Dr Anne Le Brocq
Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

Research

Research interests

Research Interests
Ice sheet modelling, ice sheet subglacial hydrology, Remote Sensing & GIS applications in glaciology & currently dabbling in computer games and game-based learning.

Research projects

Current Projects:

Ice Flows Game

"Ice Flows" is a game is built on a simple representation of how ice flows in Antarctica and how it responds to changes in the environment - through changes in snowfall and ocean temperature.  It allows players to impose climatic changes to control the extent of the ice sheet to guide penguins to fish; if they get it wrong, the penguin may meet its doom in the jaws of a Leopard Seal. 

The aim is to promote understanding of the complexity of the ice sheet system by enabling the player to carry out their own ice sheet model experiments, much like the scientists working on the research. The game has a number of levels relating to unique ways different parts of the Antarctic will respond to climate change.

The game has been developed in collaboration with games developers Inhouse Visuals and Questionable Quality, and the British Antarctic Survey, who are leading the research project. 

...being developed as part of: Ice shelves in a warming world: Filchner Ice Shelf system, Antarctica

This project aims to investigate what will happen in the near-future to the Weddell Sea region of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the impact changes here could have on global sea-level by the end of this century. The project combines field data collection and modelling, covering the atmosphere, oceanography and glaciology of the Weddell Sea Sector.

In order to facilitate public understanding of the complex system under investigation in this research, we are proposing a novel approach, employing “Game Based Learning” to allow people to become immersed in the environment, and learn how the system functions and responds to change through playing a game.  We aim to develop a game – called “Ice Flows” which would allow players to interact with the climate-ocean-ice system and learn the controls on the system as well as the outcomes of changing environmental factors.  The game would be both fun and educational, so could be used in schools as a resource, but also be made available online for anyone to play. 

The project is being funded by a NERC large grant, led by Hugh Corr (British Antarctic Survey) involving researchers at BAS, University of Exeter, NOC, The UK Met Office and UCL.

A new approach to West Antarctic Ice Sheet evolution using blue-ice moraines on nunataks

Did the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) survive the last interglacial? This project will use nunataks as dipsticks of ice-sheet elevation change to help answer this question. Blue-ice areas result from strong downslope winds which are often funnelled in the vicinity of nunataks and ablate the ice surface. In response the ice flows into such ablation areas, sometimes bringing basal debris to the surface which is then deposited at the ice margin. Relict moraines occur on certain nunatak slopes above the present ice surfaces and are over 400,000 years old, suggesting that there is the potential to obtain a long record of ice elevation change. This project brings together glaciologists, geomorphologists and geophysicists to work in the Heritage Range, a group of nunataks which protrude through the central WAIS dome. We will examine the processes of blue-ice moraine formation today firstly using field survey and radar, and secondly by establishing the form and sediment characteristics of the moraines and their age. The latter will employ exposure-age dating, a technique that measures the time a rock has been at the surface and exposed to cosmic rays. In this way we will assess if the WAIS remained intact, or disappeared during the last interglacial.

The project is being funded by a NERC standard grant, led by David Sugden (Edinburgh) and John Woodward (Northumbria) and includes a host of researchers at Edinburgh, Northumbria, Exeter and Newcastle.

 

Previous funded projects:

Investigating the potential contribution of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to future sea level change.

My NERC fellowship project aimed to assess and investigate the stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), in light of recent observations of surface thinning and retreat of ‘marine’  sectors of the ice sheet (grounded below sea level). This research is still ongoing.
The stability of the ice sheet is highly important, as large scale retreat will have a large impact on the potential contribution of the ice sheet to sea level change over short (decadal) and long term (millennial) timescales.  Much research effort has been expended previously on investigating the sensitivity of the marine based West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), neglecting the significantly large parts of the EAIS that are similarly marine based and currently exhibiting surface thinning and grounding line retreat. The contribution of Antarctic ice dynamics to future sea level change is still little understood, as highlighted by the recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report (Meehl et al., 2007), despite the large potential contribution it could make (on the order of a number of metres), even without significant climate warming in the region.

The project is being carried out in collaboration with Tony Payne (Bristol), Martin Siegert (Imperial), Andy Shepherd (Leeds) and Andreas Vieli (ETH) and researchers at the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Texas.

Airborne geophysical investigation targets basal boundary conditions for the Institute and Möller ice streams, West Antarctica

This project used radio-echo sounding, magnetic and gravity techniques to measure ice thickness, englacial/basal conditions and underlying geology at the Institute and Möller ice streams, West Antarctica.  In combination with numerical modelling, the data was be used to understand the region’s flow regime, both now and in the past.

This research was led by Martin Siegert (Imperial), in collaboration with Dave Rippin (York) and Fausto Ferraccioli (British Antarctic Survey), Rob Bingham (Edinburgh), Neil Ross (Newcastle), Hugh Corr (BAS) and Tom Jordan (BAS).  It is funded by a NERC AFI grant.

Reconstructing former ice sheets, in order to understand: 1) former ice sheet dynamics and their contribution to sea level change since deglaciation, and 2) ongoing rates of Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA).

Reconstructing and understanding past ice sheet behaviour is critical for putting current changes into context, and helps us understand ice sheet behaviour more fully.  In particular, we are interested in former ice sheets’ contribution to sea level rise since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), and their role in ‘meltwater pulses’, periods of rapid sea level rise.  Satellite observations of Antarctic Mass Balance give us an indication of current thinning rates, however the signal must be corrected for Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA), occurring since the LGM, due to unloading of ice during deglaciation.

This research is carried out in collaboration with Mike Bentley (Durham), Pippa Whitehouse (Durham), and David Sugden (Edinburgh).

Ice2sea

Ice2sea was a collaborative research programme involving 24 institutional partners, specifically focussed on the contribution to sea-level rise that will arise from loss of continental glaciers and ice sheets and which give rise to the largest part of the uncertainty in the projections. The ice2sea programme received funding from the European Commission and from the many national agencies funding the institutional partners.

The programme ran for four years, (2009-2013) with a schedule designed to provide input to the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of climate change and its impacts.

For more information see www.ice2sea.eu/

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