Climate Research Stories

Mangroves and mud: Investigating past sea level

Dawn had already broken when our plane touched down on Mahé island, lighting up the cloudy shifting sky and the turquoise waters lapping at the runway’s edge. From my plane window I could already see sheer cliffs of pinky-grey granite rising up from the narrow coastal plain, covered in lush tropical vegetation. I was sleepy, but excited to be here. Mahé is the largest island of the small island nation of Seychelles – a tropical archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. I was visiting for three weeks to begin the field work component of my PhD research. My destination: the mangroves that fringe the western...

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...

Antarctic expedition to estimate thinning ice sheets

Antarctica might seem like a desolate and inhabitable continent with little to offer other than perhaps the sight of penguins, but it holds the answers to many scientific questions. Simply put, Antarctica is covered by kilometers-thick ice, frozen water which will melt when sufficiently warmed. Sea level around the world is therefore dependent on how fast Antarctica’s ice sheets melt. My research looks at past changes of ice sheet thickness. As a glacier melts and thins, rocks on its flanks become exposed to the atmosphere (specifically cosmic radiation). A technique called surface-exposure-dating is used to estimate when rocks became exposed at the glacier surface, creating...