Dr Stephen Livingstone
Department of Geography
Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography
+44 114 222 7965
Full contact details
Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
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:
- Investigating the drainage and storage of meltwater through palaeo- and contemporary 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.
- Reconstructing the Late Quaternary history and dynamics of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet.
Investigating the drainage and storage of meltwater at the bed of ice sheets
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.
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 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
- A quasi-annual record of time-transgressive esker formation : implications for ice-sheet reconstruction and subglacial hydrology. The Cryosphere, 14(6), 1989-2004. View this article in WRRO
- Reply to: “Impact of marine processes on flow dynamics of northern Antarctic Peninsula outlet glaciers” by Rott et al.. Nature Communications, 11(1). View this article in WRRO
- Polyphase mid-latitude glaciation on Mars: chronology of the formation of superposed glacier-like forms from crater-count dating. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 125(2). View this article in WRRO
- Oscillating retreat of the last British-Irish ice sheet on the continental shelf offshore Galway Bay, western Ireland. Marine Geology, 420. View this article in WRRO
- Dynamic ice stream retreat in the central sector of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet. Quaternary Science Reviews, 225. View this article in WRRO
- Brief communication : subglacial lake drainage beneath Isunguata Sermia, west Greenland : geomorphic and ice dynamic effects. The Cryosphere, 13(10), 2789-2796. View this article in WRRO
- Equifinality and preservation potential of complex eskers. Boreas. View this article in WRRO
- Rapid accelerations of Antarctic Peninsula outlet glaciers driven by surface melt. Nature Communications, 10. View this article in WRRO
- Complex kame belt morphology, stratigraphy and architecture. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. View this article in WRRO
- Distribution and dynamics of Greenland subglacial lakes. Nature Communications, 10. View this article in WRRO
- Supraglacial rivers on the northwest Greenland Ice Sheet, Devon Ice Cap, and Barnes Ice Cap mapped using Sentinel-2 imagery. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 78, 1-13. View this article in WRRO
- An Automated Method for Mapping Geomorphological Expressions of Former Subglacial Meltwater Pathways (Hummock Corridors) From High Resolution Digital Elevation Data. Geomorphology. View this article in WRRO
- Early deglaciation of the British-Irish Ice Sheet on the Atlantic shelf northwest of Ireland driven by glacioisostatic depression and high relative sea level. Quaternary Science Reviews, 208, 76-96. View this article in WRRO
- The influence of hydrology on the dynamics of land-terminating sectors of the Greenland ice sheet. Frontiers in Earth Science, 7. View this article in WRRO
- Extent and retreat history of the Barra Fan Ice Stream offshore western Scotland and northern Ireland during the last glaciation. Quaternary Science Reviews, 201, 280-302. View this article in WRRO
- Response of surface topography to basal variability along glacial flowlines. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123(10), 2319-2340. View this article in WRRO
- Greenland Ice Sheet surface topography and drainage structure controlled by the transfer of basal variability. Frontiers in Earth Science Cryospheric sciences, 6. View this article in WRRO
- Ice margin oscillations during deglaciation of the northern Irish Sea Basin. Journal of Quaternary Science. View this article in WRRO
- Using ArcticDEM to Analyse the Dimensions and Dynamics of Debris-Covered Glaciers in Kamchatka, Russia. Geosciences, 8(6). View this article in WRRO
- Near-margin ice thickness and subglacial water routing, Leverett Glacier, Greenland. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 50(1). View this article in WRRO
- Glacial curvilineations found along the southern sector of the Laurentide Ice sheet and a hypothesis of formation involving subglacial slope failure in tunnel valleys and subglacial lakes. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. View this article in WRRO
- The periodic topography of ice stream beds: Insights from the Fourier spectra of mega-scale glacial lineations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. View this article in WRRO
- Paleofluvial and subglacial channel networks beneath Humboldt Glacier, Greenland. Geology. View this article in WRRO
- Glacial geomorphology of the northern Kivalliq region, Nunavut, Canada, with an emphasis on meltwater drainage systems. Journal of Maps, 13(2), 153-164. View this article in WRRO
- Reconstructing the confluence zone between Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets along the Rocky Mountain Foothills, southwest Alberta. Journal of Quaternary Science, 31(7), 769-787. View this article in WRRO
- Northeast sector of the Greenland Ice Sheet to undergo the greatest inland expansion of supraglacial lakes during the 21st century. Geophysical Research Letters, 43(18), 9729-9738. View this article in WRRO
- Distribution and characteristics of overdeepenings beneath the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets: Implications for overdeepening origin and evolution. Quaternary Science Reviews, 148, 128-145. View this article in WRRO
- Morphological properties of tunnel valleys of the southern sector of the Laurentide Ice Sheet and implications for their formation. Earth Surface Dynamics, 4, 567-589. View this article in WRRO
- Discovery of relict subglacial lakes and their geometry and mechanism of drainage. Nature Communications, 7. View this article in WRRO
- Subglacial processes on an Antarctic ice stream bed. 2: Can modelled ice dynamics explain the morphology of mega-scale glacial lineations?. Journal of Glaciology, 62(232), 285-298. View this article in WRRO
- Subglacial processes on an Antarctic ice stream bed. 1: Sediment transport and bedform genesis inferred from marine geophysical data. Journal of Glaciology, 62(232), 270-284. View this article in WRRO
- Submarine glacial-landform distribution along an Antarctic Peninsula palaeo-ice stream: a shelf–slope transect through the Marguerite Trough system (66–70° S). Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 46(1), 485-492.
- Mega-scale glacial lineations in Marguerite Trough, Antarctic Peninsula. Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 46(1), 175-176.
- Late Devensian deglaciation of the Tyne Gap Palaeo-Ice Stream, northern England. Journal of Quaternary Science, 30(8), 790-804. View this article in WRRO
- An ice-sheet scale comparison of eskers with modelled subglacial drainage routes. Geomorphology, 246, 104-112. View this article in WRRO
- On the reconstruction of palaeo-ice sheets: Recent advances and future challenges. Quaternary Science Reviews, 125, 15-49. View this article in WRRO
- Discriminating between subglacial and proglacial lake sediments: an example from the Dänischer Wohld Peninsula, northern Germany. Quaternary Science Reviews, 112, 86-108. View this article in WRRO
- Automated mapping of glacial overdeepenings beneath contemporary ice sheets: Approaches and potential applications. Geomorphology, 232, 209-223. View this article in WRRO
- Manual mapping of drumlins in synthetic landscapes to assess operator effectiveness. Journal of Maps, 11(5), 719-729. View this article in WRRO
- Reconstruction of ice-sheet changes in the Antarctic Peninsula since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews, 100, 87-110. View this article in WRRO
- A community-based geological reconstruction of Antarctic Ice Sheet deglaciation since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews, 100, 1-9. View this article in WRRO
- Understanding controls on rapid ice-stream retreat during the last deglaciation of Marguerite Bay, Antarctica, using a numerical model. Journal of Geophysical Research, 119(2), 247-263. View this article in WRRO
- Glacial geomorphology of Marguerite Bay Palaeo-Ice stream, western Antarctic Peninsula. Journal of Maps. View this article in WRRO
- Modelling North American palaeo-subglacial lakes and their meltwater drainage pathways. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 375, 13-33. View this article in WRRO
- Theoretical framework and diagnostic criteria for the identification of palaeo-subglacial lakes. Quaternary Science Reviews, 53(C), 88-110. View this article in WRRO
- Antarctic palaeo-ice streams. EARTH-SCIENCE REVIEWS, 111(1-2), 90-128. View this article in WRRO
- Glaciodynamics of the central sector of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet in Northern England. EARTH-SCIENCE REVIEWS, 111(1-2), 25-55. View this article in WRRO
- Re-advance of Scottish ice into the Solway Lowlands (Cumbria, UK) during the Main Late Devensian deglaciation. QUATERNARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, 29(19-20), 2544-2570. View this article in WRRO
- Sedimentary evidence for a major glacial oscillation and proglacial lake formation in the Solway Lowlands (Cumbria, UK) during Late Devensian deglaciation. Boreas, 39(3), 505-527. View this article in WRRO
- A major ice drainage pathway of the last British-Irish ice sheet: The Tyne Gap, Northern England. Journal of Quaternary Science, 25(3), 354-370. View this article in WRRO
- The Brampton kame belt and Pennine escarpment meltwater channel system (Cumbria, UK): Morphology, sedimentology and formation. PROCEEDINGS OF THE GEOLOGISTS ASSOCIATION, 121(4), 423-443. View this article in WRRO
- The palaeoglaciology of the central sector of the British and Irish Ice Sheet: reconciling glacial geomorphology and preliminary ice sheet modelling. QUATERNARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, 28(7-8), 739-757. View this article in WRRO
- Glacial geomorphology of the central sector of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet. JOURNAL OF MAPS, 4, 358-377. View this article in WRRO
- Reply to Reviewer 1 Comments.
- Reply to Reviewer 2 Comments.
- Brief Communication: Outburst floods triggered by periodic drainage of subglacial lakes, Isunguata Sermia, West Greenland. View this article in WRRO
- Potential subglacial lake locations and meltwater drainage pathways beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. The Cryosphere, 7(6), 1721-1740. View this article in WRRO
- Predicting subglacial lakes and meltwater drainage pathways beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. The Cryosphere Discussions, 7(2), 1177-1213.
- View this article in WRRO A model for interaction between conduits and surrounding hydraulically connected distributed drainage based on geomorphological evidence from Keewatin, Canada. The Cryosphere.
- Reply to Reviewer 1.
- Reply to reviewer 2.
- Reply to reviewer 3.
- Large-scale integrated subglacial drainage around the former Keewatin Ice Divide, Canada reveals interaction between distributed and channelised systems.
- Detecting active subglacial lakes beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet using ArcticDEM.
- Large-scale integrated subglacial drainage around the former Keewatin Ice Divide, Canada reveals interaction between distributed and channelised systems.
- Review - Subglacial drainage patterns of Devon Island, Canada: detailed comparison of river and tunnel valleys. Galofre et al. (2017).
- Morphological properties of tunnel valleys of the southern sector of the Laurentide Ice Sheet and implications for their formation.
- Reply to comments.
- Ice stream grounding-line stability on a reverse bed slope. Nature Geoscience. View this article in WRRO
- Timing and pace of ice-sheet withdrawal across the marine-terrestrial transition west of Ireland during the last glaciation. Journal of Quaternary Science.
- Diverse supraglacial drainage patterns on the Devon Ice Cap, Canadian Arctic. Journal of Maps.
- Dynamics of the last Scandinavian Ice Sheet’s southernmost sector revealed by the pattern of ice streams. Boreas.
- Continent-wide bimonthly mapping of Antarctic surface meltwater using Google Earth Engine.
- Global synthesis of subglacial lakes and their changing role in a warming climate.
- Rivers on Ice: The Evolution of Supraglacial Channels on the Greenland Ice Sheet.
- Ice sheet scale subglacial meltwater conduit dimensions and processes: insights from 3D morphometry of a large sample of eskers.
- ArcticDEM in Google Earth Engine: tools for rapid analysis of multi-temporal data covering glacial environments.
- Variations in esker morphology and internal architecture record time-transgressive deposition during ice margin retreat in Northern Ireland. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.
Software / Code
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