Skip to main content


Dr Steven Palmer

Dr Steven Palmer

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography


 01392 725807

 Amory C407


Amory Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ , UK


Office hours for Term-2 of 2023/24: Tues 15:30-16:30 and Thursday 13:00-14:00 - Book in here

I use a range of Remote Sensing approaches to make observations of Earth surface processes, with a particular focus on polar and mountain regions.

Broad research specialisms:

  • Remote sensing of Earth surface processes
  • Glacier hydrology and ice dynamics
  • Ice sheet basal conditions




Steven studied Earth and Space Science at University College London, where his dissertation, based at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, used X-ray telescope observations to identify Active Galactic Nuclei. He then moved to Cranfield University and gained a MSc in Astronautics and Space Engineering, after which he worked as Mission Systems Engineer in the Earth Observation group of EADS Astrium Ltd. Steven then worked briefly at the British Antarctic Survey before embarking on a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, where he used satellite radar measurements to investigate the flow dynamics of Arctic glaciers. Following this, he conducted fieldwork on the Larsen-C ice shelf in Antarctica as part of a project investigating Antarctic peninsula ice shelf instability. Steven then moved to the University of Leeds, where his work aimed to reduce uncertainties in the future contribution of the ice sheets to global sea level change. Before joining the University of Exeter as a lecturer in physical geography, Steven participated in a NERC-funded airborne geophysical survey of Greenland outlet glaciers, during which time he was based at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge.

Research group links

Back to top


Research interests

Steve uses a combination of Remote Sensing techniques to investigate Earth surface processes ranging from dust storms to coastal erosion. His main research focus has been quantifying glacier flow and form changes as they respond to climate forcing. Using airborne ice penetrating radar, Steve has also investigated conditions at the base of the Greenland ice sheet - better understanding of which is key to making more accurate projections of how the ice sheets are likely to change under continued global heating.

Research projects


  • NERC ARSF survey of Langjokull Ice Cap, Iceland, summer 2013.
  • NERC Grant NE/H020667: Airborne geophysical investigations of basal conditions at flow transitions of outlet glaciers on the Greenland Ice Sheet (PDRA)
  • TanDEM-X data grant XTI_GLAC0430: Linking hydrology and dynamics at the western margin of the Greenland ice sheet using surface elevation and velocity change observations.
  • NERC Grant  NE/M000869/1: Basal Properties of the Greenland Ice Sheet (CoI)

Research networks

Steve co-leads the Remote Sensing theme of Exeter's Institute of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (IDSAI)


Back to top


Journal articles

Palmer SJ, McMillan M, Morlighem M (In Press). Subglacial lake drainage detected beneath the Greenland ice sheet. Nature Communications, 6(8408).
Möller M, Friedl P, Palmer SJ, Marzeion B (2022). Grounding Line Retreat and Ice Discharge Variability at Two Surging, Ice Shelf‐Forming Basins of Flade Isblink Ice Cap, Northern Greenland. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 127(2). Abstract.
Bartlett OT, Palmer SJ, Schroeder DM, MacKie EJ, Barrows TT, Graham AGC (2020). Geospatial simulations of airborne ice-penetrating radar surveying reveal elevation under-measurement bias for ice-sheet bed topography. Annals of Glaciology, 61(81), 46-57. Abstract.
Albugami S, Palmer S, Cinnamon J, Meersmans J (2019). Spatial and temporal variations in the incidence of dust storms in Saudi Arabia revealed from in situ observations. Geosciences (Switzerland), 9(4). Abstract.
Mansell DT, Palmer S, Le Brocq A (2019). Subglacial controls on dynamic thinning at Trinity-Wykeham Glacier, Prince of Wales Ice Field, Canadian Arctic. International Journal of Remote Sensing
Albugami S, Palmer S, Meersmans J, Waine T (2018). Evaluating MODIS dust-detection indices over the Arabian Peninsula. Remote Sensing, 10(12). Abstract.
Morlighem M, Williams CN, Rignot E, an L, Arndt JE, Bamber JL, Catania G, Chauché N, Dowdeswell JA, Dorschel B, et al (2017). BedMachine v3: Complete Bed Topography and Ocean Bathymetry Mapping of Greenland from Multibeam Echo Sounding Combined with Mass Conservation. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(21). Abstract.
Carrivick JL, Tweed FS, Ng F, Quincey DJ, Mallalieu J, Ingeman-Nielsen T, Mikkelsen AB, Palmer SJ, Yde JC, Homer R, et al (2017). Ice-dammed lake drainage evolution at russell glacier, west greenland. Frontiers in Earth Science, 5 Abstract.
Chu W, Schroeder DM, Seroussi H, Creyts TT, Palmer SJ, Bell RE (2016). Extensive winter subglacial water storage beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. Geophysical Research Letters, 43(24), 12-492. Abstract.
Meersmans J, Van Weverberg K, De Baets S, De Ridder F, Palmer SJ, van Wesemael B, Quine TA (2016). Mapping mean total annual precipitation in Belgium, by investigating the scale of topographic control at the regional scale. Journal of Hydrology, 540, 96-105. Abstract.
Carr JR, Vieli A, Stokes CR, Jamieson SSR, Palmer SJ, Christoffersen P, Dowdeswell JA, Nick FM, Blankenship DD, Young DA, et al (2015). Basal topographic controls on rapid retreat of Humboldt Glacier, northern Greenland. JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY, 61(225), 137-150.  Author URL.
Clason CC, Mair DWF, Nienow PW, Bartholomew ID, Sole A, Palmer S, Schwanghart W (2015). Modelling the transfer of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of Leverett Glacier, Southwest Greenland. Cryosphere, 9(1), 123-138. Abstract.
Clason CC, Mair DWF, Nienow PW, Bartholomew ID, Sole A, Palmer S, Schwanghart W (2014). Modelling the transfer of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of Leverett Glacier, southwest Greenland. Abstract.
Bamber JL, Griggs JA, Hurkmans RTWL, Dowdeswell JA, Gogineni SP, Howat I, Mouginot J, Paden J, Palmer S, Rignot E, et al (2013). A new bed elevation dataset for Greenland. Cryosphere, 7(2), 499-510. Abstract.
Palmer SJ, Dowdeswell JA, Christoffersen P, Young DA, Blankenship DD, Greenbaum JS, Benham T, Bamber J, Siegert MJ (2013). Greenland subglacial lakes detected by radar. Geophysical Research Letters, n/a-n/a.
Leeson AA, Shepherd A, Palmer S, Sundal A, Fettweis X (2012). Simulating the growth of supraglacial lakes at the western margin of the Greenland ice sheet. Cryosphere, 6(5), 1077-1086. Abstract.
Sundal AV, Shepherd A, Nienow P, Hanna E, Palmer SJ, Huybrechts P (2011). Melt-induced speed-up of Greenland ice sheet offset by efficient subglacial drainage. NATURE, 469(7331), 521-524.
Rinne EJ, Shepherd A, Palmer S, Van Den Broeke MR, Muir A, Ettema J, Wingham D (2011). On the recent elevation changes at the Flade Isblink Ice Cap, northern Greenland. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 116(3). Abstract.
Palmer S, Shepherd A, Nienow P, Joughin I (2011). Seasonal speedup of the Greenland Ice Sheet linked to routing of surface water. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 302(3-4), 423-428. Abstract.
Bartholomew ID, Nienow P, Sole A, Mair D, Cowton T, King MA, Palmer S (2011). Seasonal variations in Greenland Ice Sheet motion: Inland extent and behaviour at higher elevations. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 307(3-4), 271-278. Abstract.
Bartholomew I, Nienow P, Sole A, Mair D, Cowton T, Palmer S, Wadham J (2011). Supraglacial forcing of subglacial drainage in the ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet. Geophysical Research Letters, 38(8). Abstract.
Palmer SJ, Shepherd A, Sundal A, Rinnem E, Nienow P (2010). InSAR observations of ice elevation and velocity fluctuations at the Flade Isblink ice cap, eastern North Greenland. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 115(4). Abstract.
Sundal AV, Shepherd A, Nienow P, Hanna E, Palmer S, Huybrechts P (2009). Evolution of supra-glacial lakes across the Greenland Ice Sheet. Remote Sensing of Environment, 113, 2164-2171.
Palmer S, Shepherd A, Bjornsson H, Palsson F (2009). Ice velocity measurements of Langjokull, Iceland, from interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR). Journal of Glaciology, 55, 834-838.
Palmer SJ, Rycroft MJ, Cermack M (2006). Solar and geomagnetic activity, extremely low frequency magnetic and electric fields and human health at the Earth's surface. SURVEYS IN GEOPHYSICS, 27(5), 557-595.  Author URL.


Crutchlow P, Drever J, Hunt C, Qiang PJ, Müller V, Palmer S, Wylie J (2021). The Common Line project. In  (Ed) Landscape Citizenships, Taylor & Francis, 253-272.
Crutchlow P, Drever J, Hunt C, Qiang PJ, Müller V, Palmer S, Wylie J (2021). The Common Line project: Lines, landscapes, and digital citizenships. In  (Ed) Landscape Citizenships: Ecological, Watershed and Bioregional Citizenships, 253-272.


Shepherd A, Palmer S, Nienow P (2009). Greenland ice sheet seasonal speedup coupled with surface hydrology.
Palmer S (2004). Earthshine: Alternative mission designs for the UK'S first deep-space spacecraft. Abstract.

Back to top

External Engagement and Impact

Committee/panel activities

Member of the English Riveria Educaion Strategy Board

External positions

Visiting researcher at University of Sussex (2017)

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science fellow, Hokkaido University (2022)

Back to top


Steven is an Exeter Education Incubator Fellow and leads the InVEnTA project: Interactive Virtual Environments for Teaching and Assessment, which won the Times Higher Education Innovation award 2020.

In 2022 Steve was confirmed as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy



Back to top

Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Sarah Albaqami jointly supervised by Dr Jeroen Meersmans
  • Hannah Barnett
  • Oliver Bartlett
  • Cristina Corti
  • Ellie Fox
  • Charlotte Pearson
  • Jack Stephens

Back to top

Office Hours:

Office hours for Term-2 of 2023/24: Tues 15:30-16:30 and Thursday 13:00-14:00 - Book in here

Back to top

Edit Profile