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Professor Bernd Kulessa

Professor, Geography
Academic Office - 229D
Second Floor
Wallace Building
Singleton Campus
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

About

My research focuses on the use of applied geophysics to contribute to our understanding of the response of the world’s ice masses to past, present, and future climatic change, and to address related scientific problems of anthropogenic impact. Cryospheric research interests include:

  • The role of subglacial groundwater and geothermal heat flux in modulating the basal properties and processes that control fast and unstable flow of ice.
  • The physical properties of ice that control ice fracturing, rifting and present and past ice deformation and flow;
  • Selected problems related to the glacial palaeo-record, periglacial processes, snow hydrology, contaminant dynamics in frozen ground, and geotechnical engineering and geo-hazards in glacial tills;
  • Technical developments to maximise the usefulness of geophysical methods in the cryospheric sciences, focusing particularly on novel magnetotelluric and electrokinetic (seismoelectric and electrical self-potential) applications coupled with state of the science multi-component seismic reflection and seismic anisotropy techniques and borehole response (slug) tests.

More broadly peaking I am also very interested in state of the science magnetotelluric imaging of the earth’s crust and upper mantle, and the application of geophysical techniques to assess, characterise and monitor ground hazards and contamination.

My research combines fieldwork, laboratory work, and forward and inverse modelling. Novel developments are sought to integrate geophysical information with other scientific approaches, e.g. through joint inversion or Bayesian modelling, fostered by extensive collaboration with other UK and international institutions.

My earlier research in the European Alps resulted in major discoveries such as the effect of earth tides on glacier hydrology and dynamics by implication. He has been the Principal Investigator or a Co-Investigator on many major grants for research into the dynamics of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Particularly notable discoveries include the spatial prevalence and hydromechanical diversity of sediments beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet, the seismic imaging of hydrologically-triggered fracture through the ice sheet which then modulates sediments’ strengths and ice sheet flow, and the fundamental control that internal heterogeneities exert on the stability of Antarctic Ice Shelves.

Areas Of Expertise

  • Applied geophysics
  • Glaciology
  • Cryospheric science
  • Environmental and engineering geophysics
  • Hydrogeophysics
  • Biogeophysics
  • Subsurface hydrology
  • Aquifer testing

Career Highlights

Teaching Interests
  • Solid Earth Geophysics
  • Environmental and engineering geophysics
  • Glaciology
  • Hydrogeology
Research

GHOST (Geophysical Habitat of Subglacial Thwaites, 2018-2024) is a US-UK-Germany collaborative project that is part of the joint NSF-NERC funded International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, and will identify whether basal conditions can facilitate rapid retreat of the Thwaites Glacier grounding line, expand its boundaries and deglaciate adjacent marine basins. The Swansea Glaciology Group will characterise the heat flow from the earth’s upper crust into the base of the glacier using magnetotelluric (MT) geophysical surveys.

IGIS (Impact of Deep Groundwater on Ice Stream Flow in West Antarctica, 2022-2025) is a NERC-funded project led by Swansea Glaciology Group that involves collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London. The project will identify the role that interactions between crustal groundwater and geothermal heat fluxes and the Institute Ice Stream and Bungenstock Ice Rise play in regulating the stability of the central Weddell Sea Sector of West Antarctica. The project combines computer simulations with in situ seismic and magnetotelluric geophysical surveys as well as satellite remote sensing.