Academic Year 2019-2020
Institution University of Aberdeen


School: School of Geosciences

Project: Ice and fire: Investigating the relationship between glaciers, volcanoes and climate

Supervisors: Dr Matteo Spagnolo and Dr Donal Mullan

Undergraduate Education: BSc Geography and Geoscience, University of Aberdeen

Postgraduate Education: N/A

Research: Mountain glacier surface mass balance responds to changes in climate. The glacier equilibrium line altitude (ELA), the elevation at which net accumulation equals net ablation, has been empirically linked to both precipitation and temperature. However, this relationship is often offset when glaciers occupy volcanoes. The magnitude of this offset is likely to be a function of time since last eruption, the nature of this eruption, and recent geothermal heat flux. This project will quantify the offset at a global scale, in order to understand relationships between volcanoes and glaciers. In so doing, the project will also identify glaciers that should not be included in the global databases frequently used to analyse regional climate. An improved understanding of glacier-volcano interactions has implications for understanding and mitigation of related hazard (e.g. lahars). It will also explore the possibility of using the offset to quantify regional geothermal heat flux.

In this exciting, interdisciplinary project, we will study climate in different glacio-volcanic areas worldwide, and analyse nearby, non-volcanic glacier ELA to establish the relationship between glaciers and climate in those regions. We will then look at volcanic glaciers, quantify their ELA and analyse the offset to the climatically-controlled ELA of non-volcanic glaciers. Finally, we will analyse the recent history of volcanic activity in these areas: if and when an eruption occurred, the nature of the eruption, known sudden changes to the glaciers that might have affected their mass balance (e.g. beheading), and the geothermal history of the volcanoes in question. These tasks will be performed using GIS and remote sensing techniques applied to a time series of satellite images and digital terrain models, and integrated with direct observations, where available (e.g., from glacier monitoring schemes, meteorological stations, observations of volcanic activities, media reports, geothermal heat measurements, etc.). Finally, we will downscale climate model output to project future ELA changes for these regions.

I am currently working on a publication of my undergraduate thesis, that I have been developing throughout the first months of my PhD focusing on investigating the glacio-volcanic interactions of the South American continent.


There are currently no posts for this student.