Dr Felix Ng

Reader in Theoretical Glaciology

Felix Ng Room number: E19
Telephone (internal): 27949
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7949
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7949
Email: F.Ng@Sheffield.ac.uk

Felix grew up in Hong Kong and attended middle school in the UK. After graduating in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford in 1994, he moved to the Mathematical Institute there to study the doctoral degree, completing his DPhil thesis on mathematical glaciology in 1998. Felix then gained a Junior Research Fellowship at St. John's College. He lived in Oxford until 2002 but spent 2001 visiting the University of Washington, Seattle, as Royal-Society/Fulbright postdoctoral fellow. From 2003 to 2005, Felix was the Leavitt Research Fellow in Geosciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He was appointed as Lecturer in Glaciology at The University of Sheffield in 2005, and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012, and Reader in January 2018.

In 2017, Felix visited the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand as William Evans Visiting Fellow to collaborate with glaciologists there. He has been awarded the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year.

Research Interests

  • Large-scale behaviour of glaciers and ice sheets, and their environmental interactions
  • Mathematical models of glacial processes and landforms
  • Polar ice on Mars

Current research

My research is centred around glaciology, and concentrates on three areas:

Ice dynamics

I had earlier investigated the surge behaviour of sub-polar glaciers with Tavi Murray (Leeds) and Andrew Fowler (Oxford) and recently turned my attention to the Antarctic ice streams, whose variable flow exerts strong control on ice-sheet mass balance. With Howard Conway (Seattle), I used the radar structures in Kamb Ice Stream to infer its flow speed before it stopped ~150 years ago. Ongoing work considers the general problem of deciphering the history of ice flow from englacial radar layers.

More information on my ice dynamics research

Glacier hydrology

Catastrophic outburst floods from ice-dammed lakes, known as jökulhlaups, can deliver several cubic kilometres of water suddenly, causing severe environmental and economic impact. In order to identify factors that regulate their timing and magnitude, I am studying the mechanics of these floods worldwide and also locally, using examples from Iceland and from the Tian Shan.

More information on my glacier hydrology research

Glacial geomorphology

Glaciation leaves behind a variety of bedforms on the Earth surface. Part of my research explores how they form, with an aim to reconstruct the conditions of past ice flow using them and to learn something about the processes that operate at the glacier bed.

More information on my glacial geomorphology research


My teaching encompasses the theoretical, empirical and skill elements of physical geography. Breaking down complex things and explaining them simply is difficult, and this is what I try to do with our students. Thus I emphasise a structured approach in exploring knowledge.

I am fortunate in my own education to have been taught by people who are truly inspirational; now I try to follow in their footsteps by launching students into the fun of thinking, problem-solving, and discovery. I do this by a range of methods, including getting our students to push ideas around in words and drawings with me, and doing experiments in the classroom.

For my contributions I won one of the University's Senate Awards for Excellence in Learning and Teaching in 2010.

I teach on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses including:

  • GEO101 Physical Systems At The Global Scale
  • GEO206 Environmental Change
  • GEO255 Environmental Modelling
  • GEO302 Extended Geographical Essay
  • GEO368 Planetary Geoscience

All staff also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual students at all three undergraduate levels in the following modules:

  • GEO163 (Information & Communication Skills for Geographers)
  • GEO263 or GEO264 (Research Design in Human or Physical Geography)
  • GEO356 (Geographical Research Project)

I am also the Director of the MSc programme in Polar and Alpine Change and an invited lecturer on the International Summer School on "Glaciers and Ice Sheets in the Climate System" in Karthaus, Italy.

Key Publications

  • Drews, R., Pattyn, F., Hewitt, I.J., Ng, F.S.L., Berger, S., Matsuoka, K., Helm, V., Bergeot, N., Favier, L. and Neckel, N. (2017). Actively evolving subglacial conduits and eskers initiate ice shelf channels at an Antarctic grounding line. Nature Communications, 8, 15228.
  • Ely, J.C., Clark, C.D., Ng, F.S.L. and Spagnolo, M. (2017). Insights on the formation of longitudinal surface structures on ice sheets from analysis of their spacing, spatial distribution, and relationship to ice thickness and flow. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 122.
  • Ng, F. S. L. (2016). Statistical mechanics of normal grain growth in one dimension: A partial integro-differential equation model. Acta Materialia, 120, 453-462.
    [Open Access paper]
  • Häusler, H., Ng, F., Kopecny, A. and Leber, D. (2016). Remote-sensing-based analysis of the 1996 surge of Northern Inylchek Glacier, central Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan. Geomorphology, 273, 292-307.
    doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.08.021
    [Post-print version of paper]
  • Ng, F. S. L. (2015). Spatial complexity of ice flow across the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Nature Geoscience, 8(11), 847-850.
  • Ng, F. and Jacka, T.H. (2014). A model of crystal-size evolution in polar ice masses. Journal of Glaciology, 60(221), 463-477.
    Link to the paper
  • Ng, F. and King, E.C. (2013) Formation of RADARSAT backscatter feature and undulating firn stratigraphy at an ice-stream margin. Annals of Glaciology, 54(64), 90-96.
  • Li, H., Ng, F., Li, Z., Qin, D. and Cheng, G. (2012). An extended 'perfect-plasticity' method for estimating ice thickness along the flow line of mountain glaciers. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 117, F01020.
  • Ng, F. and King, E.C. (2011). Kinematic waves in polar firn stratigraphy. Journal of Glaciology, 57(206), 1119-1134.
  • Ng, F., Barr, I.D. and Clark, C.D. (2010). Using the surface profiles of modern ice masses to inform palaeo-glacier reconstruction. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29(23-24), 3240-3255.
  • Ng, F. and Liu, S. (2009). Temporal dynamics of a jökulhlaup system. Journal of Glaciology, 55(192), 651-665.
  • Ng, F., Liu, S., Mavlyudov, B. and Wang, Y. (2007). Climatic control on the peak discharge of glacier outburst floods. Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L21503.
    Nature Geoscience research highlights
  • Ng, F. and Zuber, M.T. (2006). Patterning instability on the Mars polar ice caps. Journal of Geophysical Research, 111, E02005.

Other information

Fieldwork and short visits with collaborators have taken me to Iceland, the Alps, West Antarctica, and Central Asia.

In 1999 I accompanied Robert Hoyland in his archaeological expedition to Syria where we hunted for early-Islamic Safaitic inscriptions in the desert (no ice there!).

Other interests: mountaineering and exploration, Central Asian culture and history, horse-riding.

Expedition photo album