Department / group: Department of Geography & Environment, School of Geoscience, Cryosphere and Climate Change Research Group, Cryosphere and Climate Change Research Group
Personal URL: Not available

Research interests:

Ice sheet/stream dynamics via the study of glacial bedforms (esp. drumlins & MSGL): morphometry, spatial distribution, formation and evolution

Quaternary climate changes, via the study of Alpine glaciations: glacial landform mapping, morphometry and distribution, glacier extent reconstruction and moraine dating via cosmogenics

The interplay between tectonics, climate and surface processes: glacial buzzsaw, rivers and catchment morphometry

Career history:

2013 to present Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Aberdeen, UK

2009-13 Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Aberdeen, UK

2007-09 Post-Doctoral Research Associate (NERC), Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, UK. Project: Morphometry of drumlins as a testfor subglacial bedform formation theories

2002-07 Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Pisa, Italy. Project: Morphotectonics and glacialism of the Maritime Alps

2002 PhD Geological Sciences, University of Genova, Italy. Thesis: Morphotectonics and fluvial geomorphology of the Ligurian Alps

Active research projects:

The formation of Mega Scale Glacial Lineations: insights into the mechanisms of ice stream flow

Related funds: NERC new investigator, NERC iSTAR

MSGL are extremely elongated ridges that maintain a parallel conformity over length of 10s of km. MSGL are the morphological expression of ice stream flow and are a signature of physical conditions at the ice-bed interface. Thus, the correct understanding of their formation is undoubtedly a key piece of the puzzle for solving fundamental questions regarding the dynamic behaviour of ice streams. In this project I am creating the largest (10s of thousands) database of mapped MSGL, onshore and offshore, and analyzing their metrics variability and spatial distribution.

Drumlins: do we really know what they are?

Related funds: NERC standard grant, NERC GEF

Drumlins are likely the most studied landforms in glacial geomorphology (>1400 papers), and yet it is not clear how they are formed. Mega Scale Glacial Lineations have been “discovered” only a few decades ago but they have quickly become one of the best indicators of particularly fast flowing ice (ice streams). As part of the NERC project “testing the instability theory of subglacial bedform production”, I have discovered that many ideas of drumlin formation are based on assumptions of drumlin morphometry that are potentially wrong because based on out-of-dated techniques applied over a very small sample of landforms. With the increasing availability of GIS tools and DTM data it is now possible to map and analyze thousands of these landforms and re-write drumlins’ characteristics.

Pleistocene Alpine glaciers as a proxy to palaeo-climate

Related funds: Leverhulme Trust, EU FP7, Carnegie Trust and NERC-SUERC

There are three distinct projects on this topic each focusing on a separate region, plus an overall arching project that looks at the Younger Dryas climate throughout Europe. The three distinct projects focus on: (i) the South-Western Alps, a region of high interest within the Alps for palaeo-glaciological and climatological studies, given its exceptional proximity to the Mediterranean Sea; (ii) the Balkans, where the glaciation record is crucial to understand the latitudinal distribution of ice masses during the Quaternary and provide key insights on the southern European palaeo-climate; (iii) the Faroe Islands, ideally placed to constraint the location of the polar front at the Younger Dryas.

Recent publications:

Hillier, JK., Smith, MJ., Armugam, R., Barr, I., Boston, CM., Clark, CD., Ely, J., Frankl, A., Greenwood, SL., Gosselin, L., Hättestrand, C., Hogan, K., Hughes, ALC., Livingstone, SJ., Lovell, H., McHenry, M., Munoz, Y., Pellicer, XM., Pellitero, R., Robb, C., Robertson, S., Ruther, D., Spagnolo, M., Standell, M., Stokes, CR., Storrar, R., Tate, NJ. & Woolridge, K. (2015). ‘Manual mapping of drumlins in synthetic landscapes to assess operator effectiveness’. Journal of Maps, vol 11, no. 5, pp. 719-729.

Dowling, TPF., Spagnolo, M. & Möller, P. (2015). ‘Morphometry and core type of streamlined bedforms in southern Sweden from high resolution LiDAR’. Geomorphology, vol 236, pp. 54-63.

Pellitero-Ondicol, R., Rea, BR. & Spagnolo, M. (2015). ‘A GIS tool for automatic calculation of glacier equilibrium-line altitudes’. Computers & Geosciences, vol 82, pp. 55-62.

Barr, ID. & Spagnolo, M. (2014). ‘Testing the efficacy of the glacial buzzsaw: insights from the Sredinny Mountains, Kamchatka’. Geomorphology, vol 206, pp. 230-238.

Spagnolo, M., Clark, CD., Ely, JC., Stokes, CR., Anderson, JB., Andreassen, K., Graham, AGC. & King, EC. (2014). ‘Size, shape and spatial arrangement of mega-scale glacial lineations from a large and diverse dataset’. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, vol 39, no. 11, pp. 1432-1448.