Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Physical Geography

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.

Staff

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Volcanology, Geomorphology and Natural Hazards

The Volcanology, Geomorphology and Natural hazards research group focuses on the study of hazardous geomorphological and volcanological processes in developing countries, with a specific attention to volcano geomorphology, volcano-tectonic processes and landslides. Current projects are dedicated to the study of hazardous morpho-structural processes in active volcanic regions, including the modelling of volcano growth through eruptive and intrusive processes, lava flow emplacement, flank collapse, interactions with tectonic structures and erosion processes. The applications concentrate in volcanic regions of Africa including North Tanzania, the Virunga Volcanic Province in D.R. Congo, Mt Cameroon, and Mt Karthala in the Comores.

A new research effort is currently being developed to study slope instabilities in developing countries, modelling the spatial distribution of hazards, and studying the impact and remediation strategies for local populations. A growing attention is also paid to the perception and adaptation of population to geohazards.

Research approaches involve combining remote sensing and field observations with scaled quantitative analogue models and application of existing numerical models.

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Current research projects

  • GEORISCA - BELSPO Science for Sustainable Development 2012-16
    Geo-risk in Central Africa: integrating multi-hazards and vulnerability to support risk management.

  • VLIR South-Initiative - Tanzania 2013-15
    Increasing teaching and research capacities on geological processes, resources and hazard management in the Northern Tanzania Volcanic Zone (NTVZ.

  • VLIR South-Initiative - Uganda 2013-2015
    Identification and analysis of land degradation hot spots, their socio-economical and physical controls and implications in the Mt Rwenzori region.

  • FWO Credit to Researcher
    Analogue modelling of morpho-structural processes in active volcano-tectonic regions.

  • FWO Post-doc - Audray Delcamp
    Modelling volcano-tectonic interactions in a trans-tensional domain: The North Tanzanian sector of the East African Rift System.

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Staff

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