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21 June 2010 | PR 10/98

Geographers gain funding for new glacier research programme

A Loughborough student on glacier

A Loughborough student carries out tests on the glacier

A group of Loughborough University geographers have teamed up with colleagues at Stockholm University to set up a innovative glacier research programme in Arctic Sweden.

The study, which has received a two-year Royal Society International Joint Project Award, will measure atmospheric influences and seasonal variation in snow and ice melting and identify rates of sediment delivery from Sweden’s Storglaciären glacier.

Based out of Stockholm University’s Tarfala research station, the research team will use innovative field measurements and novel analyses that combine the expertise and technical capabilities of both universities.

Up until now, glacier climate research has focused on small-scale local studies and few have linked surface climate with large scale atmospheric circulation. This new project will use statistical analyses to link variations in surface conditions to the type and frequency of air masses passing across the study area and will explore local scale melt rates in relation to large scale weather systems.

Up to two billion people worldwide depend on snow and ice fed rivers for subsistence, power and livelihoods, but the future of these supplies are at risk in all plausible climate scenarios.

In the short term enhanced melting of glaciers is likely to cause increased flooding, but longer term, sustained drought is a real prospect in many parts of the world. Not only will a decline in water supply from glaciers incur major economic costs, but it also puts at risk the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals for fighting poverty and improving access to clean water.

Lead researcher Dr Richard Hodgkins hopes the glaciology study will gather important data on what is still a relatively young and unexplored scientific discipline. 

“There is a lot we are yet to learn about the way glaciers interact with the atmosphere and the landscape, and how we can effectively predict their behaviour without requiring large amounts of field data which is difficult to access by the nature of the glaciers’ remote locations,” he said. 

“Not only do glaciers provide an essential water source for populations throughout the world, but they are also responsible for the increasing sea level which is currently rising at a rate of more than three millimetres per year.  

“Because the glacial world is changing so rapidly, we’re likely to see major changes to snow and ice cover of the Arctic and the world’s mountain regions within our lifetime. This makes this study even more important, exciting and relevant for us as researchers.”

The grant from the Royal Society, who are currently celebrating their 350th anniversary, will support two Loughborough PhD students’ research at Tarfala as part of this two year project, whilst additional funding from the Royal Geographical Society will be used support PhD student work.

Dr Hodgkins has also been awarded a Royal Society International Travel Grant to carry out similar collaborative work in Iceland.

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228686
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Andrew Swailes
Press Officer
The Royal Society
T: 020 7451 2589
E: andrew.swailes@royalsociety.org

Notes for editors:

1.  The Royal Society International Joint Project programme is designed to facilitate long-term international collaborations between a team of UK and overseas researchers by providing a mobility grant towards travel and subsistence costs for a period of two years.

Between November 2009 and November 2010, the Royal Society will be celebrating its 350th anniversary, promoting a spirit of enquiry, excitement and engagement with science.  The Society will be working with organizations across the country to raise the profile of science and bring scientific activities to new audiences.  More information about the anniversary year can be found at www.royalsociety.org

2.  Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2009 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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