S.T. Lee Lecture 2005

Prof. David Sugden

How sensitive is the Antarctic ice sheet to climate change? An earth-science perspective

Professor David Sugden, 16 June 2005

Professor of Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Synopsis of lecture

The importance of predicting climate change has been a stimulating challenge to those studying the Antarctic Ice Sheet. One response has been to measure and monitor current changes of the ice sheet both through satellite remote sensing and field programmes of ice coring and survey. Another has been to study the past behaviour of the ice sheet as an analogy for the future. The essence of this lecture is to show the importance of integrating the two approaches in order to gain a deeper understanding. The lecture explores the evolution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet on time scales of millions of years (East Antarctica), tens to hundreds of thousands of years (West Antarctica), and millennia (Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves). Such an approach changes the questions we ask about the sensitivity of the ice sheet, and different parts of it, to climatic change.

David Sugden

Professor David Sugden is Professor of Geography at the University of Edinburgh, and a world leader in glacial and polar geomorphology. He pioneered our understanding of how ice sheets behave and interact with the global environment through computer reconstructions of the dynamics and thermal regime of ice sheets, but is best known for his comprehensive field observations and syntheses of polar landscapes and their history. He is particularly well known for his work in collaboration with George Denton (Maine) on the geomorphological record of the mountainous margins of Antarctica, which demonstrates the relative stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet for the last 15 million years. He is currently working on the behaviour of the more dynamic West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which has been continuously thinning over the last 10,000 years.

Professor Sugden is a graduate of Oxford University, UK. He has held positions at the University of Aberdeen, the University of British Columbia, the University of Colorado and the University of Lund, Sweden, and was appointed to the chair in Edinburgh in 1987. In 1990 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Other honours include the Vega Medal in 1993 (first awarded to Nordenskjold in 1881) from the King of Sweden, in 1998 an Honorary doctorate from the University of Stockholm, and in 1999 an Honrary LLB from the University of Dundee. Last year he received the David Linton Award from the British Geomorphological Research Group, given to a geomorphologist who has made a leading contribution to the discipline over a sustained period.