Dr Caroline Clason

Dr Caroline Clason

Lecturer in Physical Geography

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


Academic positions:

Lecturer in Physical Geography, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth (September 2016 - present)

Visiting Research Fellow, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth (2015-September 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

Teaching interests

Stage 4 tutor

GGX1200 - Geography Matters
GGX1201 - Introducing Geography 1: Society and Environment
GGX1202 - Practising Geography 1
GGX1203 - Introducing Geography 2: Changing Places
GGX1204 - Practising Geography 2

GGX2201 - Principles and Applications of Geography 1
GGX2202 - Principles and Applications of Geography 2
GGP2204 - Cold Environments (module leader)

GGX3200 - Dissertation in Geography (module leader)
GGX3201 - Advanced Fieldwork in Geography
GGX3203 - Work Based Learning in Geography
GEOL3002 - Earth Science Independent Research Project and Professional Skills

GEES506 - Climate Change: Science and Policy
GEES519 - Environmental knowledge: from field to stakeholder

Research interests

Key research interests

• Changing water quality and quantity in glacier-fed catchments
• Pathways of meltwater flow through the glacial hydrological system
• The role of meltwater in the dynamics and stability of ice sheets

Current research projects

Fallout radionuclides on glaciers: an emerging issue for water quality

Main collaborators: Will Blake, Geoff Millward, Alex Taylor, Kim Ward (University of Plymouth) 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.

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

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

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

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

INTERACT Transnational Access: €2926 to support fieldwork in Sweden on “Glacier Recession as a Source of Environmental Pollutants”, University of Plymouth, 2017 (P.I.).

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

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

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

Mather, A.E., Fyfe, R.M., Clason, C.C., Stokes, M., Mills, S. & Barrows, T., (accepted), Automated mapping of relict patterned ground: an approach to evaluate morphologically subdued landforms using UAV and Structure-from-Motion technologies, Progress in Physical Geography

Box, J.E., Sharp, M., Aðalgeirsdóttir, G., Ananicheva, M., Anderson, M.L., Carr, R., Clason, C.C., Colgan, W.T., Copland, L., Glazovsky, A., Hubbard, A., Kjeldsen, K.K., Mernild, S., Moholdt, G., Moon, T., Wagner, T., Wouters, B. & Van Wychen, W., (2017), Changes to Arctic land ice, in: Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) 2017, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), Oslo, Norway, 137-168

Greenwood, S.L., Clason, C.C., Nyberg, J., Jakobsson, M. & Holmlund, P., (2017), The Bothnian Sea ice stream: early Holocene retreat dynamics of the south-central Fennoscandian Ice Sheet, Boreas, 46, 346-362

Gudlaugsson, E., Humbert, A., Andreassen, K., Clason, C.C., Kleiner, T. and Beyer, S., (2017), Eurasian ice sheet dynamics and sensitivity to subglacial hydrology, Journal of Glaciology, doi: 10.1017/jog.2017.21

Clason, C.C., Greenwood, S.L., Selmes, N., Lea, J.M., Jamieson, S.S.R., Nick, F.N. & Holmlund, P., (2016), Controls on the early Holocene collapse of the Bothnian Sea Ice Stream, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 121, 2494–2513, doi:10.1002/2016JF004050

Everett, A., Murray, T., Selmes, N., Rutt, I., Luckman, A., James, T.D., Clason, C.C., O’Leary, M., Karunarathna, H., Moloney, V. & Reeve, D., (2016), Annual down‐glacier drainage of lakes and water‐filled crevasses at Helheim Glacier, south east Greenland, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 121, 1819–1833

Greenwood, S.L., Clason, C.C. & Jakobsson, M., (2016), Ice-flow and meltwater assemblages in the Gulf of Bothnia, in Dowdeswell, J.A., Canals, M., Jakobsson, M., Todd, B.J., Dowdeswell, E.K. & Hogan, K.A. (eds), Atlas of Submarine Glacial Landforms: Modern, Quaternary and Ancient. Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 46, 321–324, http://doi.org/10.1144/M46.163

Holmlund, P., Clason, C. & 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 report number: 2016:21 ISSN: 2000-0456, available at www.stralsakerhetsmyndigheten.se

Greenwood, S.L., Clason, C.C., Helanow, C. & Margold, M., (2016), Theoretical, contemporary observational and palaeo perspectives on ice sheet hydrology: processes and products, Earth-Science Reviews, 155, 1-27

Greenwood, S.L., Clason, C.C., Mikko, H., Nyberg, J., Peterson, G. & Smith, C.A., (2015), Integrated use of LiDAR and multibeam bathymetry reveals onset of ice streaming in the northern Bothnian Sea, GFF, DOI:10.1080/11035897.2015.1055513

Clason, C.C., 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, 2701-2715

Clason, C.C., Mair, D.W.F., Nienow, P.W., Bartholomew, I.D., Sole, A., Palmer, S. & Schwanghart, W., (2015), Modelling the transfer of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of Leverett Glacier, Southwest Greenland, The Cryosphere, 9, 123-138

Clason, C.C., Applegate, P. & 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

Clason, C.C., Mair, D.W.F., Burgess, D.O. & Nienow, P.W., (2012), Modelling the delivery of supraglacial meltwater to the ice/bed interface: application to the southwest Devon Ice Cap, Nunavut, Canada, Journal of Glaciology, 58 (208), 361-374

Clason, C.C., (2012), Quantitative controls on the routing of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of glaciers and ice sheets, PhD thesis - University of Aberdeen


Personal blog: https://meltingplanet.org/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Caroline_Clason