Academic Year 2022-2023
Institution University of Aberdeen


School: School of Geosciences

Project: Mapping and measuring glacier mass balance: developing a best practice approach for understanding glacier change

Supervisors: Professor Brice Rea, Dr Donal Mullan & Professor Matteo Spagnolo

Undergraduate Education: BSc(Hons) Mathematics, University of Glasgow

Postgraduate Education: MSc Geospatial and Mapping Sciences, University of Glasgow

Research: Extensive databases of satellite imagery are now available and can be used to undertake large-scale assessments of the mass balance (the total sum of the accumulation and melt/ablation) of glaciers and icecaps without on-the-ground physical measurements. The end-of-season snowlines of glaciers are mapped from satellite imagery and serve as proxies for the equilibrium-line altitudes (the region where accumulation is equal to melt/ablation) to estimate the mass balance of a glacier. This approach is advantageous for a few reasons – it can be implemented globally, and automated methods may reduce the time and labour expended – however, the difference between mapped snowlines and on-the-ground measured equilibrium-line altitudes has not yet been robustly demonstrated.

This project aims to undertake a systematic mapping of end-of-season snowlines on glaciers with existing mass balance records to find the potential errors in comparison to physically measured equilibrium-line altitudes and determine corrections. In the regions where the corrections between the end-of-season snowlines and measured equilibrium-line altitudes are most robust, glaciers that have no measured equilibrium-line altitudes will be mapped to generate a time series of end-of-season snowlines which will then be corrected using the previous results. These corrections will be applied to as many regions as possible, the coverage extending as far as time will permit.