James Ross Island project

Summary | Publications


Geological map of James Ross Island, NE Antarctic Peninsula

This project, entitled “Glacial history of the NE Antarctic Peninsula over centennial to millennial timescales” is a NERC-funded project, led by Professor Neil Glasser, with co-investigators Professor Mike Hambrey, Professor John Smellie, Dr Jonathan Carrivick and Dr Bethan Davies, from Aberystwyth, Leeds and Leicester universities. You can read their profiles over the following pages.

The project is supported logistically by the British Antarctic Survey.

The project aims to reconstruct the glacial history of this important and changing region, looking at glacier responses to environmental change throughout the Cenozoic, but particularly at the Last Glacial Maximum, through the Holocene and into the twentieth century. Using cosmogenic nuclide dating, the scientists will develop a terrestrial chronology for the deglaciation of the eastern margin of the ice sheet. We will determine whether local ice caps behaved synchronously or independently of the Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet. The geographical focus of this project is James Ross Island, Vega Island and the adjacent Antarctic Peninsula. These areas have a well-preserved terrestrial record of deglaciation, but one which is largely unexploited.

Rock sampling for cosmogenic nuclide dating on James Ross Island, February 2011

This project involves investigators from the Centre of Glaciology, Aberystwyth University, and from the Universities of Leeds and Leicester. This NERC-funded project began in April 2010 and will run until April 2014, and has so far involved two field seasons to James Ross Island, NE Antarctic Peninsula, in January 2011 and March 2012. The team went to northern James Ross Island, where the large area of ice-free land will aid their geological investigations. Cosmogenic nuclide dating of rock samples provides chronostratigraphical control for geomorphologically-constrained palaeo-ice sheet reconstructions. Future field plans include visits to Alexander Island, southwest Antarctic Peninsula.

James Ross Island is of particular interest, because until 1995 it was connected to the Antarctic Peninsula by the Prince Gustav Ice Shelf. This was once connected to the Larsen Ice Shelf, but has been retreating since polar exploration began in the late Nineteenth Century. In 1995, it collapsed and disappeared very rapidly, and the ice-shelf glaciers have become tidewater (marine-terminating) glaciers with grounded, partially floating or floating ice margins. Of particular interest are the events building up to the collapse of the ice shelf, structural controls on its collapse, and the response of tributary glaciers to ice-shelf collapse, 15 years after the event.

Landsat 4 TM image from 1988 showing Prince Gustav Ice Shelf. Ice shelf glaciological structures have been mapped onto the image.



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.


Davies, B. J., Glasser, N. F., Carrivick, J. L., Hambrey, M. J., Smellie, J. L., and Nývlt, D. (2013). Landscape evolution and ice-sheet behaviour in a semi-arid polar environment: James Ross Island, NE Antarctic Peninsula. In Antarctic Palaeoenvironments and Earth-Surface Processes. (M. J. Hambrey, P. F. Barker, P. J. Barrett, V. C. Bowman, B. J. Davies, J. L. Smellie, and M. Tranter, Eds.), pp. 353-395. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, volume 381, 381. London.


Hambrey, M.J., and Glasser, N.F., 2012. Discriminating glacial thermal and dynamic regimes in the sedimentary record. Sedimentary Geology 251-252, 1-33.

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

Carrivick, J. L., Davies, B. J., Glasser, N. F., and Nývlt, D. (2012). Late Holocene changes in character and behaviour of land-terminating glaciers on James Ross Island, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology 58 (212), 1176-1190.

Davies, B. J., Carrivick, J. L., Glasser, N. F., Hambrey, M. J., and Smellie, J. L. (2012). Variable glacier response to atmospheric warming, northern Antarctic Peninsula, 1988–2009. The Cryosphere 6, 1031-1048.


Glasser, N.F., Scambos, T.A., Bohlander, J., Truffer, M., Pettit, E., & Davies, B.J., 2011. From ice-shelf tributary to tidewater glacier: continued glacier recession, acceleration and thinning following the 1995 collapse of the Prince Gustav Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. Journal of Glaciology 57, 397-406.


Hambrey, M.J. & Fitzsimons, S.J. 2010. Development of sediment-landform associations at cold glacier margins, Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Sedimentology, 57, 857-882.


Nelson , A.E.,  Smellie, J.L., Hambrey, M.J., Williams, M, Vautravers, M., Salzmann, U., McArthur, J.M., Regelous, M. 2009. Neogene glacigenic debris flows on James Ross Island, northern Antarctic Peninsula, and their implications for regional climate history. Quaternary Science Reviews 28, 3138-3160.


Smellie, J.L., Johnson, J.S., McIntosh, W.C., Esser, R., Gudmundsson, M.T., Hambrey, M.J., van Wyk de Vries, B. 2008. Six million years of glacial history recorded in volcanic lithofacies of the James Ross Island Volcanic Group, Antarctic Peninsula. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 260, 122-148.

Hambrey, M.J., Smellie, J.L., Nelson, A., Johnson, J. 2008. Late Cenozoic glacier-volcano interaction on James Ross Island and adjacent areas, Antarctic Peninsula. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 22pp.


Hambrey, M.J., Glasser, N.F., McKelvey, B.C., Sugden, D.E. & Fink, D. 2007. Cenozoic landscape evolution of an East Antarctic oasis (Radok Lake area, northern Prince Charles Mountains), and its implications for the glacial and climatic history of Antarctica.  Quaternary Science Reviews 26, 598-626


Hambrey, M. J. and Smellie, J. L. 2006. Distribution, lithofacies and environmental context of Neogene glacial sequences on James Ross and Vega Islands, Antarctic Peninsula. In Francis, J.E., Pirrie, D. & Crame, J.A. (eds.) Cretaceous-Tertiary High-Latitude Palaeoenvironments, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Geological Society, London, Special Publication 258, 187-200.

2 thoughts on “James Ross Island project”

  1. Hello My sons name is James Ross and he is 6 and he thinks it’s very cool ? that he has an island with the same name as him

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