We use computer programs to help us understand why and how glaciers move and behave under different climate scenarios. We use well-understood mathmatical equations describing the physics of glaciers (for example, see the Stress and Strain page) to investigate glacier response to changing climates.
Mathmatical models investigate how glaciers responded to climate change in the past, as their past behaviour is often well understood from geomorphological and geological evidence. Once we understand past glacier behaviour, we can use numerical glacier and ice sheet models to predict future glacier behaviour under different climatic scenarios. This helps glaciologists to provide better limits on projections of future sea level rise, water supply and other important questions. It’s all about understanding and reducing uncertainty in future estimates of glacier behaviour.
This section includes several pages on different aspects of numerical glacier models. Experiment with glacier models yourself on the Interactive Glacier Models page. Delve deeper into how we predict melting on the surface of glaciers (Modelling Glacier Melt). Or learn about two different types of glacier model: small mountain glaciers, and large numercal ice sheet models.