Dr Matt Westoby
Profiles

Dr Matt Westoby

Associate Professor of Physical Geography

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

Biography

Biography

I am a geomorphologist who is fascinated by the way in which landscapes respond to extreme, often sudden-onset perturbations, such as natural dam-break floods. To study these phenomena, I use a range of field- and remote sensing-based methods, such as change detection applied to highly detailed digital elevation data, and numerical hydrodynamic models. 

Prior to taking up a position as Associate Professor of Physical Geography in SoGEES in June 2023, I was based in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, where I was a Postdoctoral Research Assistant on NERC- and Environment Agency-funded projects (2014-2016), a Vice Chancellor's Research Fellow in Extreme Environments (2017-2020), and Assistant (2020-2022) and Associate Professor of Physical Geography (2022-2023). I was employed in industry as a hydrologist (Land and Water Resource Consultants (Mannvit), Cambridge) from 2013-2014.

Qualifications

PhD (Modelling glacial lake outburst floods), Aberystwyth University, 2013

MSc Glaciology, Aberystwyth University, 2009

BSc (Hons) Physical Geography, University of Southampton, 2007

Fellow of the Higher Education Authority, 2018

Professional membership

Full member, British Society for Geomorphology

Regular member, European Geosciences Union

Roles on external bodies

Trustee and Honorary Treasurer, British Society for Geomorphology (2021 - present)

Research

Research

Research interests

I am a geomorphologist who specialises in:

1) Drivers and impacts of rapid landscape evolution, mainly in high-mountain systems affected by extreme events such as glacial lake outburst floods (or 'GLOFs'), rock and ice avalanches, and debris flows. I use numerical models, satellite- and field-based surveying, and geomorphological analysis to explore the immediate and legacy impacts of these events and their societal implications.

2) High-resolution 3D topographic reconstruction and volumetric change detection. I use these methods for analysing the evolution of landforms and their landscapes. I was an early adopter of low-cost 'structure from motion' photogrammetry for geoscience applications, and routinely use uncrewed aerial vehicles (or drones) and terrestrial laser scanning to this end.

To date I have worked on research projects based in the UK, the Italian and Swiss Alps, the Nepalese and Chinese Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau, the Mediterranean, and Antarctica. Most recently I was involved in high-profile projects which quantified, for the first time, the risk posed by GLOFs globally (Taylor et al., 2023, Nature Communications), and the immediate and legacy impacts of the tragic Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand, India (Westoby et al., In Press, Geology; Shugar et al., 2021, Science)

I am currently lead- or co-supervising PhD students who are investigating (i) global permafrost degradation, and (ii) GLOF-related problems.

Do get in touch if you're interested in collaborating on any of the above themes!

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Dr Rebecca Stewart: 'Reconciling debris supply and transport in deglaciating catchments' (Awarded 2022, Northumbria University)

Publications

Publications

Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

Journals
Articles
Zhao C, Yang W, Miles E, Westoby M, Kneib M, Wang Y, He Z & Pellicciotti F (2023) 'Thinning and surface mass balance patterns of two neighbouring debris-covered glaciers in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau' The Cryosphere 17, (9) 3895-3913 , DOI Open access
Westoby MJ, Dunning SA, Carrivick JL, Coulthard TJ, Sain K, Kumar A, Berthier E, Haritashya UK, Shean DE & Azam MF (2023) 'Rapid fluvial remobilization of sediments deposited by the 2021 Chamoli disaster, Indian Himalaya' Geology , DOI Open access
Farmakis I, Hutchinson DJ, Vlachopoulos N, Westoby M & Lim M (2023) 'Slope-Scale Rockfall Susceptibility Modeling as a 3D Computer Vision Problem' Remote Sensing 15, (11) 2712-2712 Publisher Site , DOI
Taylor C, Robinson TR, Dunning S, Rachel Carr J & Westoby M (2023) 'Glacial lake outburst floods threaten millions globally' Nature Communications 14, (1) Publisher Site , DOI
Kneib M, Miles ES, Buri P, Fugger S, McCarthy M, Shaw TE, Chuanxi Z, Truffer M, Westoby MJ & Yang W (2022) 'Sub-seasonal variability of supraglacial ice cliff melt rates and associated processes from time-lapse photogrammetry' The Cryosphere 16, (11) 4701-4725 Publisher Site , DOI
Zhao C, Yang W, Westoby M, An B, Wu G, Wang W, Wang Z, Wang Y & Dunning S (2022) 'Brief communication: An approximately 50 Mm<sup>3</sup> ice-rock avalanche on 22 March 2021 in the Sedongpu valley, southeastern Tibetan Plateau' The Cryosphere 16, (4) 1333-1340 Publisher Site , DOI
Woodward J, Hein AS, Winter K, Westoby MJ, Marrero SM, Dunning SA, Lim M, Rivera A & Sugden DE (2022) 'Blue-ice moraines formation in the Heritage Range, West Antarctica: Implications for ice sheet history and climate reconstruction' Quaternary Science Advances 6, 100051-100051 Publisher Site , DOI
Zhong Y, Liu Q, Westoby M, Nie Y, Pellicciotti F, Zhang B, Cai J, Liu G, Liao H & Lu X (2022) 'Intensified paraglacial slope failures due to accelerating downwasting of a temperate glacier in Mt. Gongga, southeastern Tibetan Plateau' Earth Surface Dynamics 10, (1) 23-42 Publisher Site , DOI
Shugar DH, Jacquemart M, Shean D, Bhushan S, Upadhyay K, Sattar A, Schwanghart W, McBride S, de Vries MVW & Mergili M (2021) 'A massive rock and ice avalanche caused the 2021 disaster at Chamoli, Indian Himalaya' Science 373, (6552) 300-306 Publisher Site , DOI
Stewart RL, Westoby M, Pellicciotti F, Rowan A, Swift D, Brock B & Woodward J (2021) 'Using climate reanalysis data in conjunction with multi-temporal satellite thermal imagery to derive supraglacial debris thickness changes from energy-balance modelling' Journal of Glaciology 67, (262) 366-384 Publisher Site , DOI
Nie Y, Liu W, Liu Q, Hu X & Westoby MJ (2020) 'Reconstructing the Chongbaxia Tsho glacial lake outburst flood in the Eastern Himalaya: Evolution, process and impacts' Geomorphology 370, 107393-107393 Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Rounce DR, Shaw TE, Fyffe CL, Moore PL, Stewart RL & Brock BW (2020) 'Geomorphological evolution of a debris‐covered glacier surface' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 45, (14) 3431-3448 Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby M, Lim M, Hogg M, Dunlop L, Pound M, Strzelecki M & Woodward J (2020) 'Decoding Complex Erosion Responses for the Mitigation of Coastal Rockfall Hazards Using Repeat Terrestrial LiDAR' Remote Sensing 12, (16) 2620-2620 Publisher Site , DOI
Yang W, Zhao C, Westoby M, Yao T, Wang Y, Pellicciotti F, Zhou J, He Z & Miles E (2020) 'Seasonal Dynamics of a Temperate Tibetan Glacier Revealed by High-Resolution UAV Photogrammetry and In Situ Measurements' Remote Sensing 12, (15) 2389-2389 Publisher Site , DOI
Fyffe CL, Woodget AS, Kirkbride MP, Deline P, Westoby MJ & Brock BW (2020) 'Processes at the margins of supraglacial debris cover: Quantifying dirty ice ablation and debris redistribution' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 45, (10) 2272-2290 Publisher Site , DOI
Winter K, Woodward J, Ross N, Dunning SA, Hein AS, Westoby MJ, Culberg R, Marrero SM, Schroeder DM & Sugden DE (2019) 'Radar‐Detected Englacial Debris in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet' Geophysical Research Letters 46, (17-18) 10454-10462 Publisher Site , DOI
Anderson K, Westoby MJ & James MR (2019) 'Low-budget topographic surveying comes of age: Structure from motion photogrammetry in geography and the geosciences' Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment 43, (2) 163-173 Publisher Site , DOI
Li T, Zhang B, Cheng X, Westoby M, Li Z, Ma C, Hui F, Shokr M, Liu Y & Chen Z (2019) 'Resolving Fine-Scale Surface Features on Polar Sea Ice: A First Assessment of UAS Photogrammetry Without Ground Control' Remote Sensing 11, (7) 784-784 Publisher Site , DOI
Varela MR, Patrício AR, Anderson K, Broderick AC, DeBell L, Hawkes LA, Tilley D, Snape RTE, Westoby MJ & Godley BJ (2018) 'Assessing climate change associated sea‐level rise impacts on sea turtle nesting beaches using drones, photogrammetry and a novel GPS system' Global Change Biology 25, (2) 753-762 Publisher Site , DOI
Marrero SM, Hein AS, Naylor M, Attal M, Shanks R, Winter K, Woodward J, Dunning S, Westoby M & Sugden D (2018) 'Controls on subaerial erosion rates in Antarctica' Earth and Planetary Science Letters 501, 56-66 Publisher Site , DOI
Sugden DE, Hein AS, Woodward J, Marrero SM, Rodés Á, Dunning SA, Stuart FM, Freeman SPHT, Winter K & Westoby MJ (2018) 'Corrigendum to “The million-year evolution of the glacial trimline in the southernmost Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica” [Earth and Planetary Science Letters 469 (2017) 42–52]' Earth and Planetary Science Letters 502, 291-292 Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Lim M, Hogg M, Pound MJ, Dunlop L & Woodward J (2018) 'Cost-effective erosion monitoring of coastal cliffs' Coastal Engineering 138, 152-164 Publisher Site , DOI
Webster C, Westoby M, Rutter N & Jonas T (2018) 'Three-dimensional thermal characterization of forest canopies using UAV photogrammetry' Remote Sensing of Environment 209, 835-847 Publisher Site , DOI
Rowan AV, Quincey DJ, Gibson MJ, Glasser NF, Westoby MJ, Irvine-Fynn TDL, Porter PR & Hambrey MJ (2017) 'The sustainability of water resources in High Mountain Asia in the context of recent and future glacier change' Geological Society, London, Special Publications 462, (1) 189-204 Publisher Site , DOI
Sugden DE, Hein AS, Woodward J, Marrero SM, Rodés Á, Dunning SA, Stuart FM, Freeman SPHT, Winter K & Westoby MJ (2017) 'The million-year evolution of the glacial trimline in the southernmost Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica' Earth and Planetary Science Letters 469, 42-52 Publisher Site , DOI
Hein AS, Marrero SM, Woodward J, Dunning SA, Winter K, Westoby MJ, Freeman SPHT, Shanks RP & Sugden DE (2016) 'Mid-Holocene pulse of thinning in the Weddell Sea sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet' Nature Communications 7, (1) Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Dunning SA, Woodward J, Hein AS, Marrero SM, Winter K & Sugden DE (2016) 'Interannual surface evolution of an Antarctic blue-ice moraine using multi-temporal DEMs' Earth Surface Dynamics 4, (2) 515-529 Publisher Site , DOI
Hein AS, Woodward J, Marrero SM, Dunning SA, Steig EJ, Freeman SPHT, Stuart FM, Winter K, Westoby MJ & Sugden DE (2016) 'Evidence for the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet divide for 1.4 million years' Nature Communications 7, (1) Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Brasington J, Glasser NF, Hambrey MJ, Reynolds JM, Hassan MAAM & Lowe A (2015) 'Numerical modelling of glacial lake outburst floods using physically based dam-breach models' Earth Surface Dynamics 3, (1) 171-199 Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Dunning SA, Woodward J, Hein AS, Marrero SM, Winter K & Sugden DE (2015) 'Sedimentological characterization of Antarctic moraines using UAVs and Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry' Journal of Glaciology 61, (230) 1088-1102 Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Glasser NF, Hambrey MJ, Brasington J, Reynolds JM & Hassan MAAM (2014) 'Reconstructing historic Glacial Lake Outburst Floods through numerical modelling and geomorphological assessment: Extreme events in the Himalaya' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 39, (12) 1675-1692 Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Glasser NF, Brasington J, Hambrey MJ, Quincey DJ & Reynolds JM (2014) 'Modelling outburst floods from moraine-dammed glacial lakes' Earth-Science Reviews 134, 137-159 Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby MJ, Brasington J, Glasser NF, Hambrey MJ & Reynolds JM (2012) '‘Structure-from-Motion’ photogrammetry: A low-cost, effective tool for geoscience applications' Geomorphology 179, 300-314 Publisher Site , DOI
Presentations and posters
Zhong Y, Liu Q, Nie Y, Westoby M, Zhang B, Cai J, Liao H & Liu G Zhong Y, Liu Q, Nie Y, Westoby M, Zhang B, Cai J, Liao H & Liu G 'Intensified paraglacial slope failures due to accelerating downwasting of a temperate glacier in Mt. Gongga, Southeastern Tibet Plateau' , DOI
Other Publications
Fyffe C, Miles E, Kneib M, Shrestha R, Stewart R, Fugger S, Westoby M, Shaw T, Yang W & Pellicciotti F A comparison of the drainage systems of two High Asian debris-covered glaciers. Publisher Site , DOI
Dunlop L, Westoby MJ & Lim M Erosion monitoring of coastal cliffs of geoheritage significance – an example from north east England. Publisher Site , DOI
Mergili M, Sattar A, Carrivick J, Emmer A, Mandli KT, Jacquemart M, Watson S, Westoby M, Clague JJ & Haritashya UK Exploring the flow evolution of the Chamoli event (Uttarakhand, India) of 7 February 2021: From geomorphological mapping to multi-model computer simulations. Publisher Site , DOI
Westoby M, Rounce D, Shaw T, Fyffe C, Moore P, Stewart R & Brock B Improving geomorphological process understanding of complex glacier surfaces using aerial robotics. Publisher Site , DOI
Yang W, Zhao C, Westoby M, An B, Wu G, Wang W, Wang Z, Wang Y & Dunning S Process and mechanisms on the occurrence of massive glacier-rock avalanches in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau under anthropogenic warming. Publisher Site , DOI
Stewart R, Westoby M, Dunning S, Pellicciotti F & Woodward J Quantifying and characterising contemporary rockfall supply to a debris-covered glacier catchment. Publisher Site , DOI
Stewart R, Westoby M, Dunning S, Pellicciotti F & Woodward J Quantifying contemporary debris supply in a debris-covered glacier catchment using high-resolution repeat terrestrial LiDAR. Publisher Site , DOI
Swift D, Jones A, Westoby M, Bryant R & Veness R Structurally controlled englacial origin of supraglacial debris cover and relief at a debris-covered Alpine glacier. Publisher Site , DOI
Kneib M, Miles ES, Buri P, Fugger S, McCarthy M, Zhao C, Shaw TE, Truffer M, Westoby M & Yang W Sub-seasonal evolution of ice cliffs captured with time-lapse photogrammetry. Publisher Site , DOI
Zhao C, Yang W, Miles E, Westoby M, Kneib M, Wang Y, He Z & Pellicciotti F Supplementary material to "Thinning and surface mass balance patterns of two neighboring debris-covered glaciers in southeastern Tibetan Plateau". Publisher Site , DOI
Zhao C, Yang W, Westoby M, An B, Wu G, Wang W, Wang Z, Wang Y & Dunning S Supplementary material to "Brief communication: A ~50 Mm<sup>3</sup> ice-rock avalanche on 22 March 2021 in the Sedongpu valley, southeastern Tibetan Plateau". Publisher Site , DOI
Zhong Y, Liu Q, Westoby M, Nie Y, Pellicciotti F, Zhang B, Cai J, Liu G, Liao H & Lu X Supplementary material to "Intensified paraglacial slope failures due to accelerating downwasting of a temperate glacier in Mt. Gongga, Southeastern Tibet Plateau". Publisher Site , DOI
Kneib M, Miles ES, Buri P, Fugger S, McCarthy M, Shaw TE, Chuanxi Z, Truffer M, Westoby MJ & Yang W Supplementary material to "Sub-seasonal variability of supraglacial ice cliff melt rates and associated processes from time-lapse photogrammetry". Publisher Site , DOI