Dr Caroline Clason

Dr Caroline Clason

Associate Professor of Glaciology

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)



I am an Associate Professor of Glaciology specialising in glacial hydrology, and a Leader of the Centre for Research in Environment and Society.


Academic positions:

  • Associate Professor of Glaciology, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth (2020-present) 
  • Lecturer in Physical Geography, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth (2016-2020)
  • Visiting Research Fellow, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth (2015-2016)
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University (2012-2016)
  • Visiting Researcher, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada (2010-2011)

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP), University of Plymouth, 2017
  • PhD, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, UK (2008-2012) "Quantitative controls on the routing of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of glaciers and ice sheets"
  • 1st class BSc (Hons) Geography and Environmental Science, University of Dundee, UK (2004-2008)

Professional membership

  • Member of the European Geosciences Union
  • Member of the Quaternary Research Association
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Roles on external bodies

  • Editorial Advisory Board member for Journal of Quaternary Science
  • Academic Editor for PLOS ONE



Teaching interests

I am the Stage 4 Tutor for Geography single and joint honours programmes, and teach on the following modules (2020/21 academic year):

Stage 1:
GGX1205: Geographical Journeys
GGX1206: Sustainable Futures
GGP1206: Environment and Climate

Stage 2:
GGX2201 - Principles and Applications of Geography 1
GGX2202 - Principles and Applications of Geography 2 (module leader)
GGX2204 - Fieldwork in Geography

Stage 4:
GGX3200 - Dissertation in Geography (module leader)
ENVS3011 - Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation

GEES506 - Climate Change: Science and Policy



Research interests

My primary research interests are: 1) the pathways and transit times of glacial meltwater, and their relationship to the dynamics and stability of glaciers and ice sheets; and 2) the impact of retreating glaciers on downstream water quality and availability. I have experience in field-based glaciological research in Greenland, Arctic Scandinavia, Iceland, and the European Alps, and have contributed to improved implementation of glacial hydrology within glacier and ice sheet models. My current research is focussed on water resources in glacier-fed catchments, including the transport of anthropogenic pollutants through the glacial hydrological system. This work is supported by active research grants from NERC (Newton Fund) and the Royal Geographical Society, and applies an interdisciplinary approach to assess the impacts of changing meltwater availability on water security and environmental quality downstream of glaciated catchments under changing patterns of climate and land use.

Current research projects

Integrated upstream and downstream thinking to mitigate the water security challenges of Peruvian glacier retreat (SIGMA:Peru)

Main collaborators: Will Blake, Sally Rangecroft, Jess Kitch (University of Plymouth), Nick Selmes, Stefan Simis (Plymouth Marine Laboratory), and Sergio Morera (Geophysical Institute of Peru)

A growing population, combined with changes to water availability and quantity due to climate change, is increasing the pressure on dwindling water supplies in the Peruvian Andes. Glaciers provide a critical water supply to millions living in South America, acting as buffers to Andean water supplies as they contribute by slowly releasing water through melt which contributes to drinking water, agriculture, hydroelectricity and industry. Containing over 70% of the world’s tropical ice glaciers, Peru is at the heart of this water security concern as glaciers in the region are rapidly retreating. Our project seeks to evaluate the past, present and future problems associated with glacial retreat in Peru, with regards to water quantity and quality, and study the impacts on basin-wide water, food and energy security. Working collaboratively alongside both UK and Peruvian researchers, and between natural and social sciences, the project aims to develop strategies to improve water security in the region for local people, industry and agriculture.

Fallout radionuclides on glaciers: an emerging issue for water quality

Main collaborators: Will Blake, Kim Ward (University of Plymouth), Giovanni Baccolo (University Milano-Bicocca), Edyta Lokas (Institute of Nuclear Physics PAS), Phil Owens (UNBC), and Nick Selmes (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)

Fallout radionuclides (FRNs) and other anthropogenic contaminants are transported in the atmosphere and subsequently deposited on and stored within glaciers. In response to changes in climate and associated glacier retreat, these contaminants can be released from glaciers into downstream catchments decades after the original source of contamination was active. Furthermore, interaction with an ice surface material called ‘cryoconite’ can lead to accumulation of contaminants, resulting in enhanced and potentially harmful concentrations. Very little research has been conducted to date on FRNs in glacier catchments; our work aims to fill geographical gaps in knowledge of FRNs in the global cryosphere and collaborate with the wider research community to assess potential impact on the downstream environment and the populations reliant upon glacier-fed waters for drinking water, grazing and irrigation. I have conducted field campaigns in Sweden and Iceland in support of this research, with cryoconite and sediment samples collected in these locations analysed for the presence of radioactive materials and heavy metals at the University of Plymouth Consolidated Radio-isotope Facility (CoRIF). A new international network of researchers in the fields of glaciology, environmental radioactivity and biogeochemistry has recently been developed, with an aim to build a spatial database for FRNs in glacial environments globally and better understand the physical processes resulting in accumulation of FRNs on glaciers. If you would like to contribute to this project then please contact me.

The hydrology and dynamics of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet

Main collaborators: Sarah Greenwood, Per Holmlund, Martin Jakobsson (Stockholm University), and Johan Nyberg (Geological Survey of Sweden)

This research is focussed on developing an improved understanding of the retreat and dynamics of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet during the Late Weichselian. I have a specific interest in the Baltic and Bothnian sea areas, and a combined modelling/geomorphology approach has been applied to help better constrain past ice stream activity in this region, including investigating the controls on grounding line stability and flow dynamics, and the role of atmospheric warming and meltwater production in driving ice retreat. Mapping of high-resolution bathymetric data provides an incredibly well-preserved insight into the subglacial environment in this area, from which we hope to better understand contemporary glacial processes in other regions. This work thus contributes to improving our understanding of both present day and palaeo ice sheets, and provides a unique perspective on marine-terminating ice streams and possibilities for rapid retreat.

Hydrocarbon pollution on Rabots Glacier, Kebnekaise, Northern Sweden

Main collaborators: Gunhild Rosqvist and Jerker Jarsjö (Stockholm University)

In March 2012 a Royal Norwegian Air Force Hercules plane crashed just below the summit of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain, depositing much of the wreckage and fuel onto Rabots Glacier. Through an ongoing monitoring programme we are investigating the transit pathways and likely lifetime of hydrocarbons within the glacier catchment. This includes how the pollutants behave in the snowpack, the use of dye tracers to investigate the transport pathways for pollution from the source zone to downstream, and detection of pollution in the proglacial environment where it enters a river catchment used for drinking water by both animals and humans.

Postgraduate supervision

2021-present: Enrique Gabriel Munoz Arcos, “Evaluating sediment residence time for improved management of legacy and contemporary river basin pollution”, University of Plymouth (PhD; co-supervisor).

2020-present: Jess Kitch, “Quantifying and predicting Andean sediment dynamic response to natural and anthropogenic changes at the basin scale”, University of Plymouth (PhD; Director of Studies).

2019-present: Dylan Beard, “Glaciers as secondary sources of anthropogenic pollutants: an emerging socio-environmental, challenge”, University of Plymouth (PhD; Director of Studies). 

2019-present: Luis Ovando Fuentealba, “Validation of a hierarchical mixing model within a catchment sediment budget context”, University of Plymouth (PhD; co-supervisor).

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Caroline Coch, “Pathways and transit time of meltwater in the englacial drainage system of Rabots Glacier, Kebnekaise, Sweden”, Stockholm University (Master’s, completed May 2014)

Ane LaBianca, “Spreading of petroleum products spilled in a glacier environment at Kebnekaise, Northern Sweden”, Stockholm University (Master’s, completed June 2014)

Grants & contracts

2019-2022: NERC-CONCYTEC (Newton Fund) UK-Peru collaborative project on “Integrated upstream and downstream thinking to mitigate the water security challenges of Peruvian glacier retreat". £458211, (P.I.).

2020-2021: GCRF (internal competition) for “Nuestro Rio (our river): Local perspectives on water quality in the Rio Santa, Peru”. £55,526, (co-I).

2020: BBSRC, UKRI Public Engagement Research Grant to support the project "GlacierMap: mapping glacier change in the Peruvian Andes". £20063, (P.I.).

2020: INTERACT Transnational Access, “The radioactive memory of high Arctic glaciers: Rad-ICE”, €21070, (co-I.).

2018 (ongoing): RGS Environment and Sustainability Research Grant, “Release of legacy fallout radionuclides from retreating glaciers: coproducing ‘risk maps’ with the Sami to inform adaptations to an emerging threat in Arctic Sweden”, £15000, (co P.I.).

2018-2019: Seed project funding (University of Plymouth) to support a workshop and sample analysis to assess the prevalence of fallout radionuclides across currently glaciated high latitude regions of the northern hemisphere, £5000 (P.I.).

2018: QRA Quaternary Research Fund, “Accumulation of historical anthropogenic pollutants in the supraglacial environment: a case study on SE Iceland”, £1250, (P.I.).

2017: INTERACT Transnational Access, “Glacier Recession as a Source of Environmental Pollutants”, €2926, (P.I.).

2014-2015: Carl Tryggers Stiftelse för Vetenskaplig Forskning (postdoctoral research grant), “A combined geomorphological and modelling approach to reconstructing the deglaciation of the last Scandinavian Ice Sheet”, 295500 SEK, (P.I.).

2013: Bolin Climate Centre grant to support collaborative ice sheet modelling work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA, 20000 SEK, (P.I.).

2010-2011: Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship (based at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada), “Meltwater-enhanced sliding of glaciers: A predictive model for routing of surface meltwater to the base of the Greenland Ice Sheet”, £17000, (P.I.).



Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

Clason CC, Blake WH, Selmes N, Taylor A, Boeckx P, Kitch J, Mills SC, Baccolo G & Millward GE (2021) 'Accumulation of legacy fallout radionuclides in cryoconite on Isfallsglaciären (Arctic Sweden) and their downstream spatial distribution' The Cryosphere 15, (11) 5151-5168 , DOI Open access
Clason C, Rangecroft S, Kallis G, Lewin S & Mullier T (2021) 'GlacierMap: a virtual opportunity to explore the Andes’ vanishing glaciers' Geography 106, (3) 148-153 , DOI Open access
Baccolo G, Nastasi, Massabo, Clason C, Di Mauro, Di Stefano, Lokas, Prati, Previtali & Takeuchi (2020) 'Artificial and natural radionuclides in cryoconite as tracers of supraglacial dynamics: Insights from the Morteratsch glacier (Swiss Alps)' Catena 191, , DOI Open access
Baccolo G, Lokas E, Gaca P, Massabò D, Ambrosini R, Azzoni RS, Clason C, Di Mauro B, Franzetti A & Nastasi M (2020) 'Cryoconite: an efficient accumulator of radioactive fallout in glacial environments' The Cryosphere 14, (2) 657-672 , DOI Open access
Mather AE, Fyfe R, Clason C, Stokes M, Mills S & Barrows TT (2018) 'Automated mapping of relict patterned ground: An approach to evaluate morphologically subdued landforms using unmanned-aerialvehicle and structure-from-motion technologies' Progress in Physical Geography , DOI Open access
Gudlaugsson E, Humbert A, Andreassen K, Clason CC, Kleiner T & Beyer S (2017) 'Eurasian ice-sheet dynamics and sensitivity to subglacial hydrology' Journal of Glaciology , DOI Open access
Greenwood SL, Clason CC, Nyberg J, Jakobsson M & Holmlund P (2016) 'The Bothnian Sea ice stream: early Holocene retreat dynamics of the south-central Fennoscandian Ice Sheet' Boreas 46, 346-362 , DOI Open access
Clason CC, Greenwood SL, Selmes N, Lea JM, Jamieson SSR, Nick FM & Holmlund P (2016) 'Controls on the early Holocene collapse of the Bothnian Sea Ice Stream' Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface , DOI Open access
Greenwood SL, Clason CC & Jakobsson M (2016) 'Ice-flow and meltwater landform assemblages in the Gulf of Bothnia' Geological Society, London, Memoirs 46, (1) 321-324 , DOI Open access
Everett A, Murray T, Selmes N, Rutt IC, Luckman A, James TD, Clason C, O'Leary M, Karunarathna H & Moloney V (2016) 'Annual down-glacier drainage of lakes and water-filled crevasses at Helheim Glacier, southeast Greenland' Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 121, (10) 1819-1833 , DOI Open access
Greenwood SL, Clason CC, Helanow C & Margold M (2016) 'Theoretical, contemporary observational and palaeo-perspectives on ice sheet hydrology: Processes and products' Earth-Science Reviews 155, 1-27 , DOI Open access
Greenwood SL, Clason CC, Mikko H, Nyberg J, Peterson G & Smith CA (2015) 'Integrated use of LiDAR and multibeam bathymetry reveals onset of ice streaming in the northern Bothnian Sea' GFF 137, (4) 284-292 , DOI Open access
Clason CC, Coch C, Jarsjö J, Brugger K, Jansson P & Rosqvist G (2015) 'Dye tracing to determine flow properties of hydrocarbon-polluted Rabots glaciär, Kebnekaise, Sweden' Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 19, (6) 2701-2715 , DOI Open access
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' The Cryosphere 9, (1) 123-138 , DOI Open access
Clason CC, Applegate PJ & Holmlund P (2014) 'Modelling Late Weichselian evolution of the Eurasian ice sheets forced by surface meltwater-enhanced basal sliding' Journal of Glaciology 60, (219) 29-40 , DOI Open access
CLASON C, MAIR DWF, BURGESS DO & NIENOW PW (2012) 'Modelling the delivery of supraglacial meltwater to the ice/bed interface: application to southwest Devon Ice Cap, Nunavut, Canada' Journal of Glaciology 58, (208) 361-374 , DOI Open access
Box JE, Sharp M, Aðalgeirsdóttir G, Ananicheva M, Anderson ML, Carr R, Clason CC, Colgan WT, Copland L & Glazovsky A (2017) 'Changes to Arctic land ice' Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) 2017 Oslo, Norway Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) 137-168 Open access
Holmlund P, Clason CC & Blomdahl K (2016) The effect of a glaciation on East Central Sweden: case studies on present glaciers and analyses of landform data. Swedish Radiation Safety Authority Open access
Presentations and posters
Kitch J, Clason C, Rangecroft S, Morera S & Blake W Kitch J, Clason C, Rangecroft S, Morera S & Blake W 'Assessing the contribution of natural and anthropogenic processes on sediment dynamics in the Rio Santa (Peru) through sediment fingerprinting' , DOI
Ovando-Fuentealba L, Taylor A, Clason C, Bravo-Linares C & Blake W Ovando-Fuentealba L, Taylor A, Clason C, Bravo-Linares C & Blake W 'Comparing different error structures in MixSIAR analysis using artificial mixtures from real sediment sources' , DOI
Lokas E, Baccolo GB, Clason C, Wachniew P, Takeuchi N, Zawierucha K, Beard D, Ambrosini R, Pittino F & Franzetti A Lokas E, Baccolo GB, Clason C, Wachniew P, Takeuchi N, Zawierucha K, Beard D, Ambrosini R, Pittino F & Franzetti A 'Deposition  of plutonium isotopes in glacial environments in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres' , DOI
Rangecroft S, Van Tiel M, Blake W, Morera S & Clason C Rangecroft S, Van Tiel M, Blake W, Morera S & Clason C 'Estimating peak water in glaciated basins: the importance of scale, process, and terminology' , DOI
Clason C, Rangecroft S, Kallis G, Lewin S, Mullier T, Blake W & Stewart I Clason C, Rangecroft S, Kallis G, Lewin S, Mullier T, Blake W & Stewart I 'GlacierMap: a citizen science mapping tool for evaluating glacier change and contributing to climate literacy' , DOI
Dextre RM, Eschenhagen ML, Camacho M, Rangecroft S, Couldrick L, Clason C & Morera S Dextre RM, Eschenhagen ML, Camacho M, Rangecroft S, Couldrick L, Clason C & Morera S 'Payment for Ecosystem Services policies in Peru: assessing the social and ecological dimensions of water services in the upper Santa River basin ' , DOI
Other Publications
Clason CC (2012) Quantitative controls on the routing of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of glaciers and ice sheets. Open access
Beard DB, Clason C, Rangecroft S, Rodríguez WS & Blake W Catchment scale variation of contaminants in glacial sediments from the Cordillera Blanca, Peru. , DOI
Clason C Distribution and controls on the accumulation of fallout radionuclides in cryoconite across the global cryosphere . , DOI
Kitch J, Clason C, Rangecroft S, Morera S, Contreras S & Blake W Evaluating sediment source contributions in a river catchment impacted by glacial melt and land use change, the Rio Santa, Peru. , DOI
Clason C, Rangecroft S, Grados Bueno C, Dextre RM, Hoyos E, Hurtado Quispe K & Samuels D Glacier Gifts: adventures in creative writing in the Peruvian Andes. , DOI



Research projects




Personal blog: meltingplanet.org