Bethan Davies

Biography | Recent employment | Education | Publications | PhD Thesis | Profiles

I am a glaciologist specialising in reconstructing glacier dynamics over multiple timescales, from both field and remotely sensed data, particularly in the Antarctic Peninsula, Britain and Patagonia. I am also interested in using ice-sheet and climate models to constrain the interaction between glaciers and climate. I wrote and developed the AntarcticGlaciers website as part of an ongoing commitment to outreach, education and research impact.

Contact details

Email: bethan [at] or bethan.davies [at]

Address: Dr Bethan Davies, Centre for Quaternary Research, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX

Website: RHUL Department of Geography

Departmental webpage



Bethan Davies

Following an undergraduate degree in Geography at Nottingham University (2004), and an MSc in Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway, University of London (2005), I undertook a PhD in Glacial Geology at Durham University (2009). My thesis was called: “British and Fennoscandian ice-sheet interactions during the Quaternary”. This involved spending a lot of time logging and analysing glacial tills exposed in coastal cliff sections in County Durham.

After a brief stint as an Assistant Marine Geologist at the British Antarctic Survey, I then moved on to Aberystwyth University,  where I worked as a post-doctoral research associated in the Centre for Glaciology. I  worked on a project entitled, “Glacial history of the NE Antarctic Peninsula on centennial to millennial timescales”. I then took up a position a PDRA at the Department for Meteorology at the University of Reading, where I analysed ice sheet evolution using coupled climate and ice-sheet models.

I am now a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography (Quaternary Science) at Royal Holloway, University of London. I am the Director of the MSc Quaternary Science in the Centre for Quaternary Research. If you liked this website, why not consider coming to study with us?

Research interests

Glacier and ice-sheet modelling

I am interested in using numerical computer models to understand how climate interacts with glaciers and ice sheets. At present, I am using large ice-sheet models to understand northern hemisphere ice-sheets, climate and sea-level during the past glacial cycle. I also use glacier models to constrain cryospheric response to climate change, and to relate glacier fluctuations, reconstructed from field evidence, to climate. I was recently awarded a SCAR (Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research) Fellowship to spend six months at the Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, where I worked on modelling glacier and climate interactions during the Holocene.

Palaeo ice-sheet reconstruction

I am also interested in using geological data to reconstruct past ice-sheet fluctuations. I use geomorphological mapping and chronological techniques to constrain past ice-sheet dynamics and rates and magnitudes of change. I have particular expertise in cosmogenic nuclide dating. During fieldwork, we take rock samples and analyse their isotopic chemistry to see how long they have been exposed to the surface. This gives us the age of ice sheet retreat in the area.

I have worked extensively in the Antarctic Peninsula, Britain and in Greenland, and have conducted several expeditions to these regions.

Remote sensing of glacier change

I use satellite images to understand more recent glacier recession and ice-shelf collapse. I have used satellite data to conduct glacier inventories and am a member of the GLIMS initiative, using satellite data to analyse and quantify glaciers in Patagonia and the Antarctic Peninsula.


I undertook two field seasons to James Ross Island, Antarctic Peninsula (2011, 2012) and a third to Alexander Island in November 2012. I have also been on expeditions to Iceland (2000, 2003) and Greenland (2006). I have conducted extensive fieldwork in Britain.

Recent employment


  • Oct 2005 – April 2009: PhD in Quaternary Geology, Durham University
  • Sept 2004 – Sept 2005: MSc in Quaternary Science, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sept 2001 – Sept 2004: BA (Hons) in Geography, Nottingham University

Science communication and outreach

  • Wrote (launched June 2012), a website that delivers peer-reviewed science to the public, A-Level and undergraduate students. The website underpins and supports my university teaching, increases the visibility and impact of my research, and broadens my professional network.
  • Public lectures at venues such as the British Science Festival.

Invited guest contributions to other science communication outlets:

Journal Publications

See here for an up-to-date list of publications.

Selected key publications:

Davies, B.J., Golledge, N.R., Glasser, N.F., Carrivick, J.L., Ligtenberg, S.R.M., Barrand, N.E., van den Broeke, M.R., Hambrey, M.J., Smellie, J.L., 2014. Modelled glacier response to centennial temperature and precipitation trends on the Antarctic Peninsula. Nature Climate Change. Read the associated AntarcticGlaciers webpage.

Ó Cofaigh, C., Davies, B.J., Livingstone, S.L., Johnson, J., Smith, J., Anderson, J.B., Bentley, M.J., Canals, M., Dowdeswell, J.A., Evans, J., Glasser, N.F., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Hodgson, D., Larter, R.D., and Domack, E., 2014. Reconstruction of ice sheet changes in the Antarctic Peninsula sector since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 100, 87-110.

Davies, B. J. and N. F. Glasser (2014). “Analysis of as a tool for online science communication. Correspondence paper.” Journal of Glaciology 60(220): 1-8. Download the preprint: Davies_and_Glasser_2014_preprint

Glasser, N. F., Davies, B. J., Carrivick, J. L., Rodés, A., Hambrey, M. J., Smellie, J. L., and Domack, E. (2014). Ice-stream initiation, duration and thinning on James Ross Island, northern Antarctic Peninsula. Quaternary Science Reviews 86, 78-88.  Download the Glasser et al. 2014 Preprint.

Davies, B.J., and Glasser, N.F., 2012. Accelerating recession in Patagonian glaciers from the “Little Ice Age” (c. A.D. 1870) to 2011. Journal of Glaciology 58 (212), 1063-1084.

Davies, B.J.,Carrivick, J.L., Glasser, N.F., Hambrey, M.J., & Smellie, J.S., 2012. Variable glacier response to atmospheric warming, northern Antarctic Peninsula, 1988–2009. The Cryosphere 6, 1031-1048. doi:10.5194/tc-6-1031-2012 (download PDF)

Davies, B.J., Hambrey, M.H., Smellie, J.S., Carrivick, J.L., & Glasser, N.F., 2012. Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet evolution during the Cenozoic Era. Quaternary Science Reviews 31, 30-66.

Davies, B.J.,Roberts, D.H., Bridgland, D.R., Ó Cofaigh, C., & Riding, J.B., 2011. Provenance and depositional environments of Quaternary sediments in the North Sea Basin. Journal of Quaternary Science 26, 59-75.

Davies, B.J., Bridgland D.R., Roberts, D.H., Ó Cofaigh, C., Pawley, S.M., Candy, I., Demarchi, B., Penkman, K.E.H., & Austin, W.E.N., 2009. The age and stratigraphic context of the Easington Raised Beach, County Durham, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 120, 183-198.

Davies, B.J., Roberts, D.H., Ó Cofaigh, C., Bridgland, D.R., Riding, J., Phillips E.R., & Teasdale, D.A., 2009. Interlobate ice sheet dynamics and ice marginal controls on sediment deposition at Whitburn Bay, County Durham, England. Boreas 38, 555-578.

Edited volumes

Antarctic Palaeoenvironments and Earth Surface Processes. Editors: Hambrey, M.H., Barker, P.F., Barrett, P.J., Bowman, V.C., Davies, B.J., Smellie, J.L. & Tranter, M., 2013. Geological Society of London Special Publication, Volume 381.

Quaternary of Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire. QRA Field Guide (September 2013). Editors: Davies, B.J, Bridgland, D.R., Yorke, L., and Roberts, D.H., 2013. 208 pp.

PhD Thesis

You can download my PhD thesis from here.

Citation: Davies, B.J., 2009. British and Fennoscandian Ice-Sheet Interactions during the Quaternary, Unpubl. PhD Thesis. Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, 502 pp.

Bethan Davies Thesis (Zipped PDFs – 70MB)

Ethesis from the Durham University website (smaller)

Other Profiles

Royal Holloway University of London
Google Scholar

15 thoughts on “Bethan Davies”

  1. Quan Zhuang

    Dear Dr. Davies,

    The ice age temperature/CO2 ups and downs are in range of 10oC/100ppm. Since industrial revolution, the CO2 has increases about 100 ppm from 280 to 406 ppm. But the temperature only increased for about 0.7oC. Please comment on this. Do you have the nearest ice core data? Like from 1900 to ???


    1. Bethan Davies


      You could look at the GRIP ice core data from Greenland, or the Vostok ice cores from Antarctica. They are referenced on the ice cores page on this website and by the IPCC pages.

      Over the last 420,000 years, CO2 changes generally followed temperature changes, with a lag of 100s to 1000s of years. Greenhouse gas feedbacks contributed to the overall changes. The current rate of change of CO2 vastly outpaces palaeo rates of change, which is why the amount of temperature change is so far relatively low.

  2. Mesut Demircan

    Dear Dr. Davis,
    I need list of National Ice Core Laboratory and produced data list from ice core and methodology.
    Could you help to me where can I find it or if you have document could you sent them to me?
    Best Regards

    Mesut DEMİRCAN
    MSc. in Physical Geography
    Geodesy & Photogrametry Engineer

  3. John Hoffmeister

    How do you debate climate deniers who say that all research is funded by government grants and looking for results that agree with their positions? Have you ever been pressured?

    1. Bethan Davies

      Hi John,

      Firstly, anyone who thinks we’re in it for the money has not closely investigated university pay scales!

      Secondly, government grant success rates are actually very low. They are also increasingly hard to win. Writing a grant takes months and months of work, pulling together numerous strings and different researchers. Several independent reviewers scrutinise the grants very carefully and you have to identify a specific problem that your research will solve. It’s very very difficult to win a grant, and research that simply supports the status quo and doesn’t challenge an established idea or identify a gap in knowledge will be ranked very low and is unlikely to be funded. Finally, the grants are reviewed by a panel who rank them and decide which to fund.

      You are much more likely to be funded if you have a very original idea that challenges established theories and can present a good methodology to test your new hypothesis than if you write a grant that looks for results that already agree with the established literature!

      Best wishes,

  4. I dont understand – based on this information if all known ice melts it doesnt equal 394.67 km3 ice. And if it did it still would only equal 1 mm rise in sea levels? Please help explain.

    Fretwell et al. 2013 estimated that the Antarctic Ice Sheet comprised 27 million km3 of ice, with a sea level equivalent of ~58 m

    Then this means 1 mm rise if …

    So, 361.8 Gt of ice will raise global sea levels by 1 mm. 361.8 Gt of ice is equivalent to 394.67 km3 ice.



  5. Greetings

    With the over 80 % of the Earths’ fresh water, in the form of Ice

    The question’s has to be asked

    1. Where did all the Extra Fresh Water come from, for Glaciers to form across the Globe in the Last Ice Age

    2. If there was some available source, What is its current Location

    3. Why is it not documented, to help explain the History, of that Event

    4. Given that Snow/Ice, can be only formed by the Earth Water Cycle, Sea water can not be included

    5. The Famous event of Buried U S Planes in Greenland for 46 years, to a depth of 250 ft

    6 Gives an average Yearly Dump of 5.5 ft

    7 Which would be 3000 metres of Greenland Ice, would be total of 1790 years, at the average Rate

    8 That of course is, not in the same Ball Park, by the Experts of 2.6 millions years

    9. If a core sample of the Greenland Ice, was Taken, by the Experts to 250 ft, They would be claiming,

    hundreds of thousand of Years old, at the same depth of the Famous buried Planes

    If I have missed some Logic, in this letter

    Please send some details to educate me,

    Best Regards


    1. Bethan Davies

      1. Where did all the Extra Fresh Water come from, for Glaciers to form across the Globe in the Last Ice Age
      Global sea levels were ~125 m lower during the last ice age. Corals from far-field sites such as Barbados provide a good record of sea level through the last ice age. See here:

      2. If there was some available source, What is its current Location

      3. Why is it not documented, to help explain the History, of that Event
      ?? I do not understand this question.

      4. Given that Snow/Ice, can be only formed by the Earth Water Cycle, Sea water can not be included
      Incorrect – cooler temperatures results in more precipitation falling as snow and remaining locked up in ice. Coastal areas receive more precipitation as winds blowing over the ocean pick up water.

      5. The Famous event of Buried U S Planes in Greenland for 46 years, to a depth of 250 ft
      These planes were buried in the accumulation area of the ice sheet, so would expect to be buried. Most melt occurs in the ablation area of the ice sheet. See here:
      Also see here:

      6 Gives an average Yearly Dump of 5.5 ft

      7 Which would be 3000 metres of Greenland Ice, would be total of 1790 years, at the average Rate
      Snow is compressed to ice as it falls. The ice flows away from the centre of the ice sheet.

      8 That of course is, not in the same Ball Park, by the Experts of 2.6 millions years

      9. If a core sample of the Greenland Ice, was Taken, by the Experts to 250 ft, They would be claiming, hundreds of thousand of Years old, at the same depth of the Famous buried Planes

  6. Julie Meyers

    Howdy from Texas Dr. Davis.

    As a novice I actually understand the gist of all of this. I’ve been reading some of the studies on your website, as well as others, to educate myself on how the changing climate is affecting the ice sheets and glaciers on our planet. Having said that, I’m hoping that you can answer a couple questions that I haven’t quite found an answer to.

    I know climate change is a natural part of this living planet we live on. You know the constant debate of climate change in today’s world, so my question would be…Is our planet in a natural warming period, but it’s accelerated by humans? Essentially, are humans exacerbating an already normal warming cycle? Or this warming trend is solely caused by humans after the industrial period?

    And to follow that question, what would be the biggest culprit? Deforestation, pollution, population etc…

    Thanks in advance for your time.


  7. Hongjie Zang

    Dear Dr. Davis
    I have a question whether the Parallel ice sheet model can be used to restore small scale (a mountain top) ancient glaciers, similar to 2D model (Plummer and Phillips).


    1. Bethan Davies

      Dear Hongjie,
      PISM can be used on small mountain glaciers, but it’s probably not the best choice. Other models, such as OGGM or Elmer/Ice may be more appropriate, depending on the experiment and what you are trying to achieve. Best wishes, Bethan

      1. Hongjie Zhang

        Dear Dr. Davis
        Thank you for your answer. I mainly use it to invert the climate of LGM of a mountain peak and get the shape range and volume of this glacier. So far, I have not found a suitable model, except the 2D model developed by Plummer and Phillips

  8. John Carney

    Dear Dr. Davis,
    Something completely different from the intellectual discussions above, but as a teenager I regularly climbed around those Co Durham cliffs you studied in your PhD, particularly just south of Sunderland. We called these cliffs near Sunderland the ‘sandies’ because of the large amount of irregular sands overlying the boulder clay and lastly the magnesian limestone at the base of the cliffs. I was told during a GCSE geology field trip (in 1987 !!) that the sands were probably deposited as wash out from glacial melt, it is also soft enough to make your own hand holes for climbing, and Sand Martins are very fond of it for making nests too.
    One thing that always puzzled me about those cliffs is that there are very thin layers among the sands that appear to consist of tiny pieces of coal, and these layers seem completely out of place. You can only really notice them when you face is right up against the cliffs when climbing, they are not obvious from the beach. The layers might have been something other than coal, but it certainly looked shiny and black. I could not dream of climbing those cliffs to check this out today!
    Thank you for such and accessible and entertaining website, and funny that I got here because of a layman’s interest in glaciation, and happened upon an influential part of my youth!
    thanks and regards
    John Carney

    1. Bethan Davies

      Hello John,
      You are right! These sands were deposited meltwater from the last British Ice Sheet. They do contain coal, which was eroded from the bedrock by ice moving over the Pennines. Coal is quite fragile, so doesn’t last long in this glaciofluvial environment, so these sands were deposited close to the ice margin.
      All the best

      1. John Carney

        Dear Dr Davis,
        Thank you so much for your reply, this has cleared up a very long held mystery to me. I always wondered how carboniferous coal had ended up so high in the strata and your answer has made my day!
        After school I went on to study engineering but still have a strong amateur interest in rocks and land forms, and in particular ‘ice ages’. We were taught in school that humans had only flourished in this latest interglacial period and that concept still fascinates me now.
        Again thanks and regards

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