Physical Geography

Research stay at the University of Zurich

The University of Zurich is known as one of Europe’s leading universities for conducting researching within physical geography, especially related to glaciology of High Mountain Asia. I’ve been lucky enough to live the last three months in Zurich and work together with some of the researchers here.

View from Säntis where you can simulatenously see Switzerland, Germany, France, Liechtenstein and Italy.
Benjamin Aubrey Robson

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The department of glaciology and geomorphology at the University of Zurich focuses on glacier monitoring and modelling as well looking at the societal aspects of climate change in mountain environments. Additionally, the University of Zurich is home to the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS). The department is incredible international, with staff from all over Europe as well as countries such as Bhutan, Tibet and Peru.

Remote sensing of rock glaciers in Kyrgyzstan

I’ve been working mostly with Tobias Bolch on the theme of remote sensing analyses of rock glaciers in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Very little is known about the dynamics of rock glaciers, how they are effected by changes in the long-term climate or by neighbouring glaciers. Using very-high resolution satellite images, we’ve began studying how the rock glaciers are flowing, and how they have changed over the last 50 years.

We also aim to develop a method that can distinguish rock glaciers semi-automatically from the surrounding terrain which can be used to begin to understand the relationship between rock glaciers and water resources.

Zürich city

Zurich is an extremely liveable city, most staff at the University of Zurich commite by bike or public transport. In the evenings it is common to populate the bars along the Limmat river, and if the weather is agreeable enough to swim in the Zurich lake. The Alps are about one hour from the city, and a network of high-speed trains connect Zurich with cities such as Paris, Hamburg, Milan or Vienna, so many of my weekends have been spent visiting old Bergen friends.

Zurich is also home to System Dynamics Professor Birgit Kopainsky who when in Zurich offers Swiss feasts such as fondue, rösti or Züri Gschnätzlets served with homemade “duck weed schnapps!”

My stay in Zurich is now nearly over and next week I will be already back in Bergen. It’s been an experience working and living in Zurich and I am hoping the knowledge and connections I’ve made here will help throughout the remainder of my postdoc in Bergen.