Imaging inside a glacier; clues to a changing climate? By Carol Cotterill

The morning was cold and the 80 mph wind brisk as three BGS scientists trudged across a barren landscape, battling steep debris covered slopes, armed with more than 50kgs of equipment including a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), a remote controlled helicopter and a packet of hobnobs. Some who know the legend of the Little People who live in the rock formations in Iceland might suspect this was an emergency drop of biscuit rations to a remote clan of Icelandic Elves dwelling deep beneath a glacier. However, Dr Emrys Phillips soon gave me a more scientific explanation!

Glaciers respond to a changing climate in a variety of ways. The aim of this study of the Kviarjökull glacier in southeastern Iceland was to map the 3D structural architecture of the glacier, including mapping fractures, faults and crevasses, to try and understand how the glacier moves and responds to changing inputs, such as temperature.” 
Andy Finlayson working with the GPR.
Image courtesy of Emrys Phillips

Working with two colleagues from Durham University, the team found that only a portion of the glacier had moved since the last visit in 2013, but the move was significant, with the forward pulse creating a mound of sediment in front of it called a push moraine. How and why this pulse has happened will be one of the questions they hope to address in the coming months as they review the aerial imagery taken by the helicopter, and the 7km of GPR results that image inside the ice itself.

And the role of the Hobnobs? Food for thought..........


Panoramic view of Kviarjökull. Image courtesy of Emrys Phillips

Carol Cotterill


Everyone knows that Iceland trolls like hákarl, not biscuits. Hákarl is like Dwarf Bread - incredibly longlasting emergency food.