Dr Stephen Livingstone

Lecturer in Physical Geography

Stephen Livingstone

Room number: F7
Telephone (internal): 27965
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7965
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7965
Email: S.J.Livingstone@Sheffield.ac.uk

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.

Research Interests

resinI 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

White Rose Consortium - Roughness modulation of the Greenland Ice Sheet

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. However, the physical processes controlling storage and drainage of surface meltwater, and the way it affects ice flow are not comprehensively understood. This project explores the role of ice surface and bed roughness in controlling where meltwater can access the bed, and the nature of its subsequent flow beneath the ice. We have mapped ice surface hydrology across regions of contrasting bed and surface topographic roughness and compared the pattern of surface-to-bed hydrological connections with velocity determined from satellite data. These observations will increase our understanding and help quantify the link between bed roughness, surface drainage and ice dynamics, which is required for constraining and testing ice-sheet models.


Vice Chancellor Fellowship - Plumbing the depths: how do ice sheets drain meltwater at their bed?

My Vice Chancellor Fellowship focuses on 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 combining detailed sediment and landform evidence, the aim of the project is 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.

NERC Fellowship - Predicting and investigating subglacial lakes of the former British and Fennoscandian ice sheets.

nercSubglacial lakes are bodies of water that lie at the base of an ice sheet between the ice and substrate. Much glaciological research is presently concerned with the role of modern subglacial lakes, which has culminated in major international drilling projects aimed at sampling the water and sediments within the lakes themselves. Another approach to the investigation of subglacial lakes involves identification of the geological record of lakes that once existed beneath former ice sheets (e.g. the European and North American palaeo-ice sheets). This has significant advantages because we have comprehensive information about the bed properties, they are much more accessible, and we can sample the sediments and map the landforms with ease. However, palaeo-subglacial lakes have rarely been documented, primarily due to difficulties distinguishing their geological signature from former proglacial (ice-marginal or ice-fed) lakes. My research attempts to address the relative dearth of palaeo-subglacial lake studies, by combining GIS modelling of current and former ice sheets to predict where subglacial lakes may have occurred with detailed field-investigations to identify their geological signature.

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

current researchMy 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 Staimore), 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


teaching tabStephen teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses including:

GEO6669 Polar and Alpine Change Research Project
GEO3858/4118 Specialised Topic – Advanced Geospatial Analysis
GEO388 Glacial Environments
GEO356 Geographical Research Project
GEO268 Glaciers and Ice Sheets
GEO262 Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems

I am also Director of Undergraduate Studies.





[32] Spagnolo, M., Bartholomaus, T.C., Clark, C.D., Stokes, C.R., Atkinson, N., Dowdeswell, J.A., Ely, J.C., Graham, A., Hogan, K.A., King, E., Livingstone, S.J., and Pritchard, H.D. 2017. The periodic topography of ice stream beds: insights from the Fourier spectra of mega-scale glacial lineations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 122, doi:10.1002/2016JF004154.

[31] Livingstone, S.J., Chu, W., Ely, J.C., and Kingslake, J. 2017. Palaeofluvial and subglacial channel networks beneath Humboldt Glacier, Greenland. Geology, 45, 551-554. doi:10.1130/G38860.1

[30] Storrar, R.D. and Livingstone, S.J. 2017. Glacial geomorphology of the northern Kivalliq region, Nunavut, Canada. Journal of Maps, 13, 153-164.


[29] Utting, D.J., Atkinson, N., Pawley, S. and Livingstone, S.J. 2016. Reconstructing the confluence zone between Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets along the Rocky Mountain Foothills, south-west Alberta. Journal of Quaternary Science, 31, 769-787. doi: 10.1002/jqs.2903

[28] Ignéczi, Á, Sole, A.J., Livingstone, S.J., Leeson, A., Fettweis, X., Selmes, N., Gourmelen, N. and Briggs, K. 2016, Accepted. North-east sector of the Greenland Ice Sheet to undergo the greatest inland expansion of supraglacial lakes during the 21st century. Geophysical Research Letters, 43, doi:10.1002/2016GL070338.

[27] Livingstone, S.J. and Clark, C.D. 2016. 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. doi:10.5194/esurf-4-567-2016

[26] 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, 128-145. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2016.07.012

[25] Livingstone, S.J., Utting, D., Ruffell, A., Clark, C.D., Pawley, S., Atkinson, N. and Fowler, A.C. 2016. Discovery of relict subglacial lakes and the mechanism and geometry of drainage. Nature Communications, 7:11767, doi: 10.1038/ncomms11767.

[24] Livingstone, S.J., Stokes, C.R., Ó Cofaigh, C., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Vieli, A., Jamieson, S.S.R., Spagnolo, M. and Dowdeswell, J.A. 2016. Subglacial processes on an Antarctic ice stream bed 1: sediment transport and bedform genesis inferred from marine geophysics. Journal of Glaciology, 62, 270-284. doi:10.1017/jog.2016.18

[23] Jamieson, S.S.R., Stokes, C.R., Livingstone, S.J., Vieli, A., Ó Cofaigh, C., Hillenbrand, C.-D. and Spagnolo, M. 2016. 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, 285-298. doi:10.1017/jog.2016.19


[22] Livingstone, S.J., Roberts, D.H., Davies, B.J., Evans, D.J.A., Ó Cofaigh, C, Gheorghiu, D.M. 2015. Late Devensian deglaciation of the Tyne Gap Palaeo-Ice Stream, northern England. Journal of Quaternary Science. doi: 10.1002/jqs.2813

[21] Stokes, CR., Tarasov, L., Blomodin, R., Cronin, T.M., Fisher, T.G., Gyllencreutz, R., Hättestrand C., Heyman, J., Hindmarsh, R., Hughes, A., Jakobsson, M., Kirchner, N., Livingstone, S.J., Margold, M., Murton, J., Noormets, R., Peltier, R.W., Peteet, D.M., Piper, D., Presueer, F., Renssen, H., Roberts, D.H., Roche, D., Saint-Ange, F., Stroeven, A.P., Teller, J.T. 2015. On the reconstruction of palaeo-ice sheets: recent advances and future challenges. Quaternary Science Reviews, 125: 15-49. doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.07.016

[20] Livingstone, S.J., Storrar, R.D., Hillier, J.K., Stokes, C.R., Clark, C.D., Tarasov, L. 2015. An ice-sheet scale comparison of eskers with modelled subglacial drainage routes. Geomorphology, 246: 104-112. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.06.016

[19] Livingstone, S.J., Piotrowski, J.A., Bateman, M.D., Ely, J.C., Clark, C.D. 2015. Discriminating between subglacial and proglacial lake sediments: an example from the Dänischer Wohld Peninsula, northern Germany. Quaternary Science Reviews, 112: 86-108. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.01.030

[18] Patton, H., Swift, D., Clark, C.D., Livingstone, S.J., Cook, S.J., Hubbard, A. 2015. Automated mapping of glacial overdeepenings beneath contemporary ice sheets: approaches and potential applications. Geomorphology, 232: 209-223. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.01.003

[17] Hillier, J.K., Smith, M., Barr, I., Boston, C., Clark, C.D., Ely, J., Frankl, A., Greenwood, S., Gosselin, L., Hattestrand, C., Hogan, K., Hughes, A., Livingstone, S.J., Lovell, H., McHenry, M., Munoz, Y., Pelicier, X.R., Robb, C., Robertson, S., Ruther, D., Spagnolo, M., Standell, M., Stokes, C.R., Storrar, R., Tate, N., Wooldridge, K. 2015. Manual mapping of drumins in synthetic landscapes to assess operator effectiveness. Journal of Maps. doi.1080/17445647.2014.957251.


[16] Bentley, M., Ó Cofaigh, C., Anderson, J., Conway, H., Davies B.J, Graham, A.C., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Hodgson, D.A., Jamieson, S.S.R., Larter, R., Mackintosh, A., Smith, J., Verleyen, E., Ackert, R.P., Bart, P.J., Berg, S., Brunstein, D., Canals, M., Colhoun, E.A., Crosta, X., Dicken, W.A., Domack, E., Dowdeswell, J.A., Dunbar, R., Ehrmann, W., Evans, J., Favier, V., Fink, D., Gore, D.B., Greenwood, S.L., Hall, B.L., Hall, K., Hedding, D.W., Hein, A.S., Hocking, E.P., Jakobsson, M. Johnson, J.S., Jomelli, V., Jones, R.S., Klages, J.P., Kristoffersen, Y., Kuhn, G., Leventer, A., Licht, K., Lilly, K., Lindow, J., Livingstone, S.J., Massé G., McGlone, M.S., McKay, R.M., Melles, M., Miura, H., Mulvaney, R., Saunders, K.M., Selkirk, P.M., Simms, A.R., Spiegel, C., Stolldorf, T.D., Stone, J.O., Sugden, D.E., van der Putten, N., van Ommen, T., Verfaillie, D., Vyverman, W., Wagner, B., White, D.A., Witus, A.E., Zwartz, D. 2014. A community-based reconstruction of Antarctic Ice Sheet deglaciation since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews, 100: 1-9. doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.06.025

[15] Ó Cofaigh, C., Davies B.J, Livingstone, S.J., Smith, J., Johnson, J., Hocking, E., Hodgson, D., Anderson, J., Bentley, M., Canals, M., Domack, E., Dowdeswell, J.A. Evans, J., Glasser, N., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Larter, R., Roberts, S., Simms, A., 2014. Reconstruction of ice-sheet changes in the Antarctic Peninsula since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews, 100: 87-110. doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.06.023

[14] Jamieson, S.S.R., Vieli, A., Ó Cofaigh, C., Stokes, C.R., Livingstone, S.J. and Hillenbrand, C.-D. 2014. Understanding controls on rapid ice-stream retreat during the last deglaciation of Marguerite Bay, Antarctica, using a numerical model. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 119: 1-17. doi:10.1002/2013JF002934.


[13] Livingstone, S.J., Clark, C.D., Woodward, J. and Kingslake, J. 2013. Potential subglacial lakes and meltwater drainage pathways beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. The Cryosphere, 7: 1721-1740. doi.org/10.5194/tc-7-1721-2013

[12] Livingstone, S.J., Ó Cofaigh, C., Stokes, C.R., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Vieli, A. and Jamieson, S.S.R. 2013. Glacial geomorphology of Marguerite Bay Palaeo-Ice Stream, western Antarctic Peninsula. Journal of Maps, 2013. doi.10.1080/17445647.2013.829411

[11] Livingstone, S.J., Clark, C.D. and Tarasov, L. 2013. Modelling North American palaeo-subglacial lakes and their meltwater drainage pathways. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 375: 13-33. doi.10.1016/j.epsl.2013.04.017


[10] Jamieson, S.S.R., Vieli, A., Livingstone, S.J., Ó Cofaigh, C., Stokes, C.R., Hillenbrand, C.-D. and Dowdeswell, J.A. 2012. Ice-stream stability on a reverse bed slope. Nature Geoscience, 5: 799-802. doi:10.1038/ngeo1600

[9] Livingstone, S.J., Clark, C.D., Piotrowski, J.A., Tranter, M.J., Bentley, M.J., Hodson, A., Swift, D.A. and Woodward, J. 2012. Theoretical framework and diagnostic criteria for the identification of palaeo-subglacial lakes. Quaternary Science Reviews, 55: 88-110. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.08.010

[8] Livingstone, S.J., Ó Cofaigh, C., Stokes, C.R., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Vieli, A. and Jamieson, S.S.R. 2012. Antarctic palaeo-ice streams. Earth-Science Reviews, 111: 90-128. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2011.10.003

[7] Livingstone, S.J., Evans, D.J.A., Ó Cofaigh, C., Davies, B.J., Merritt, J.W., Huddart, D., Mitchell, W.A. and Yorke, L., 2012. Glaciodynamics of the central sector of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet in Northern England. Earth-Science Reviews, 111: 25-55. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2011.12.006


[6] Livingstone, S.J., Evans, D.J.A. and Ó Cofaigh, C. 2010. Re-advance of Scottish Ice into the Solway Lowlands (Cumbria, UK) during the Main Late Devensian deglaciation. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29: 2544-2570. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.04.007

[5] Livingstone, S.J., Ó Cofaigh, C., Evans, D.J.A. and Palmer, A. 2010. Sedimentary evidence for a major glacial oscillation and proglacial lake formation in the Solway Lowlands (Cumbria, UK) during Late Devensian deglaciation. Boreas, 39: 505-527. doi:10.1111/j.1502-3885.2010.00149.x

[4] Livingstone, S.J., Evans, D.J.A., Ó Cofaigh, C. and Hopkins, J. 2010. The Brampton Kame Belt and Pennine Escarpment meltwater channel system (Cumbria, UK): Morphology, Sedimentology and Formation. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 121: 423-443. doi:10.1016/j.pgeola.2009.10.005

[3] Livingstone, S.J., Ó Cofaigh, C. and Evans, D.J.A. 2010. A major ice drainage pathway of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet: the Tyne Gap, northern England. Journal of Quaternary Science, 25: 354-370. doi:10.1002/jqs.1341


[2] Evans, D.J.A, Livingstone, S.J., Vieli, A. and Ó Cofaigh, C. 2009. 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: 739-757.


[1] Livingstone, S.J., Ó Cofaigh, C. and Evans, D.J.A. 2008. The glacial geomorphology of the central sector of the British-Irish Ice Sheet. Journal of Maps, v2008: 358-377.

Articles: magazines

  • Jamieson, S.S.R. and Livingstone, S.J. 2013. Look to the past to see the future. Geoconnexion International. 2013, 31.
  • Livingstone, S.J. 2011. Reconstructing ice sheets: a case study from Cumbria. Geography Review, 25: 28-32.

Edited Books

  • Livingstone, S.J., Evans, D.J.A. & Ó Cofaigh, C. (2010). Quaternary of the Solway Lowlands and Pennine Escarpment. QRA Field Guide.

Grants Awarded

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)