ICERS

In the Ice and ClimatE Research at Sheffield (ICERS) Group we research the impact that past, present and future climatic changes have on our ice masses, oceans, and atmosphere. By studying how these systems work and interact, we can better understand how they will respond to ongoing global heating and potential consequences for society.

Two researchers sat on rock in front of snow mountains

Research themes

Ice sheet and glacier responses to climate change

Ice sheets and glaciers are sensitive barometers of climate. The current climate crisis has caused many of them to lose mass to the oceans, raising global sea levels. Mountain glaciers also prevent widespread drought to large populations worldwide through seasonal melting. Our research aims to understand how these ice masses operate in response to past, present and future climate changes.

Ongoing projects

BRITICE-CHRONO is a large Natural Environment Research Council Consortium grant, the aim of which is to improve ice sheet forecasting in a warming world. By working out how fast the last ice sheet that covered Britain and Ireland deglaciated, we can test our models of ice sheet flow.

Everdrill: The Everest region glacier drilling programme. Populations in southern and central Asia depend on seasonal glacier ice and snow melt for water supplies, food security and hydroelectric energy production. Using hot-water drilling at Khumbu Glacier, the world's highest glacier in the Everest region of Nepal, the Everdrill team are collecting data which will improve our understanding of how glaciers in this region will respond to climate change.

Water-ice interactions. An ongoing research theme is the interaction between water and ice on, in and under glaciers and ice-sheets. Highlights of our research include: discovering  50+ new subglacial lakes beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet, and that water on the surface of Antarctic Peninsula glaciers can drain through the ice, reaching the bed where it lubricates ice flow.

Recent papers

Tuckett, P.A., Ely, J.C., Sole, A.J., Livingstone, S.J., Davison, B.J., van Wessem, J.M. and Howard, J., 2019. Rapid accelerations of Antarctic Peninsula outlet glaciers driven by surface melt. Nature Communications, 10(1), pp.1-8.

Miles, K.E., Hubbard, B., Quincey, D.J., Miles, E.S., Sherpa, T.C., Rowan, A.V. and Doyle, S.H., 2018. Polythermal structure of a Himalayan debris-covered glacier revealed by borehole thermometry. Scientific Reports, 8(1), p.16825.

Bowling, J.S., Livingstone, S.J., Sole, A.J. and Chu, W., 2019. Distribution and dynamics of Greenland subglacial lakes. Nature Communications, 10(1), p.2810.

The atmosphere and oceans in a warming world

The oceans and atmosphere are changing in response to global heating. Our research aims to understand these systems at a global scale. This includes work on North Atlantic Ocean responses to meltwater inputs, the Southern Hemisphere Atmospheric Circulation, and tropical hurricane, monsoon and El Niño variability. 

Ongoing projects

Historical records of past climate. To contextualise current climate changes, it is important to have long term measurements. Instrumental records only go back so far. One rich source of information regarding historical climate conditions are written archives and records. This project aims to reconstruct past climate change using records such as ships logbooks. 

Icebergs as ocean fertilisers. When icebergs are released from an ice sheet, they melt into the ocean surrounding them. This process releases nutrients (eg iron) trapped in the ice into the ocean, and also induces localised convective circulation which brings deeper nutrient-rich waters to the surface where the nutrients can be used to enhance biological productivity. This means that icebergs become feeding grounds for small organisms, such as phytoplankton. This project aims to quantify the impact that icebergs have on ocean ecosystems. 

Recent papers

Jones, J.M., Gille, S.T., Goosse, H., Abram, N.J., Canziani, P.O., Charman, D.J., Clem, K.R., Crosta, X., De Lavergne, C., Eisenman, I. and England, M.H., 2016. Assessing recent trends in high-latitude Southern Hemisphere surface climate. Nature Climate Change, 6(10), pp.917-926.

Barrett, H.G., Jones, J.M. and Bigg, G.R., 2018. Reconstructing El Niño Southern Oscillation using data from ships’ logbooks, 1815–1854. Part II: Comparisons with existing ENSO reconstructions and implications for reconstructing ENSO diversity. Climate dynamics, 50(9-10), pp.3131-3152.

Duprat, L.P., Bigg, G.R. and Wilton, D.J., 2016. Enhanced Southern Ocean marine productivity due to fertilization by giant icebergs. Nature Geoscience, 9(3), p.219.

The impacts of the climate crisis

The changing climate is having an impact on our everyday lives. Our research looks at how the ongoing climate crisis is affecting people. Food and water security are a particular concern and form a focus of our research which looks at how global heating will affect crop yields and food webs in fisheries. The climate crisis may also bring more hazards. For example, our research looks to predict how icebergs will be discharged from the ice sheets affecting shipping, and quantify historic rates of flooding in the UK.

Ongoing projects

CODINA aims to increase the understanding of food web dynamics in sub-Arctic ecosystems in order to improve ecosystem management. The project focuses on the diet of Barents Sea cod and how this is linked to variability in the environment and populations of cod and its prey.

Icebergs as hazards to shipping. Collision with an iceberg from the Greenland Ice Sheet caused the Titanic to sink. In recent decades, iceberg numbers have tended to increase, leading to an increased risk to shipping. This project aims to predict the paths and melt rates of icebergs across the shippings routes of the north-west Atlantic. 

Floodstones. Climate change is likely to bring about more frequent coastal flooding. To assess this coastal flood risk, it is important to understand the historical frequency of flooding. Floodstones are horizontal marks often found on the side of buildings or other long lasting structures. This project aims to improve our understanding of coastal flood risk by collating a database of floodstones from around the UK.

Recent papers

Bigg, G.R., Zhao, Y. and Hanna, E., 2019. Forecasting the severity of the Newfoundland iceberg season using a control systems model. Journal of Operational Oceanography, pp.1-13.

Bigg, G.R., Cropper, T.E., O’Neill, C.K., Arnold, A.K., Fleming, A.H., Marsh, R., Ivchenko, V., Fournier, N., Osborne, M. and Stephens, R., 2018. A model for assessing iceberg hazard. Natural hazards, 92(2), pp.1113-1136.

Bateman, M.D., Rushby, G., Stein, S., Ashurst, R.A., Stevenson, D., Jones, J.M. and Gehrels, W.R., 2018. Can sand dunes be used to study historic storm events?. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 43(4), pp.779-790.

The imprint of ice sheets and glaciers on the landscape

Ice sheets and glaciers dramatically alter landscapes; reshapping valleys, depositing hills, cutting away at mountains and moulding bedrock. These processes are ongoing today beneath contemporary ice sheets and glaciers. However, the often kilometer-thick ice obscures our view. To improve our understanding of how glaciers and ice sheets impact on the landscape, our research often turns to the landforms left behind by ice sheets that existed during previous glacial cycles. By studying areas that were formerly occupied by ice sheets (eg Canada, Scandinavia, Britain and Ireland), we can gain better access to the sub-ice environment where many landscapes and landforms were generated.

Ongoing projects

PALGLAC is a large EU-funded grant, the aim of which is to understand Earth’s ice sheets by landform analysis. This will be done by tackling several outstanding questions: How do regularly arranged hills (known as drumlins) beneath ice sheets form? Can we link landform data with numerical models of ice flow? Can machine learning help up map the imprint of ice sheets? How did the last-ice sheet in Scandinavia flow?

Britice. Britain and Ireland were once subsumed by an ice sheet that was over a kilometer thick. This ice sheet left its impact on the landscape around us today. The Britice project brings together mapping of landforms (eg drumlins, cirques, moraines) that were created by the last British-Irish Ice Sheet. This is available to everyone as an interactive map.

Recent papers

Patton, H., Swift, D.A., Clark, C.D., Livingstone, S.J. and Cook, S.J., 2016. Distribution and characteristics of overdeepenings beneath the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets: Implications for overdeepening origin and evolution. Quaternary Science Reviews, 148, pp.128-145.

Clark, C.D., Ely, J.C., Greenwood, S.L., Hughes, A.L., Meehan, R., Barr, I.D., Bateman, M.D., Bradwell, T., Doole, J., Evans, D.J. and Jordan, C.J., 2018. BRITICE Glacial Map, version 2: a map and GIS database of glacial landforms of the last British–Irish Ice Sheet. Boreas, 47(1), pp.11-e8.

Lewington, E.L., Livingstone, S.J., Sole, A.J., Clark, C.D. and Ng, F.S., 2019. An automated method for mapping geomorphological expressions of former subglacial meltwater pathways (hummock corridors) from high resolution digital elevation data. Geomorphology, 339, pp.70-86.

People 

Staff

Jeremy Ely

Mark Bateman

Grant Bigg

Sarah Bradley

Frances Butcher

Rob Bryant

Chris Clark

Adam Igneczi

Julie Jones

Stephen Livingstone

Felix Ng

Edward Rhodes

Ann Rowan

David Stevens

Andrew Sole

Darrel Swift

PhD students

Sunday Ashua

Archana Dayal

Nico Dewald

Christiaan Diemont

Sean Gilgannon

Zulhan Harahap

William Higson

Josephine Hornsey

Gemma Ives 

Andrew Jones

Eleanor Jones

Emma Lewington

Ambrose McCarron

Murk K Memon

Joe Molloy

Greg Rushby

Peter Tuckett

KM Florentine Weber

Teresa Weimer

Remy Veness

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