Best practice in delivering online learning

The full implications of Covid-19 are still unknown, but it seems that it will be with us for a long while yet. Therefore, many university lecturers will be moving to online learning, some for the first time. I thought that it might be useful to compile some resources and best-practice suggestions to help us. Here are some of my thoughts on online delivery of courses.

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The Lectureship Interview

If you’re preparing for an interview at a university for a lectureship, good luck to you! The UK system tends to involve a presentation, often to the whole department, and then a panel interview with a few senior members of staff. This can be very daunting, but it does get easier with practice.

I’ve attended quite a few job talks, from both sides of the table. Here are some thoughts on how you should prepare for the talk and interview, and some typical questions you might be asked.

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What is the ice volume of Thwaites Glacier?

Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is currently the focus of a major scientific campaign. Why is Thwaites Glacier of so much interest, however? How much ice is there, and how much would sea levels rise if it all melted?

Thwaites Glacier is roughly the size of UK (176 x103 km2). The glacier terminus is nearly 120 km wide, and the bed of the glacier reaches to >1000 m below sea level. Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier together account for 3% of grounded ice-sheet area, but they receive 7% of Antarctica’s snowfall1.

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The world’s mountain ‘water towers’ are melting, putting 1.9 billion people at risk

Water tower of the Andes. Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

Bethan Davies, Royal Holloway

The year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional heat, and is on track to be the second or third warmest year on record. While the global average temperature teeters on 1.1°C above the pre-industrial record, the world’s glaciers are in stark retreat.

In high mountain areas, the steady trickle of melting snow in spring has nourished people for generations. Today, 1.9 billion people – or 22% of the world’s population – live downstream of snowpacks and glaciers and depend on them as their main source of drinking water. These icy and snowbound mountain regions could be considered water towers, which provide a regular supply of water for drinking, irrigation and power generation, and provide a life-saving buffer during droughts.

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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

Choosing the future of Antarctica

In a new article in the journal Nature, Stephen Rintoul and colleagues present two very different visions of Antarctica’s future, from the perspective of an observer looking back from 2070. In one vision, humanity continues to exploit Earth’s natural resources (such as fossils fuels) and does little to protect the environment, and in the other, there is a global movement towards conservation. The article shows how Antarctica will change over the next 50 years, should either of these two situations occur.

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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