Norway 2011

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During my undergraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, I wanted to study the response of a glacier to recent climate change for my final year dissertation. First off, I had to find a nice glacier with plenty of available data in a straight-forward area to go and visit for some fieldwork – much easier said than done!

I eventually settled on Nigardsbreen, an outlet glacier of the Jostedalsbreen Ice Cap in Norway. Jostedalsbreen is the largest ice cap in mainland Europe and Nigardsbreen has the advantage of being only a 1hr hike from the nearest road. Plus the nice folks at the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) have a whole heap of data on it, which they very kindly allowed me to use for free. Along with more free data from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, this allowed me to analyse the response of the glacier to the increasingly warm climate from 1980-2011.

An essential component of this research required me to visit Nigardsbreen and map to glacier’s snout at very high resolution. Luckily, I was awarded a grant from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and was able to borrow all the scientific gear for free from Edinburgh Uni. Otherwise I could never have afforded to go!

So off I went with my dad and brother drafted in as field assistants/ general dogs-bodies. Luck mostly wasn’t with us – poor weather (think lots of rain and a nice dose of strong katabatic winds off the ice cap) plus knee injuries for both me and my brother, who had to be sent back to the UK in the end. But we did get the data I needed over a gruelling three weeks and arrived home the day before my 21st birthday. Not that I was up for much celebrating by that point!

Anyway, I found a marked retreat of the glacier since the early 1990s that correlated nicely with the temperature records. Good news for me but bad news for the glacier. If you are interested in my results then drop me an email (address available here), or alternatively there is a hard copy of my dissertation in the library of the Institute of Geography at the University of Edinburgh. For the rest of you – here are a selection of nice fieldwork photos.

p.s. Big thanks to Astrid who ran the campsite we were based out of. She literally couldn’t do enough to help us and was just fantastic. If you ever find yourself in the area, I definitely recommend her campsite and cabins as well as her sister’s (or possibly some other relation’s) hotel. Here is her website.

All the Norwegian scientists I spoke with were also great and very generous with their data. There are so many nice people just across the North Sea!

Glacier Country, New Zealand 2013

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Between my undergraduate and PhD studies I took the chance to do a spot of travelling, starting with 6 weeks backpacking around New Zealand. Clearly I had to go and check out the South Island’s famous glacial geomorphology. So I hopped on a bus down the West Coast and made sure to visit Milford Sound and one of the more accessible glaciers (I choose Fox).

These photos show a few of the dramatic glacial landscapes that I came across – believe me you could publish whole books of NZ landscape photos, in fact people already have. It’s like the best bits of the UK but without all the people and ugly infrastructure. Just as cold and wet though, you can’t have it all!

Antarctic Fieldwork 2012

A few snaps I took on expedition last season to the Patriot Hills, West Antarctica.

I was part of a three person team collecting surface ice samples and shallow ice cores on the blue ice below the Patriot Hills. The gas trapped in these samples is being analysed to inform our understanding of the region’s long-term climate. The expedition was run by the University of New South Wales as part of the Ellsworth Mountains Project – look out for publications of the results by Prof Chris Turney and Dr Chris Fogwill. These guys are currently sailing back to Antarctica to follow in the footsteps of the great Aussie explorer Douglas Mawson, you can follow their expedition’s progress here.