Featured module: Polar and Alpine Change

This module takes students on a journey around the cold regions of the Earth, from the great ice sheets to the high peaks, where they learn about the processes operating in these environments and how our cryosphere is changing in response to a warming world and as part of the wider Earth system. We explore how the retreat of mountain glaciers can impact downstream ecosystems and communities, and how the changes to mountain environments can lead to increased risk of natural hazard events. We also explore how sea ice, permafrost, and snow cover are responding to anthropogenic climate change, and the impacts this has for how both people and animals must adapt to changing environmental conditions.

The module allows students to learn about how the cryosphere can be monitored and modelled, including practical components related to how we can observe the cryosphere from space, and how computer models can be used to predict how glaciers and the water they produce will respond in a warmer future. Students are encouraged to think critically about our responsibility for the changing cryosphere, how this impacts upon the grand challenges of water, food, and energy security, and how we can adapt to / mitigate against rising sea levels, an increase in climate-driven hazards, and a reduction in glacier-fed freshwater resources.

Through studying Polar and Alpine Change our students develop skills in handling and analysis of spatial and temporal data, application of Earth observation for monitoring glacier processes and change, and the use of models to explore glacier response to future climate scenarios.

Topics covered:

  • cryospheric processes (glaciers; permafrost; seaice)
  • response of polar and alpine environments to achanging climate
  • socio-environmental impacts of declining ice andsnow
  • risks from a changing cryosphere.

Teaching staff