Professor Chris D Clark

Sorby Chair of Geoscience

Chris Clark

Room number: E6
Telephone (internal): 27941
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7941
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7941


Chris Clark obtained his BSc in physical geography from University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1985. After this he worked as a milkman in order to earn money for a climbing expedition to the Himalayas. He returned to academia at Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Edinburgh to work on a PhD on "Reconstruction of the behaviour of the Laurentide Ice Sheet using satellite imagery", which was completed in 1990, and the results published in Nature.

Chris became a lecturer at Sheffield in 1990 and was awarded a personal chair in 2004, and holds the Sorby Chair of Geoscience since 2009. He currently lectures on Glacial Geomorphology and Glaciology, and on GIS.

Chris has supervised 19 PhD students, most (72%) of whom have continued in academia or industry research posts. He has acted as external examiner on PhDs in Britain, Sweden and France, as an associate editor for the Annals of Glaciology, and guest editor for Boreas. He has been external examiner for the Aberystwyth MSc in Glaciology, served on the Editorial Advisory Board of Earth Surface Processes and Landforms and as associate editor of the Journal of Maps.

Chris was a member of the Geography panel in the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) and is a member for the current panel (REF2021) which aims to assess the quality of research in UK universities. He is a Fellow of Royal Geographical Society and a member of the International Glaciological Society, British Society of Geomorphology, Quaternary Research Association, and sometimes a member of the European Geophysical Union.


Research Interests:

Palaeoglaciology (the extent and dynamics of former ice sheets) and palaeo-ice stream signatures and ice-stream operation. Remote sensing, digital elevation models (DEMs), glacial geomorphology.

Full publication list, abstracts and links for download can be found at Google Scholar

Current Research:

My primary research interest is in glacial geomorphology, in particular the understanding of processes that lead to the formation of subglacial bedforms (drumlins, flutes etc), and the inverse solution that uses the pattern and distribution of such landforms to reconstruct the behaviour of ice sheets that existed during the last glaciation. I choose to use satellite imagery and elevation models for these purposes because they frequently permit new evidence to be detected and because they allow mapping at a scale compatible with the former ice sheet.
The ultimate aim of this work is to build up a detailed picture of the evolution of former ice sheets through the last glacial cycle and to use this information to improve both ice sheet and climate models.


BRITICE-CHRONO is NERC consortium project that I led along with some 40+ researchers from eight universities, plus the British Geological Survey, British Antarctic Survey, NERC's radiocarbon facility and Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. The focus was on dating the retreat of the former British-Irish Ice Sheet to learn how rapidly ice retreated across the continental shelf and across the marine-to-terrestrial transition and then to use this knowledge to improve numerical ice sheet models used to predict changes in our existing ice sheets. Our team collected samples for dating from the Shetland to the Scilly Isles and from the seafloor surrounding Ireland and Britain, totalling 914 sites and yielding over 600 new ages on ice retreat. The British-Irish Ice Sheet is now the world’s most well constrained retreating ice sheet and is being used to develop ice sheet modelling. More on the BRITICE CHRONO project.

PALGLACEuropean Research Council

I am leading PALGLAC which is a European Research Council Advanced Grant. By focussing on the most numerous and spatially-extensive records of palaeo ice sheet activity - glacial landforms - this project aims to revolutionise understanding of past and future ice sheets. Our team will vastly increase the available record for tuning or validating ice sheet models, develop new tools for gathering landform and geochronological information, and establish procedures for integrating these into ice sheet modelling experiments.

Other members of the PALGLAC project team include: Dr Sarah Bradley, Dr David Stevens, Dr Adam Igneczi, Dr Frances Butcher, Jenny Doole, Dr Jeremy Ely, Dr Stephen Livingstone, Dr Andrew Sole, Prof Ed Rhodes, Prof Mark Bateman, Dr Ann Rowan

Highlights of my research are:

  • Mega-scale glacial lineations
  • Ice sheet reconstructions
  • Palaeo ice streams
  • The British-Irish Ice Sheet – BRITICE-CHRONO
  • Drumlins

Aligning with my main research interests and skills, my teaching is used to impart knowledge, technological expertise and curiosity about glacial environments. I am particularly interested in teaching about how we can use landforms from past glaciations to better understand how ice sheets and glaciers work, and from this, to inform us about the operation of the existing ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland and the mountain glaciers of the world.

I teach students how to use geographic information systems (GIS) and satellite images to analyse and advance knowledge, and in the second year I teach some of the basics of glaciology and glaciation. By the third year, once our students have become proficient at reading published academic papers on the latest advances, we get stuck in on some interesting topics about the production of glacial landforms and how we can use these to decipher the extent and dynamics of ice sheets, such as the one that once covered Britain.

My main teaching activity is via lectures but also includes practical classes, reading groups where we interrogate scientific publications, and some class debates and discussions. For me some of the most satisfying 'teaching' is in supervising the undergraduate research projects (dissertations) and especially so when we discover something new.

Chris teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.


View full list of publications

Publication list, abstracts and links for download can also be found at Google Scholar.

Many papers are available as open access (i.e. free to download) by searching clark, c in White Rose Research Online.