My research interests primarily concern process glaciology and in particular:
-Glacier hydrology – the structure and seasonal evolution of glacial drainage systems.
-Ice dynamics – hydrological controls on basal sliding and the stability of ice flow.
-Glacier erosion – factors controlling sediment evacuation from subglacial drainage systems.
-Snowpack structure – temporal and spatial variations in supraglacial snowpack structure.
-Cryospheric response to climate change.
Research experience: My research has been driven by field-based investigations in the Alps, Canadian High Arctic, Norway and Greenland starting with my first Alpine PhD. field season in 1990. Much of the fieldwork has been undertaken at Haut Glacier d’Arolla, Switzerland, John Evans Glacier, Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic and Leverett Glacier, Greenland on collaborative projects investigating glacier hydrology, ice dynamics and their links and responses to a variety of climate change forcing scenarios. My recent work has taken me to Greenland to investigate processes controlling refreezing in the snowpack and determine the effect of density variations in the snowpack on elevation estimates obtained from airborne radar altimeters. My research has been supported through a number of funding bodies including fifteen NERC grants.
2011-present. Professor of Glaciology, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.
2008-present. Reader, Institute of Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.
2005-2008. Senior Lecturer, Institute of Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.
2004-2005. University Lecturer, Institute of Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.
1997-2004. University Lecturer, Department of Geography and Geomatics, University of Glasgow.
1994-1996. NERC Research Fellow, Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh: “Hydrological influences on basal flow dynamics in valley glaciers”.
1989-1993. NERC Research Student, St John’s College and Department of Geography,
University of Cambridge. Supervised by Dr. Martin Sharp and Dr. Ian Willis: Thesis: “Dye tracer investigations of glacier hydrological systems”.
Active research projects:
Investigating controls on flow variability in Greenland’s tidewater glaciers: the impact of runoff on fjord circulation and termini melt rates
1/09/13 – 31/08/16
The role of winter motion in controlling the dynamic stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet
1/06/13 – 31/05/14
Hawkings, J.R., Wadham, J.L., Tranter, M., Lawson, E., Sole, A., Cowton, T., Tedstone, A.J., Bartholomew, I., Nienow, P., Chandler, D., Telling, J. 2015. The effect of warming climate on nutrient and solute export from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Geochemical Perspectives Letters. 1, 94-104, doi: 10.7185/102 geochemlet.1510.
de la Peña, S., Howat, I., Nienow, P., van den Broeke, M., Mosley-Thompson, E., Price, S., Mair, D., Noël, B. and Sole, A. 2015. Spatially extensive estimates of annual accumulation in the dry zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet inferred from radar altimetry. The Cryosphere. 9, 1203-1211, doi:10.5194/tc-9-1203-2015.
Slater, D., Nienow, P., Cowton, T., Goldberg, D. and Sole, A. 2015. Effect of near-terminus subglacial hydrology on tidewater glacier submarine melt rates, Geophysical Research Letters, 42, doi:10.1002/2014GL062494.
Cowton, T., Slater, D., Sole, A., Goldberg, D. and Nienow, P. 2015. Modeling the impact of glacial runoff on fjord circulation and submarine melt rate using a new subgrid-scale parameterization for glacial plumes. Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans, 120, doi:10.1002/ 2014JC010324.
Clason, C., Mair, D., Nienow, P., Bartholomew, I., Sole, A., Palmer, S. and Schwanghart, W. 2015. Modelling the transfer of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of Leverett Glacier, Southwest Greenland, The Cryosphere, 9, 123–138, doi:10.5194/tc-9-123-2015.