Dr Sally Rangecroft
PhD student

Research

Research projects

My PhD is looking into the arid mountain environment of the Dry Andes of Bolivia where glaciers are absent. Here rock glaciers act as extensive potential water reservoirs in a hydrologyical cycle with a very low precipitation input. These rock glaciers contain roughly 40-60% ice under a top layer of rock, which insulates the ice from low amplitude and high frequency temperature changes (Brenning, 2005; Estrada, 2009). Therefore, rock glaciers are predicted to respond to climate warming slower than ice glaciers (Brenning, 2005). However rock glaciers are predicted to be retreating with the current warming climate, adding further pressure along with increasing population on water supplies in Bolivia. Comparing the response of rock glaciers to climate change to the known response of mountain glaciers in the region will increase our understanding of the ways in which hydrology are likely to evolve. Improving our knowledge of rock glacier distribution and water content at a regional scale is a fundamental step for assessing the state of the cryosphere in this area, something which is required for climate impact studies and understanding of current and future water supplies (Brenning and Azocar, 2008). It is necessary to figure out what the region will be facing in terms of water supply, and to develop suitable adaptation measures to cope with the forecasted impacts of glacier and rock glacier retreat (Jeschke, 2009).

This study aims to address the existing lack of a systematic inventory of rock glaciers in the Dry Western Cordillera of the Andes in Bolivia and assess their response to recent climate change.  A rock glacier inventory can be achieved through geomorphological mapping using satellite images combined with aerial photos and field work for validity. The amount of ice contained within rock glaciers can be investigated and their importance as a water source to valley communities understood. Information about the amount of ice contained within rock glaciers is needed in order to calculate the importance of them as a water source. Knowing the amount of ice within rock glaciers and their abundance and response to climate change, modelling can be undertaken to demonstrate the changes in water supplies with predicted future climate change. This work can be used to inform water management strategies.

Phd Supervisory Team:

Dr Stephan Harrison

Dr Karen Anderson

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