The cryosphere, which encompasses all portions of the Earth’s surface where water is found in solid form, is one of the most dynamic components of the Earth’s climate system.

It includes glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, as well as sea ice, lake/river ice, snow cover, seasonally frozen ground and permafrost; and hence, it is extremely sensitive to rising air temperatures, such as those predicted for the near future.

Research into the cryosphere occurs across Cambridge, including the Scott Polar Research Institute, Department of Earth Sciences, and the British Antarctic Survey. Earth observation techniques are integral across the cyrospheric sciences to complement and inform ground-based fieldwork and numerical modelling.


Tom Chudley

I am a PhD student at the Scott Polar Research Institute, interested in the interaction between surface meltwater and the dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet. I use self-built unmanned aerial vehicles

Prem Gill

Prem Gill is a PhD Candidate leading the “Seals from Space: the study of Antarctic seals by remote sensing” priority project with the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), British Antarctic Survey

Rebecca Dell

I am a glaciologist researching ice shelf (in)stability through a range of remote sensing based techniques. My current work is focussed on surface and subsurface melt on the Nivlisen Ice Shelf

Hannah Cubaynes

I was a PhD student working on a joint project, “Whales from Space”, with the British Antarctic Survey and the Scott Polar Research Institute. The aim is to assess the feasibility of using very high resolution

Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees heads the Polar Landscapes and Remote Sensing group at the Scott Polar Research Institute. The core activity of this group is, at present, the development and application of spaceborne and

Matt Davey

Matt is an algal physiologist and ecologist senior research associate at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge and a senior lecturer in algal biotechnology at SAMS, Scotland.

Recent Publications

Lateral meltwater transfer across an Antarctic ice shelf
We develop a semi-automated algorithm capable of tracking surface water bodies on Antarctic ice shelves, using a combination of Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2 imagery. In this paper, we apply our method to the Nivlisen Ice Shelf in the 2016-2017 melt season, and track changes in the geometry, area and volume of 1598 water bodies. We identify the greatest volume of surface melt ( 5.5×107  m3) on the 26th January 2017. On this day, 63 % of the total volume is held in two linear water bodies, which extend up to 27 km across the ice shelf surface. Dell (2020) The Cryosphere

Supraglacial lake drainage at a fast-flowing Greenlandic outlet glacier
We present combined UAV and in situ records of a rapidly draining supraglacial lake in a fast-flowing sector of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Despite supraglacial lake drainage influencing ice sheet dynamics at a variety of scales, existing in situ studies have been conducted exclusively at the slower, less dynamic land-terminating sector. We describe the scale and extent of dynamic response in a marine-terminating system, and identify 1) spatially distributed behavior not previously observed in in situ studies, and 2) interannual variation unique to fast-flowing glaciers. We propose that many lakes thought to drain slowly are, in fact, draining rapidly via hydrofracture. As such, rapid drainage events, and their net impact on ice sheet dynamics, are being notably underestimated. Chudley (2019) PNAS.

High-accuracy UAV photogrammetry of ice sheet dynamics with no ground control
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly common tools in the geosciences, but their use requires good ground control in order to make accurate georeferenced models. This is difficult in applications such as glaciology, where access to study sites can be hazardous. We show that a new technique utilising on-board GPS post-processing can match and even improve on ground-control-based methods, and, as a result, can produce accurate glacier velocity fields even on an inland ice sheet. Chudley (2019) The Cryosphere

Response of glacier flow and structure to proglacial lake development and climate at Fjallsjökull, south-east Iceland
Remote sensing can be used to gather detailed information on changes to a glaciers flow regime, structural architecture, frontal position, and terminal environment . This paper applies methods including structural mapping and feature tracking to Fjallsjökull, an outlet glacier in south-east Iceland. Dell (2019) Journal of Glaciology