Academic Year 2021-2022
Institution University of Aberdeen


School: School of Geosciences

Project: The effect of climate change on glacier-derived water resources in high mountainous regions

Supervisors: Professor Matteo Spagnolo & Dr Donal Mullan

Undergraduate Education: MSci (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography, University of Birmingham

Postgraduate Education: N/A

Research: My project aims to quantify the effect of predicted climate change on vital glacial meltwater resources. For those living in arid, high mountainous regions glacial meltwater is an essential resource providing water for drinking, irrigation and hydroelectric power. I will be focussing on the southern Cordillera of the Peruvian Andes where glacial meltwater supports a large population, including 11 million people in the capital Lima. This resource, however, is under threat from glacial retreat driven by climate change. Although climate warming will initially increase glacial meltwater runoff, there will be a decline of glacial derived meltwaters beyond a tipping point due to a loss of glacial mass. For many basins this tipping point has already been passed. The loss of this glacial meltwater will cause substantial hydrological and social impacts.

To understand the future of this resource I will study the history of the glaciers in the region. I am aiming to reconstruct the effect of Holocene climate changes on glaciers using palaeoclimate proxies, geomorphological mapping and cosmogenic dating. I will also investigate how anthropogenic climate change has affected the glaciers over the past 40 years using remote sensing. I intend to use these two lines of investigation to predict the future of the glaciers in the Peruvian Andes given downscaled climate models. Eventually I hope to produce an impact assessment of climate change on glacial meltwater in the Peruvian Andes to help protect this vital resource.