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Cold Environments

We lead projects around the world to monitor and analyze the response of cold landscapes to recent and future climate change. Our team carries out research on mountain glaciers, snow properties on land and on sea ice, Arctic permafrost zones, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and their surrounding oceans. 

Research involves field-based projects in cold regions across the globe, including Antarctica, a range of high Arctic, European and Canadian sites, New Zealand, the Alps, Alaska and Chile, all of which are focussed around two interlinked themes:

  1. Reconstruction of climate change, vegetation, palaeoseismicity, environmental pollution and sea level at decadal, millennial and million-year timescales using a variety of biological and geochemical proxies, including pollen, diatoms, dinoflagellates, stable isotopes and biomarkers;
  2. Response of the contemporary cryosphere (where the world is frozen) to recent and future climate change through geophysical investigations, micrometeorological measurements on mountain glaciers, measurement and modelling of snow properties over land, under trees and on sea ice; analysis of carbon release from Siberian permafrost and modelling of ice sheets and high mountain hydrology.

Field data collection involves a range of state-of-the-science techniques including ground-penetrating radar, seismics, eddy covariance systems, and terrestrial laser scanning (TLS).

The Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM)

CPOM provides UK national capability in satellite observations and numerical modelling of Earth’s polar regions. Our mission is to understand how their ice, oceans, and climate are changing. 

We are a community of UK universities led by Northumbria University working in partnership with the British Antarctic Survey on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council. 

We work in close collaboration with the space agencies such as ESA and NASA to make use of EO datasets for improving our knowledge of the cryosphere and design future satellite missions to monitor the Polar Regions. We are leading international initiatives such as IMBIE to reconcile satellite estimates of ice sheet mass balance, providing robust estimates of the contributions of Greenland and Antarctica to sea level rise to a range of stakeholders including to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

For more information on CPOM, please visit

Prof. Andrew Shepherd

Head of the Department of Geography and Environment and Director of the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling

Prof. Ulrich Salzmann

Professor of Palaeoecology & Palaeoclimatology in the Department of Geography and Environment and Director of the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership ONEPlanet


This group is a part of the University’s multi-disciplinary research into the theme of Extreme Environments.

Research from this group will be submitted to REF2021 under UoA 14: Geography and Environmental Studies.

To view research papers emanating from this group, please click here to view Northumbria Research Link, our open access repository of research output from Northumbria University.


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