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Professor Mike Bentley


Geology BSc. (Hons) 1st Class, (Edinburgh); PhD (Edinburgh)

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Professor in the Department of Geography216+44 (0) 191 33 41859
Professor , Hazards and Surface Change216+44 (0) 191 33 41859
Professor , Sea Level, Ice and Climate216+44 (0) 191 33 41859


My research interests focus on Antarctic environmental history, especially the history of the ice sheet in the Antarctic Peninsula-Weddell Sea region. I have a number of current research themes at the moment:

i) Antarctic Ice Sheet History

This work combines glacial geomorphology and cosmogenic isotope surface exposure dating to try and infer past thickness (and extent) variations of ice sheets. I have also produced the first detailed relative sea level curves for the Antarctic Peninsula, which provide independent constraints on former ice sheet thickness. Areas of ongoing study include the Amundsen Sea area (Pine Island Glacier), southern Antarctic Peninsula and Alexander Island, Ellsworth Mountains, Pensacola Mountains, Coats Land, and South Georgia.

In most of these projects I collaborate closely with modellers, especially Richard Hindmarsh, Anne Le Brocq and Alun Hubbard (ice sheet models) and Pippa Whitehouse and Glenn Milne (Glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) modelling). This is a two-way process that allows the field data to be used as constraints for models and for models to direct site selection in future field campaigns. For example in the Ellsworth Mountains we developed an ice sheet model reconstruction of ice at the Last Glacial Maximum, using geomorphological evidence of former ice heights.

A significant recent output of our work on ice history has been a new model of glacial isostatic adjustment of Antarctica. The GIA modelling has been underpinned by new relative sea level data and geomorphological evidence of ice sheet change which are used to constrain models of ice sheet history. Our new model, W12 (Whitehouse et al., 2012a, 2012b) has been used to correct satellite gravimetry measurements of present-day ice sheet mass balance.

ii) Antarctic Sub Glacial Lake Exploration

I am part of the Lake Ellsworth Consortium. This is a NERC-funded consortium that aimed to drill into subglacial Lake Ellsworth. On Christmas Day 2012 the attempt had to be called off. Drilling was ceased after the main borehole failed to link with a subsurface cavity of water, built up over ~40 hours. Without this link, insufficient water was available to continue drilling downwards to the lake. A full explanation of the Review of this work and how we will take the next steps towards revisiting the lake site can be found at the project website: 

Our aim is still to retrieve water and sediment samples with the intention to study life in extreme environments and decipher long-term climate change and ice sheet behaviour. With Prof Dom Hodgson (BAS) I am working on the components of the the project that will analyse sediment cores from the lake bed.

iii) Antarctic Ice Shelf History

With colleagues from British Antarctic Survey and Edinburgh University I completed a project on Antarctic Peninsula ice shelf history. We worked on a series of epishelf lakes along the margin of the George VI Ice Shelf, where a multi-proxy palaeolimnological approach provided a long-term perspective on ice shelf behaviour. 

iv) Glacial & Climate History of Southernmost South America

I have worked for several years as part of a team which is determining the glacial and environmental history of southernmost South America using a variety of approaches including glacial geomorphology, palaeoecology, and linked ice sheet-climate modelling. Recent work with Masters and PhD students has included detailed geomorphological mapping and cosmogenic surface exposure dating of the Magellan Strait and Tierra del Fuego regions.

Research interests

  • Antarctic ice sheet history
  • Falkland Islands palaeoenvironmental history
  • Antarctic ice shelf history
  • Subglacial lakes
  • Antarctic environmental history
  • Glacial geomorphology
  • Raised shorelines and relative sea level change
  • Global sea levels
  • South American glaciation
  • Cosmogenic dating
  • Landslides
  • Icelandic and Scottish deglaciation

Research Projects

  • Determination of a New Global GPS-Derived Surface Velocity Field and its Application to the Problem of 20th Century Sea-Level Rise, The
  • Direct Measurement & Sampling of Subglacial Lake Ellsworth: Multidisciplinary Investigation of Life in Extreme Environments & West Antarctic Ice Sheet History
  • Glacial and climate history of South Georgia, sub-Antarctic
  • Glacial Retreat in Antarctica and Deglaciation of the Earth System (GRADES - QWAD)
  • Glaciated North Atlantic Margins (GLANAM)
  • Greenland in a Warmer Climate: What Controls the Advance & Retreat of the NE Greenland Ice Stream? (NEGIS)
  • Improved models of West Antarctic glacial isostatic adjustment through new crustal motion data
  • Millennial-Scale History of the George VI Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula
  • Thinning History of the Foundation - Thiel Trough Ice Stream: A Key Control on Deglaciation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Weddell Sea Embayment
  • Timing and Rates of Ice Sheet Thinning in The Ellsworth Mountains, Weddell Sea Embayment: Constraints on West Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics

Awarded Grants

  • 2020: ANTSIE: ANTarctic Sea Ice Evolution from a Novel Biological Archive(£1178227.00 from Interreg (ERDF) Europe)
  • 2018: Quantifying West Antarctic mantle viscosity via precise GPS measurement of Earth's response to surface mass balance anomalies(£529167.74 from Natural Environmental Research Council)
  • 2016: Greenland in a warmer climate: What controls the advance & retreat of the NE Greenland Ice Stream(£527622.50 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2014: Reducing the uncertainty in estimates of the sea level contribution from the westernmost part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet(£341024.00 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2013: Dating and modelling fast ice-sheet grounding-line retreat over the last 4000 years in the SW Weddell Sea, Antarctica(£104316.45 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2012: iSTAR-D: The contribution to sea-level rise from the Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica(£29809.74 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2009: Direct Measurement & sampling of subglacial Lake Ellsworth(£52559.79 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2009: IMPROVED MODELS OF WEST ANTARCTIC(£128756.25 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2009: THINNING HISTORY OF THE FOUNDATION-THIEL(£249315.82 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2008: THE DETERMINATION OF A NEW GLOBAL(£173045.73 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2007: XXVII INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR QUATERNARY(£1200.00 from The Royal Society)
  • 2005: GRADES-QWAD PROJECT(£132500.00 from British Antarctic Survey)
  • 2005: TIMING AND RATES OF ICE SHEET THINNING(£77726.38 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2001: MILLENNIAL-SCALE VARIABILITY GEORGE VI ICE SHELF(£26795.00 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • General issues: Antarctica
  • Earth Sciences: Antarctica
  • Environment: Antarctica
  • Human impact: Antarctica
  • Weather & climate: Antarctica
  • Wildlife: Antarctica
  • Geography: Antarctica
  • Environmental change: Antarctica
  • Science & Technology: Antarctica
  • Geological hazards: Antarctica
  • The Earth: Rocks & natural forces: Antarctica
  • Tourism research: Antarctica
  • Earth Sciences: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Geophysics: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Oceanography: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Geography: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Environmental change: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Landscape systems: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Science & Technology: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Geological hazards: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • The Earth: Rocks & natural forces: Glaciers and ice sheets
  • Weather & climate: South America and Patagonia
  • Wildlife: South America and Patagonia
  • Geography: South America and Patagonia
  • Environmental change: South America and Patagonia
  • Landscape systems: South America and Patagonia
  • Geological hazards: South America and Patagonia
  • The Earth: Rocks & natural forces: South America and Patagonia
  • Geophysics: Antarctic subglacial lakes


Chapter in book

Edited Sources, Research Data Sets and Databases

Journal Article

Supervision students