Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Sliding of glaciers reveals sea level rise

Young researcher Basile de Fleurian embarks on a project that seeks to understand more on how glaciers slide. In turn, this knowledge will provide a better prediction of sea level rise. 

Glacier, Hubbard Glacier Geological Area
Jessie Orrico, Unsplash

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"The SWItchDyn project is aiming to improve our understanding of the sliding of glaciers. This component of the ice dynamic can represent 90 per cent of the glacier velocities and is more variable in time than the deformation of ice which is the other process involved in the displacement of glaciers," Basile de Fleurian explains. de Fleurian is a researcher at the Department of Earth Science at the University of Bergen. 

The project is financed through The Research Council of Norway's Young Research Talents programme, intended for young researchers in the early stages of their careers who have demonstrated the ability to conduct research of high scientific quality.

Faster glaciers

de Fleurian explains that the research will focus specifically on how water pressure at the base of glaciers affects its sliding velocity.

"It is known that higher subglacial water pressure leads to faster glaciers, but the relation between water pressure and the volume of water available, mainly through surface melt is a complex one. Under the current warming, the melt at the surface of the glaciers is increasing, and through data analysis and model simulations, SWItchDyn will allow to link this increase to subglacial water pressure and glacier velocities," he says.

According to the young research talent, the project will provide a better understanding of a physical process that has been treated in a quite crude way until now. 

"Improving the process will reduce uncertainties on the projections of sea level rise, as we better understand specific processes. This has been pointed out as a need in the latest IPCC report."

Ice research is a growing field

de Fleurian is one of two researchers awarded the resources for young talents at UiB. All in all, 16 projects at UiB receive the so called FRIPRO project funds (article in Norwegian). Nine of these go to researchers at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. 

The FRIPRO funds makes room for a four year project for de Fleurian and the hiring of a PhD. UiB is the right place for the project, according to de Fleurian. 

"The ice dynamic component research at UiB and the Bjerknes Centre is growing. I am glad to play a part in this growth and to be able to help in giving directions to the research that is currently made at UiB," says the young research talent.