MSc Glaciology – Aberystwyth University
BSc Geology and Physical Geography – University of Edinburgh
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Determining the importance of supraglacial debris in the response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change.
Supervisor(s): Prof. Neil Glasser, Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn, Dr Ann Rowan (University of Sheffield) and Dr Duncan Quincey (University of Leeds)
Morgan undertook a combined Geology and Physical Geography degree at the University of Edinburgh and developed a particular interest in glacial geology and geomorphology. For her dissertation she investigated how rock debris characteristics, such as porosity and grain size, affect the insulating ability of supraglacial debris.
In 2012, to further her knowledge of glaciology, she undertook the MSc in Glaciology at Aberystwyth University. For her dissertation she investigated how the spatial distribution and extent of supraglacial cryoconite affects glacier albedo.
Morgan is currently undertaking a PhD within the Centre for Glaciology, focused on determining the importance of supraglacial debris in the response of Himalayan glaciers to Quaternary and future climate changes.
The presence of supraglacial debris affects the absorption of sunlight by the glacier surface whilst also insulating the ice underlying it. The degree to which this occurs depends on the thickness of the debris cover. Glaciers with a significant proportion of their surface covered in rock debris are termed ‘debris-covered glaciers’. In areas such as the Himalayas, these debris-covered glaciers are prolific, and a vital source of water for communities living below them. As the climate changes, these glaciers will become even more integral to the survival of these communities. It is therefore imperative that the response of these glaciers to climate change is understood. However, the unique combination of summer monsoon accumulation and debris cover on these high altitude glaciers is a challenge for the production of accurate glacier response predictions.
Through the use of satellite imagery and fieldwork, the thickness of supraglacial rock debris will be determined for a number of Himalayan glaciers at different stages in the Quaternary. Using these data the development of these glaciers’ debris covers through time will be modelled to determine how the debris distribution has changed in the past, and to predict how it will change in the future. Alongside this, the energy balance and flow rate of these glaciers will be calculated. Using the results of these two data series, a higher-order glacier-climate model will be developed to accurately determine how the size and volume of these Himalayan debris-covered glaciers will respond to varying future climate scenarios.
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