Research topics of the Physical Geography research group
Research activities of the Physical Geography research group focus on:
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Ice and Climate
The research concentrates on the dynamics of natural ice masses and their interaction with the climatic system. Emphasis is laid on 3-D modelling of the continental cryosphere (Antarctica, Greenland and the Quaternary ice sheets), the regional ice dynamics of the Antarctic ice sheet (higher-order modeling and inverse modeling, supported by field work and remote sensing) and mountain glacier research (Alps, Himalaya, radar sounding, mass balance, GPS measurements, and modeling).
Current research projects
- ASTER (Assessment of modelling uncertainties in long-term climate and sea level change projections): incorporating Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheet models in LOVECLIM, the Belgian Community Earth System Model to conduct experiments on the evolution of climate during the Holocene and the third millennium.
- ASPI (Antarctic Subglacial Processes and Interactions: role of transition zones in ice sheet stability): better understand the interactions between the Antarctic ice sheet and its subglacial environment and the processes that control the climate response of the ice sheet.
- NEEM (North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling): modelling the Greenland ice sheet in support of ice-core drilling.
- ISMIP: Intercomparison of presently existing ice-sheet and ice-shelf models.
- IPCC: Response of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to future greenhouse warming and their contribution to future sea-level change.
- MORTERATSCH: A glaciological field programme on an Alpine glacier since 2001 focusing on radio-echo sounding (ice thickness), flow characteristics (ice velocity), and mass balance in combination with numerical modeling.
- NICE: Network for ice sheet and climate evolution: an EU FP7 initiative to better integrate coupled ice and climate studies. At the VUB we investigate aspects of the decaying northern hemisphere ice sheets during the last glacial transition and the possible decay of the Greenland ice sheet during the next millennia.
- Ice2sea: an EU FP7 project to further refine projections of the large ice sheets over the next 200 years and their contribution to sea level change.
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Geomorphology and Quaternary Geology
In the field of soil erosion the research focuses on small and large scale mapping (local and global) of erosion and the parameters influencing the process. The application of semi-empirical models within a GIS environment forms the main tool. Within the field of landscape research emphasis is laid on the study of human interference (disturbance) with the vertical and horizontal relations within the landscape; more specific the attention goes to the soil organic carbon stock in the soils and its redistribution in the landscape. The group has also been involved in the mapping of Quaternary deposits (profile type mapping; 1:50000 scale maps) in Flanders. The latest production includes a Quaternary geology overview map (1:200.000 scale) of Flanders.
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