constrain and test numerical ice-sheet models, to try to better understand the controlling factors governing grounding-line retreat.

Reconstructing the Late Quaternary history and dynamics of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet

My PhD research focussed on reconstructing the central sector of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet during the last glacial cycle. This involved glacial landform mapping and sedimentological analysis. Recently I have revisited the area to try and constrain the deglacial history of the four major palaeo-ice streams (Forth, Tweed, Tyne and Stainmore), which drained eastwards across the country, using cosmogenic nuclide and radiocarbon dating techniques.

Although the Geography Department in the University of Sheffield sits on the doorstep of the Peak District, we still do not really know whether this upland region was glaciated during the last glacial cycle. To rectify this, I have led a Departmental initiative to decipher the glacial history of the Peak District. The results of this are being presented in this blog: peakdistrictglaciation.blogspot.co.uk

Publications

Journal articles

Software / Code

Datasets

Grants

2011-2014: Predicting and investigating subglacial lakes beneath the former European and North American ice sheets. (£261,457.39 from NERC – Natural Environmental Research Council)

Teaching activities

Stephen teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses including:

  • GEO6669 Polar and Alpine Change Research Project

  • GEO3002 Specialised Topic – Advanced Geospatial Analysis

  • GEO388 Advances in Cryosphere Science

  • GEO356 Geographical Research Project

  • GEO3007 Lake District Field Class

  • GEO262 Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems