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Better boundary conditions for glacier and ice sheet modelling

Glaciers and ice sheets store two-thirds of Earth's freshwater and are currently contributing to rising sea levels. While these ice masses act as long-term integrators of climate, their internal dynamics can complicate their behaviour on the short timescales relevant to society. Fundamental to our ability to decipher the underlying causes of glacier and ice-sheet change, and therefore pre-requisite to its reliable future projection, are accurate "boundary conditions" for glacier and ice-sheet models. The motivation for this research is therefore to inform models we use to make projections of glacier change through process-based studies at the glacier surface and bed, and where the glacier comes into contact with freshwater reservoirs.

The specific objectives of the research program are to (1) evaluate the robustness of glacier mass-balance models to uncertainties in accumulation processes, (2) develop statistical models of subglacial processes at scales commensurate with ice-sheet models and (3) investigate the influence of glacier-freshwater interactions on glacier dynamics and retreat. A fourth cross-cutting objective is to develop statistically robust practices for model calibration and to quantify associated model uncertainties. Observational, computational and statistical methods are combined to achieve the above objectives in a number of individual research projects. These projects involve glaciological field investigations in British Columbia and Yukon to measure meteorological quantities, glacier mass balance, subglacial variables and properties of ice-marginal lakes. This program of research is supported by NSERC from 2015-2019 through a Discovery Grant, Northern Research Supplement and Discovery Accelerator Supplement.

Statistical modelling of the world: Computer and physical models in earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences

This CANSSI-funded collaborative team project (P.I. Derek Bingham, SFU) brings together statistical and earth scientists to develop new methodology for using complex computer models and field observations for important environmental applications. We are collaborating with Bingham's research group on glaciological problems related to optimal design of measurement networks, model parameter estimation and uncertainty quantification. Sonja Surjanovic and Ofir Harari (SFU Statistics) have worked on glaciological problems within the CANSSI project, including "Design on non-convex regions: optimal experiments for spatial process prediction".

Abrupt North Atlantic Transitions: Ice, Lakes, Sea (ANATILS)

The ANATILS project, funded by RANNIS (P.I. Áslaug Geirsdóttir), is an international collaboration aimed at integrating paleoclimate reconstructions with numerical modeling of climate and glacier processes to understand abrupt climate change in the North Atlantic region. Co-advised Postdoctoral Fellow Leif Anderson is modelling the mass balance and dynamics of Drangajökull ice cap through the Holocene.

In-situ calibration data for mass-balance modelling of the Pemberton icefield, southwest British Columbia

Glacier changes occurring in western Canada are increasingly relevant to applied problems including hydropower production, mining in alpine areas, and tourism and recreation. We are partnering with Head-Line Mountain Holidays, a tour operator in the Whistler area, to investigate the response of the local Pemberton icefield to climate with sponsorship from the NSERC Engage program.