Geography and Environment

Research Group: Earth Surface Dynamics

The ESD group undertakes internationally-leading geomorphological research. Our core aim is to understand how land surface systems respond to past, present and future environmental change.

Currently Active: Yes

Group Overview

Tracking retreating glaciers


Tracking retreating glaciers

The ESD group comprises a nationally leading group of fluvial geomorphologists, with complementary strengths in glacial, periglacial, marine and dryland environments. Our current research priorities include:

• Understanding the relationships between climate forcing (monsoon intensity, tropical cyclones), river channel morphodynamics, and sediment efflux from the Asian mega-rivers (Ganges-Brahmaputra, Mekong, Indus);
• Understanding how deep-sea turbidity currents shape submarine meandering channels and build up their associated shelf and abyssal deposits;
• Development of cellular automaton modelling tools to simulate ecogeomorphological processes in dryland environments;
Investigations of the relationships between glaciers and climate change, subglacial processes, till genesis and glaciotectonic deformation;
• Employing wireless environmental sensor networks to provide unique insight into subglacial processes associated with rapid retreating glaciers in Iceland and Norway. The same technologies are also being applied to mass movement processes monitoring and prediction in Tijuana, Mexico;
• Investigations of landscape dynamics at the marine-terrestrial interface, using landscape evolution modelling tools to reconstruct palaeo-environments, predict the impacts of climate change, and to link catchment processes to their sedimentary products

Our research often involves the application of novel methodological approaches that integrate high-resolution, field and laboratory data acquisition with numerical and physical modelling. In numerical modelling we have international leadership in river bank erosion and meander mechanics (both in terrestrial and marine environments), coupled physical and biological modelling of salmonid spawning habitats, and reduced complexity modelling of aeolian landscapes. In-field based research we have expertise in sediment transport and hyporheic zone process measurements, Terrestrial Laser Scanning, and we are internationally leaders in our use of wireless environmental sensor networks to characterise subglacial processes on rapidly retreating glaciers.

The ESD group enjoys access to facilities that are unique in the UK in including both a nationally important research catchment (New Forest Research Catchment), and a recently revamped hydraulics laboratory at Chilworth (Chilworth Hydraulics Facility). Recent investment has provided a landscape modelling computer cluster in a new GeoComputation Suite, and developed a high-resolution geodetic surveying capability (dGPS, Total Stations, Terrestrial Laser Scanners). These are supplemented by field equipment pools to support environmental hydraulics and sediment transport (aDcp, ADV, smart tracers), and glacial process (Kärcher HDS1000DE hot water drill, borehole cameras, borehole sediment samplers, ice augers) research. We have a strong collaboration with Electronics and Computer Science in the development and deployment of ‘smart’ environmental sensor networks. Please contact us if you would like to access our laboratory and/or experimental facilities (e.g. Chilworth flume, Terrestrial Laser Scanner).

Our research falls within the funding remits of NERC, EPSRC and ESRC as well as numerous other grant-giving bodies (Royal Society, Leverhulme Trust, DFID), and we have an excellent track record of success with these bodies. We also have a long standing commitment to applied research and knowledge transfer activity as an outcome of, and complement to, our ‘blue-skies’ work. This is particularly focussed on the underpinning science for sustainable river management and restoration, in which we are international leaders . 

The ESD group is outwards facing and dynamic, and we actively seek collaborations with postgraduate students, early career researchers and distinguished scholars alike. We particularly welcome individuals seeking a host institution for NERC Fellowships and/or Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowships. If you wish to visit, use our facilities, give a seminar (or simply attend one), or collaborate in any other way, then do please contact us.

ESD Newsletter January 2014

Scaling new heights

ESD Newsletter January 2014

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    Selected publications associated with this group from the University of Southampton's electronic library (e-prints):

    Leyland, Julian, Darby, Stephen E., Teruggi, Liliana, Rinaldi, Massimo and Ostuni, Daniele (2015) A self-limiting bank erosion mechanism? Inferring temporal variations in bank form and skin drag from high resolution topographic data. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 1-54. (doi:10.1002/esp.3739).
    Nield, Joanna M., Bryant, Robert G., Wiggs, Giles F.S., King, James, Thomas, David S.G., Eckardt, Frank D. and Washington, Richard (2015) The dynamism of salt crust patterns on playas. Geology, 43, (1), 31-34. (doi:10.1130/G36175.1).
    Kondolf, Mathias, Gao, Yongxuan and Annandale, George W. et al. (2014) Sustainable sediment management in reservoirs and regulated rivers: experiences from five continents. Earth's Future, 2, (5), 256-280. (doi:10.1002/2013EF000184).
    Nield, Joanna M., King, James and Jacobs, Benjamin (2014) Detecting surface moisture in aeolian environments using terrestrial laser scanning. Aeolian Research, 12, 9-17. (doi:10.1016/j.aeolia.2013.10.006).
    Gillies, John A., Nield, Joanna M. and Nickling, William G. (2014) Wind speed and sediment transport recovery in the lee of a vegetated and denuded nebkha within a nebkha dune field. Aeolian Research, 12, 135-141. (doi:10.1016/j.aeolia.2013.12.005).
    Livingstone, Ian, Baas, Andreas, Bateman, Mark D., Bristow, Charles, Bryant, Robert G., Bullard, Joanna E., Nield, Joanna M., Thomas, David S.G., White, Kevin H. and Wiggs, Giles F.S. (2014) A prospectus for future geomorphological investigation of the Namib Sand Sea. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 69, (3), 151-156. (doi:10.1080/0035919X.2014.936330).
    Nield, Joanna M., King, James, Wiggs, Giles F.S., Leyland, Julian, Bryant, Robert G., Chiverrell, Richard C., Darby, Stephen E., Eckardt, Frank D., Thomas, David S.G., Vircavs, Larisa H. and Washington, Richard (2013) Estimating aerodynamic roughness over complex surface terrain. Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, 118, 12948-12961. (doi:10.1002/2013JD020632).
    Duangkrayoma, J., Ratanasthien, B., Jintasakul, P. and Carling, P.A. (2013) Sedimentary facies and paleoenvironment of a Pleistocene fossil site in Nakhon Ratchasima province, northeastern Thailand. Quaternary International, 1-19. (doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2013.07.048).
    Dorrell, R.D., Darby, S.E., Peakall, J., Sumner, E.J., Parsons, D.R. and Wynn, R.B. (2013) Superelevation and overspill control secondary flow dynamics in submarine channels. Journal of Geophysical Research, 118, (8), 3895-3915. (doi:10.1002/jgrc.20277).
    Wheaton, Joseph M., Brasington, James, Darby, Stephen E., Kasprak, Alan, Sear, D.A. and Vericat, Damia (2013) Morphodynamic signatures of braiding mechanisms as expressed through change in sediment storage in a gravel-bed river. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 118, (2), 759-779. (doi:10.1002/jgrf.20060).
    Hodge, Rebecca, Sear, David A. and Leyland, Julian (2013) Spatial variations in surface sediment structure in riffle-pool sequences: a preliminary test of the Differential Sediment Entrainment Hypothesis (DSEH). Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 38, (5), 449-465. (doi:10.1002/esp.3290).
    Darby, Stephen E., Leyland, Julian, Kummu, Matti, Rasanen, Timo and Lauri, Hannu (2013) Decoding the drivers of bank erosion on the Mekong River: the roles of the Asian monsoon, tropical storms and snow melt. Water Resources Research, 49, (4), 2146-2163. (doi:10.1002/wrcr.20205).
    Nield, Joanna M., Chiverrell, Richard C., Darby, Stephen E., Leyland, Julian, Vircavs, Larisa H. and Jacobs, Benjamin (2013) Complex spatial feedbacks of tephra redistribution, ice melt and surface roughness modulate ablation on tephra covered glaciers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 38, (1), 95-102. (doi:10.1002/esp.3352).
    Carling, P.A. (2013) Subaqueous “yardangs”: analogs for aeolian yardang evolution. Journal of Geophysical Research, 118 (doi:10.1029/2011JF002260, 2013). (In Press).
    Carling, Paul, Jansen, John and Meshkova, Lyubov V. (2013) Multichannel rivers; their definition and classification. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms (doi:10.1002/esp.3419).
    Gupta, Niladri, Atkinson, Peter M. and Carling, P.A. (2013) Decadal length changes in the fluvial planform of the River Ganga: bringing a mega-river to lif with Landsat archives. Remote Sensing Letters, 4, (1), 1-9. (doi:10.1080/2150704X.2012.682658).
    Samadi, A., Amiri-Tokaldany, E., Davoudi, M.H. and Darby, Stephen E. (2013) Experimental and numerical investigation of the stability of overhanging riverbanks. Geomorphology, 184, 1-19. (doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2012.03.033).
    Meshkova, Liubov V. and Carling, Paul A. (2013) Discrimination of alluvial and mixed bedrock-alluvial multichannel river networks. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms (doi:10.1002/esp.3417).
    Carrivick, Jonathan, Tweed, Fiona, Carling, Paul A., Alho, Petteri, Marren, Philip, Staines, Kate, Russell, Andrew, Rushmer, Lucy and Duller, Robert (2012) Discussion of "Field evidence and hydraulic modelling of a large Holocene jokulhlaup at Jokulsa a Fjollum channel, Iceland". Geomorphology ( (In Press).
    Van, Tri P., Carling, Paul A. and Atkinson, P.M. (2012) Modelling the bulk flow of a bedrock-constrained, multi-channel reach of the Mekong river, Siphandone, southern Laos. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 37, 533-545. (doi:10.1002/esp.2270).
    Davis, J.A. and Carling, P.A. (2012) Playa lake chains: the example of the Yenyening lakes of the upper Avon river catchment of western Australia. In, Bengtsson, Lars, Herschy, Reginald W. and Fairbridge, Rhodes W. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Lakes and Reservoirs. , Springer, 608-616. (Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series).
    Carrivick, Jonathan, Tweed, Fiona, Carling, Paul A., Alho, Petteri, Marren, Philip, Staines, Kate, Russell, Andrew, Ruchmer, Lucy and Duller, Robert (2012) Discussion of ‘Field evidence and hydraulic modeling of a large Holocene jökulhlaup at Jökulsá á Fjöllum channel, Iceland’ by Douglas Howard, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach and Timothy Beach, 2012. Geomorphology (doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2012.10.024). (In Press).
    Nield, Joanna M. (2011) Surface moisture-induced feedback in aeolian environments. Geology, 39, (10), 915-918. (doi:10.1130/G32151.1).
    Binney, Heather A., Gething, Peter W., Nield, Joanna M., Sugita, S and Edwards, Mary E. (2011) Treeline identification from pollen data: beyond the limit? Journal of Biogeography, 38, (9), 1792-1806. (doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02507.x).
    Hart, Jane K., Rose, Kathryn C. and Martinez, Kirk (2011) Temporal englacial water content variability associated with a rapidly retreating glacier. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36, (9), 1230-1239. (doi:10.1002/esp.2148).
    Hackney, Christopher and Carling, P.A. (2011) The occurrence of obtuse junction angles and changes in channel width below tributaries along the Mekong River, south‐east Asia. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36, (12), 1563-1576.
    Nield, Joanna M., Wiggs, Giles F.S. and Squirrell, Robert S. (2011) Aeolian sand strip mobility and protodune development on a drying beach: examining surface moisture and surface roughness patterns measured by terrestrial laser scanning. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36, (4), 513-522. (doi:10.1002/esp.2071).
    Eastwood, Erin, Nield, Joanna M., Baas, Andreas and Kocurek, Gary (2011) Modelling controls on aeolian dune-field pattern evolution. Sedimentology, 58, 1391-1406. (doi:10.1111/j.1365-3091.2010.01216.x).
    Hart, Jane K., Rose, Kathryn C., Waller, R.I., Vaughan-Hirsch, D. and Martinez, K. (2011) Assessing the catastrophic break-up of Briksdalsbreen, Norway, associated with rapid climate change. Journal of the Geological Society, 168, (3), 673-688. (doi:10.1144/0016-76492010-024).
    Taghavi, M, Dovoudi, M.H, Amiri-Tokaldany, E and Darby, S.E. (2010) An analytical method to estimate failure plane angle and tension crack depth for use in riverbank stability analyses. Geomorphology, 123, (1-2), 74-83. (doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2010.06.017).
    Darby, Stephen E., Trieu, Hai Q., Carling, Paul A., Sarkkula, Juha, Koponen, Jorma, Kummu, Matti, Conlan, Iwona and Leyland, Julian (2010) A physically based model to predict hydraulic erosion of fine-grained riverbanks: The role of form roughness in limiting erosion. Journal of Geophysical Research, 115, (F04003), 1-20. (doi:10.1029/2010JF001708).
    Dussaillant, Alejandro, Benito, Gerardo, Buytaert, Wouter, Carling, Paul A., Meier, Claudio and Espinoza, Fabian (2010) Repeated glacial lake outburst floods in Patagonia. Natural Hazards, 54, (2), 469-489. (doi:10.1007/s11069-009-9479-8).
    Baas, Andreas C.W. and Nield, Joanna M. (2010) Ecogeomorphic state variables and phase-space construction for quantifying the evolution of vegetated aeolian landscapes. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 35, (6), 717-731. (doi:10.1002/esp.1990).
    Carling, Paul, Villanueva, Ignacio, Herget, Juergen, Wright, Nigel, Borodavko, Pavel and Morvan, Hervé (2010) Unsteady 1D and 2D hydraulic models with ice dam break for quaternary megaflood, Altai mountains, southern Siberia. Global and Planetary Change, 70, (1-4), 24-34. (doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2009.11.005).
    Wheaton, Joseph, Brasington, James, Darby, S.E. and Sear, David (2010) Accounting for uncertainty in DEMs from repeat topographic surveys: improved sediment budgets. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 35, (2), 135-156. (doi:10.1002/esp.1886).
    Darby, Stephen E. (2009) Reappraising the geomorphology-ecology link. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 35, (3), 368-371. (doi:10.1002/esp.1921 ).
    Leyland, Julian and Darby, Stephen E. (2009) Effects of Holocene climate and sea-level changes on coastal gully evolution: insights from numerical modelling. [in special issue: Special Issue: Gully Erosion Processes: Monitoring and Modelling] Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 34, (14), 1878-1893. (doi:10.1002/esp.1872).
    Wheaton, Joseph M., Brasington, James, Darby, Stephen E., Merz, Joseph, Pasternack, Greg, Sear, David A. and Vericat, Damia (2009) Linking geomorphic changes to salmonid habitat at a scale relevant to fish. River Research and Applications, 26, (4), 469-486. (doi:10.1002/rra.1305 ).
    Carling, P.A., Burr, D.M., Johnsen, T.F. and Brennand, T.A. (2009) A review of open-channel megaflood deposition on Earth and Mars. In, Burr, Devon M., Carling, P.A. and Baker, Victor (eds.) Megaflooding on Earth and Mars. Cambridge, GB, Cambridge University Press, 33-49.
    Martinez, Kirk, Hart, Jane K. and Ong, R. (2009) Deploying a wireless sensor network in Iceland. In, GeoSensor Networks. Berlin, DE, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, 131-137. (doi:10.1007/978-3-642-02903-5_13).
    Rose, James and Hart, Jane K. (2009) Quaternary Glaciodynamics: editorial overview. Quaternary Science Reviews, 28, (7-8), 577-579. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2009.02.008).
    Rose, James and Hart, Jane K. (2009) Geoffrey Boulton. Quaternary Science Reviews, 28, (7-8), 580-583. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2009.01.005).
    Hart, Jane K., Rose, Kathryn C., Martinez, Kirk and Ong, Royan (2009) Subglacial clast behaviour and its implication for till fabric development: new results derived from wireless subglacial probe experiments. [in special issue: Quaternary Glaciodynamics] Quaternary Science Reviews, 28, (7-8), 597-607. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.07.020).
    Carling, Paul A. (2009) Geomorphology and sedimentology of the lower Mekong river. In, Campbell, Ian Charles (ed.) The Mekong: Biophysical Environment of an International River. Oxford, GB, Academic Press, 77-111.
    Samadi, A., Amiri-Tokaldany, E. and Darby, S.E. (2009) Identifying the effects of parameter uncertainty on the reliability of riverbank stability modelling. Geomorphology, 106, (3-4), 219-230. (doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2008.10.019).
    Luppi, Laura, Rinaldi, Massimo, Teruggi, Liliana B., Darby, Stephen E. and Nardi, Laura (2009) Monitoring and numerical modelling of riverbank erosion processes: a case study along the Cecina River (central Italy). Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 34, 530-546. (doi:10.1002/esp.1754).
    Carling, Paul A., Martini, Peter, Herget, Jurgen, Borodavko, Pavel and Parnachov, Sergei (2009) Megaflood sedimentary valley fill: Altai Mounatins, Siberia. In, Burr, Devon, Carling, Paul and Baker, Vic (eds.) Megaflooding on Earth and Mars. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 243-264.
    Carling, Paul A. (2009) The geology of the lower Mekong river. In, Campbell, Ian Charles (ed.) The Mekong: Biophysical Environment of an International River. Oxford, GB, Academic Press, 13-28. (Aquatic Ecology).
    Carling, Paul A., Herget, Juergen, Lanz, Julia K., Richardson, Keith and Pacifici, Andrea (2009) Channel-scale erosional bedforms in bedrock and in loose granular material: character, processes and implications. In, Burr, Devon, Carling, Paul and Baker, Vic (eds.) Megaflooding on Earth and Mars. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 13-32.
    Leyland, Julian and Darby, Stephen E. (2008) An empirical-conceptual gully evolution model for channelled sea cliffs. Geomorphology, 102, (3-4), 419-434. (doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2008.04.017).
    Nield, Joanna M. and Baas, Andreas C.W. (2008) The influence of different environmental and climatic conditions on vegetated aeolian dune landscape development and response. [in special issue: DGVM Responses to the Latest IPCC Future Climate Scenarios] Global and Planetary Change, 64, (1-2), 76-92. (doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2008.10.002).
    Rinaldi, Massimo, Mengoni, Beatrice, Luppi, Laura, Darby, Stephen E. and Mosselman, Erik (2008) Numerical simulation of hydrodynamics and bank erosion in a river bend. Water Resources Research, 44, (9), 1 . (doi:10.1029/2008WR007008).
    Hart, J.K. (2008) Weybourne. In, Candy, I, Lee, J.R. and Harrison, A.M. (eds.) Quaternary of Northern East Anglia. London, UK, Quaternary Research Association, 182 -191.
    Jones, A.P., Tucker, M.E. and Hart, J. (eds.) (1999) The description & analysis of quaternary stratigraphic field sections, London, UK, Quaternary Research Association, 295pp. (Technical Guide, 7).


    Members of staff associated with this group: