Articles

Here you can read articles written by senior scientists and postgraduate researchers. New articles will be continually added. If there is a topic you would like to know more about, contact us. You can also get involved by adding your own comments and questions.

Mitigating climate change – The IPCC WGIII report

What is the IPCC WG III? On 14th April 2014 the IPCC Working Group III (WG III) published their latest report (link) on climate change mitigation. This is the third of three reports from the IPCC, and follows on from their previous publications: WG I ‘The Physical Science Basis’, published in September 2013; and WG II ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’, published in March 2014.  Their latest report draws together over four years of work by over 230 scientists, and presents our options for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and developing a more sustainable future.   The report analyses the outcomes of 1200 published scientific studies....

Oxygen isotopes and lakes

Lakes occur across the globe and are sensitive to climatic change. Analysing the sediments that have accumulated at the bottom of lakes over time can help us to reconstruct past environmental change. Here, we focus specifically on the use of oxygen isotopes from lake sediments to reconstruct climate change (Fig.1). What are isotopes? Isotopes are variations of a particular chemical element. It is all to do with the number of neutrons. Oxygen has two main isotopes: 18O which has 10 neutrons and 8 protons; and 16O which has 8 neutrons and 8 protons. Although these variants have a different number of neutrons (and therefore a different atomic mass),...

Moraines – piles of dirt record glacier fluctuations

What are moraines? And how do they form? Moraines are piles of debris deposited by glaciers. Such landforms can form along the margin of a glacier – at the front or its sides – or can build up on the glacier surface. One common form of the latter, termed medial moraine, typically forms at confluences of two glaciers in mountain areas (Figure 1 and 2). These are deposits that only last for as long as the glacier is around – once the ice melts, any material on its surface is redistributed by meltwater and gravity, so that medial moraines do not normally survive after a...

The Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences – Climate Change: Evidence & Causes

“Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, accompanied by sea-level rise, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and other climate-related changes.” Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone (President, National Academy of Sciences) and Sir Paul Nurse (President, Royal Society)   On Thursday last week, the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, two of the most prestigious science academies in the world released an overview of “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes”. This publication aims to provide authoritative...

Researching the belly of Icelandic glaciers

Glaciers are some of the best indicators of climate change. Their existence depends on a fine balance between mass accumulation (usually through snowfall) and mass loss (mainly by ablation or melting). Any small increases in mean annual temperature elicit an amplified response in glaciers and can drastically reduce their mass balance – more ice lost than gained. This is why glaciers are responding so rapidly to rising temperatures. However, it isn’t as simple as that; there are a number of complicating factors that alter how fast or slow glaciers respond, some occurring on a case-by-case basis. For scientists to use glaciers as a robust and reliable...