Glaciers and Ice Sheets in a Warming World

The 2023 Howitt Lecture

Glaciers have experienced near-universal retreat during the last century. Mass loss from the massive ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland is accelerating, and glaciers and ice sheets are now the largest contributor to sea level rise. Retreating glaciers also threaten water supplies and are linked to mountain hazards.

The annual Howitt Lecture is a joint presentation between the Geological Society of Australia (Victoria Division) and the Royal Society of Victoria, commemorating the contributions made to regional natural history and geology by Alfred William Howitt.

While ice seems distant to us in Australia, a 2014 report by the Climate Council indicated that $226 billion dollars of our infrastructure is located within 1.1 m of sea level and is at risk of inundation by the end of this century under high-emission climate change scenarios, with ice melt being a major source of risk. Globally, sea level rise poses an existential risk to low-lying islands, major deltas, and coastal megacities. The science of glaciology is far from settled – our ability to measure and simulate how ice is changing has improved dramatically – but future predictions of glacier and ice sheet contributions to sea level change remain challenging.

Join Professor Andrew Mackintosh, who will describe his research group’s work to reconstruct past glacier and ice sheet changes and improve predictions, illustrated with field work photos and video from the Southern Alps of New Zealand and Antarctica.

About the Speaker

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Presented as part of the Inspiring Victoria program in 2023.

Professor Andrew Mackintosh is Head of the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University, and is a Chief Investigator of the Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative ‘Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future.’ His research aims to improve our understanding of glacier and ice sheet response to climate change, including assessing the impacts on sea level, water resources and ecosystems. He is a regular commentator in the media and was a Lead Author of the IPCC Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere in Changing Climate published in 2019. Andrew’s work has taken him to the world’s major mountain ranges as well as the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland. He has a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, a post-doc from Utrecht University, and he has held visiting positions at Columbia University and The University of Bristol. Prior to Monash, he was Director of the Antarctic Research Centre in Wellington, New Zealand.