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Science and Engineering at The University of Edinburgh

School of GeoSciences

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David Sugden's Homepage

Introduction to my work

My aim is to understand how ice sheets behave and interact with the global environment. There are four themes:

(a) An attempt to link glaciology with field studies in geomorphology/geology. Papers include:

  • An early computer reconstruction of the dynamics and thermal regime of a Pleistocene ice sheet (1977)
  • An explanation of the landscapes of glacial erosion in terms of the basal thermal regime of former ice sheets (1978), study of the isotopic characteristics of basal ice exposed at the edge of the Greenland Ice sheet as an effective way of elucidating sub-glacial processes (1987)
  • Work with four former research students/RAs to develop a suite of 3-D thermo-mechanical ice sheet models at sufficiently high resolution to allow comparison with the empirical record of climate change (1989, 1990, 1994, 1997). This work owes everthing to the energy of Tony Payne, Nick Hulton, Alun Hubbard and Ross Purves.

(b) Working with George Denton, David Marchant and others to explore the role of geomorphology and its link with tectonics, climate history and ice sheet evolution in the creation of the Transantarctic Mountains. The research has:

  • Begun to elaborate a 34 million-year geomorphological record of landscape evolution (2005)
  • Highlighted the limited role of glacial erosion and tectonics since the mid-Miocene (1999)
  • Argued for the stability of the East Antarctic Ice sheet for the last 15 million years (1993).
  • Discovered what is apparently the oldest known glacier ice on Earth (> 8 Ma), vivid evidence of Antarctic climatic stability for millions of years and an intriguing analogue for Mars (1995).

(c) Recently I have been working on the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. With John Stone we have demonstrated thinning of the ice sheet in Marie Byrd Land. Work with Mike Bentley has shown that the George VI Ice Shelf was not in existence in the early Holocene (9000 years ago). Now we are working with Chris Fogwill on the thinning of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet around the Ellsworth Mountains and the Shackleton Mountains, using cosmogenic isotope analysis.

(d) Glacier fluctuations and climate change in Patagonia, recently published in Geografiska Annaler vol 87A no. 2, 2005. See under Recent Research: Patagonia.

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