About Bethan Davies

I am a Senior Lecturer in Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway University of London, specialising in glaciology and glacial geology. I wrote and developed the AntarcticGlaciers.org website as part of an ongoing commitment to outreach, education and research impact. Read more about me at www.antarcticglaciers.org/bethan-davies.

Book review: The Continent of Antarctica (Julian Dowdeswell and Michael Hambrey, Papadakis, 2018)

The Continent of Antarctica. Julian Dowdeswell and Michael Hambrey.

Antarctica was the last continent to be discovered and explored, and is sensitive and vulnerable to climate change. It is relevant to all of us, since it can influence ocean currents and sea levels. The history of the continent, both geological and human, is fascinating, with heroic attempts to map and explore the continent.

In The Continent of Antarctica, Julian Dowdeswell and Michael Hambrey provide an in-depth overview of the continent of Antarctica, covering the geography and evolution of Antarctica, its people and exploration, and its future. This book, aimed at the interested non-expert reader, is beautifully illustrated with photographs by the authors and provides a detailed introduction to readers illustrated in the Antarctic continent. Throughout the book, personal stories and reflections from the two careers of the authors in Antarctica are used to highlight and enrich key points, and make it engaging throughout.

The language is accessible, but the content is carefully and thoroughly researched. The book is strongly grounded in science, but there are sections on human interaction with Antarctica and geopolitics. Both authors are talented photographers who have been working in Antarctica for decades, with many field seasons between them. This has resulted in a rich archive of photography, used throughout the book. Continue reading

Improvements to AntarcticGlaciers.org

Here at AntarcticGlaciers.org we have been busy making many updates to the website. We are particularly keen to update the website to bring it in to line with the reformed A-Level syllabus, and also to update and rewrite some of the older content, and improve the website as a resource to promote public understanding of glaciers and climate change.

Since AntarcticGlaciers.org was founded 6.5 years ago, we have undergone substantial improvements and learned a lot over the years. This outreach endeavour, motivated by a desire to publicly communicate the risks that climate change and rising sea levels pose to our world’s glaciers and ice sheets, has evolved into one of the premier sites on this subject. This website aims to inspire both interested adults and also young people and school children with geology and geomorphology, and specifically targets teachers to supply them with engaging, original content that they can use in lesson planning.

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Funding from British Society for Geomorphology

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded an Outreach Grant by the British Society for Geomorphology.  These funds will be used to support our attendance and an exhibit at the Geographical Association Annual Conference in April 2019, called “Celebrating Geography”. We hope to use this opportunity to both promote our website but also to interact with teachers and targeted end users of the website, and engage in a dialogue to help us better support Geography Teachers who teach the new AQA A-Level Geography, which has a “Glaciers and Glaciated Landscapes” module.

British Society for Geomorphology

Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992 to 2017

A new paper with a whole host of authors has just been published in Nature (IMBIE Team, 2018). It provides a new estimate of mass balance of the entire Antarctic Ice Sheet over the last 25 years, the longest and most thorough estimate of this to date.

This article argues that the Antarctic Peninsula, the smallest ice sheet in Antarctica, has lost an average of 20 Gigatonnes (Gt) of ice per year over the 25 year study. This increased during the study and especially since the year 2000.  The West Antarctic Ice Sheet lost 53±29 Gt yr-1 from 1992-1997, but this accelerated to 159±26 Gt yr-1 from 2012-2017. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is more stable, with small gains (with large errors) over the study period. Continue reading

Combining Academia and Motherhood

There is often a lot of doom and gloom in Academia. People discuss the workload, the work-life balance, and the difficulty in taking maternity leave or having a family. For example, this recent piece in The Guardian highlights one professor’s less-than-positive experience of having children as an academic. The Times Higher Ed writes about the leaky pipeline, often attributed to the difficulty in balancing motherhood and an academic career.

However, I believe that, while there are often difficulties, I think there are also reasons to be positive in Academia. In my opinion, in terms of family life, Academia is no worse than, and in many places better than, most other professional careers. There are advantages and disadvantages in an academic career when it comes to family life, but in many ways they are similar to the challenges faced by many professional women across a spectrum of careers. Many of these are societal, rather than academic, issues. I would hate a young, promising academic to be put off just because they only perceive the negative aspects. Continue reading

The Larsen C Ice Shelf growing rift

Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves | Ice shelf collapse on the Antarctic Peninsula | Rifting on Larsen C | Impact of calving the large iceberg | Sea level rise following ice-shelf collapse | References | Comments |

Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves

The Antarctic Peninsula is fringed by floating ice shelves. They are floating extensions of the glaciers on land, and receive mass by snowfall and marine freeze-on. They lose mass by melting at their base and by calving icebergs. Larsen C Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, is currently being closely watched. Following a series of high-profile ice-shelf collapse events on the Antarctic Peninsula over the last few decades, all eyes are watching Larsen C and wondering when, and if, it will collapse.

A growing rift on Larsen C Ice Shelf

Those concerns are growing more acute as a large rift on Larsen C Ice Shelf is growing rapidly, threatening to soon calve a huge iceberg, equivalent to losing 10% of the area of the ice shelf. This could destabilise the ice shelf, making it more susceptible to a total collapse.

Larsen C rift animation uses #Sentinel1 InSAR to illustrate recent jumps in rift progression. From Prof. Adrian Luckman.

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The Global Last Glacial Maximum

Around 27,000 years ago, ice sheets reached their maximum across the world, after a period of global cooling caused by variations in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. There was a massive ice sheet in North America (the Laurentide Ice Sheet)[1, 2], a large Eurasian Ice Sheet covering Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia as well as northern Europe[3], an ice sheet in Antarctica[4], the Himalaya and Patagonia[5, 6]. Land near the ice sheets that escaped glaciation was cold, with tundra vegetation. Northern Europe was frequented by ice-age animals such as mammoth, reindeer and arctic hare. There was a landbridge betweeb Britain and Europe, and animals could walk freely across it. Numerous human artefacts from this time are scattered across the landscape.

Ice sheets at the Last Glacial Maximum worldwide, around 27,000 to 21,000 years ago. From data in Ehlers et al., 2011.

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Antarctic Sea Ice

Guest post by Dr Jonathan Day, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

What is going on with the Antarctic sea ice?

March 2017 was an interesting month for sea ice. Both northern and southern hemispheres experienced record breaking low extents for the time of year. The extent of Arctic sea ice reached the maximum area of its seasonal cycle on March 7th coming in at 14.42 million km2. This was a fraction below the previous record, set in 2015 and is in line with what we expect to see in a warming climate. Meanwhile the other side of the planet Antarctic sea ice continues to confound expectations. Continue reading

Will we enter another ice age?

There are a number of web and news articles around surrounding the question of whether or not we will enter another ice age. Many of these questions arise from the idea that a collapse or significant melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet will produce enough fresh water to shut down the global thermohaline circulation, dropping us into a new ice age in the next 10,000 years.

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